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Having been asked to visit the outer provinces of the metropolis I found myself a crows flight away from the workshop of R Champan & Co of Ware. My route took me along a road that ran parallel to the Lea, that alone gave a sense of excitement.

R Chapman & Co, Ware. Traditional Cane Rod Makers

R Chapman & Co, Ware. Traditional Cane Rod Makers

Upon arriving at an unassuming alley right at the end I could see the sign R Chapman & Co in green raised letters above a workshop to which the entrance door painted in a rusty coloured paint that gave access to a small office. Prepared canes hung from lines, glass fronted draws were packed with cork, rod parts, rod bags and tools of the trade lay on the top of benches. I was greeted by John’s brother who after saying hello offered me a mug of tea ( that’s what I call service). The Chapman brothers are rod builders, they have been so for many years and make some of the most cherished rods in the business. Their legendary Chapman 500, 550 and Dennis Pye 700 rods are some of the more well-known, but they also produced the Shelford, Hunter and Peter Stone Ledgerstrike 600 Rod. They now focus on making canes for fly rods. The seasoned cane is crafted into blanks which are now supplied the world over. I watched John cure and temper a blank over a flame, if that’s the correct terminology. Every detail of their rods is painstakingly done using traditional methods and just the sheer time and craftmanship means that you will eventually own a masterpiece. Having recently acquired a late Chapman 500 I decided to take it to them to check that it was worthy of fishing with, not that for one instance did I think it wasn’t but the last thing I wanted to do was to head to the river to come back with a rod in pieces. John checked the cane but noticed that the nickel guides were slightly corroded and if fished with would without question end up with a line break. The other issue with the rod was that at some stage the ‘varnish devil’ had given the cork handle a good coat of varnish, seems to be a very 70’s thing to have done. The advice here was to give it a coat of Nitromorse, clean it down and then give the handle a work over with some household bleach on a toothbrush. The other option here was to ask them to make a new handle with a button end as opposed to the budget plastic cap mine is fitted with but then you are looking at a bill not far short of £100. I sense there will be a return journey to Ware to get the rod sorted once I’ve saved up some cash to have the whole thing done with a replacement agate top and bottom guides and the spec done to the de lux model, with the extra guide added. So some thinking to be done on if I want to change it from its original spec. One thing to keep in mind if buying a rod off the internet is that you can end up paying a premium for a Chapman rod and then end up having to double your money if you want to fish with it. Unfortunately due the economic climate at the time these rods were produced production dictated that to save on costs to make these affordable some of the fittings weren’t the best, so fifty years on they are showing these flaws. Mind you if you get a good one it will give you another fifty years service, so you get what you pay for so buy with caution. I took the opportunity to show John a Martin James rod that was about 10ft in length, made of a good solid cane with locking joints and agate guides throughout and well whipped. We couldn’t work out what it was but on the small badge near the handle you can make out L…..De Lux. The other sticker on it detailed ‘Robertsons E13’. I had purchased this as a barbel rod. For the price I paid they said I had got a gem of a rod. My only purchase today was a new cloth bag to keep the 500 in as the original bag had seen better days. It will be a few months I guess before I will return to get the rod sorted, had only the guides been in better condition I would be fishing with it but at least I know they can work their magic on it and it will return to a higher spec and last a lifetime.

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