by Shaun Harrison
This trip down memory lane ( see previous post) also triggered further thoughts. Due to my present circumstances (single with a dog and nowhere to fish where I can take her), I have spent most of this summer fishing very short stalking sessions. My beloved Free Spirit ‘S’ Range 10-footers have never had so much use, and some great fun has been had with proper eyeball-to-eyeball situations. Most of the carp I have caught this summer have fallen to hookbaits just a few feet out. In most of the cases I have actually watched the carp take the hookbait, which is all good heart pumping stuff, and I have really enjoyed doing this. From what started out as desperate measures in order to be able to actually wet a line, it has resulted in one of the most enjoyable summer’s fishing I have had for many years. I am positive the tackle I have used has heightened this pleasure. I love using short, soft rods and I get a big kick out of catching carp on centrepin reels.
I have never seen myself as a Golden Scale Club type (I’ve got a mate who’s a member though) because I like modern tackle too much, but it did start to get the old grey cells working again. Some of the carp I have been stalking haven’t been particularly big fish. Most have been big doubles with the odd 20 thrown in for good measure. The size has been more than compensated for by the sheer excitement of watching the carp feeding inches from the hookbait and, at times, inches from my eyes, knowing full well I am likely to be playing that same carp in the next few seconds. It has also proved to be incredibly useful for comparing slightly different versions of a new bait I have been playing around with. In fact I have been able to take massive strides in doing this rather than sitting behind the rods for weeks on end trying to judge a bait’s effectiveness by bobbin action alone.
As I’ve said, some of these fish have been smaller than a lot of the fish I have become used to catching in recent years, but it suddenly occurred to me that back in the days of fibreglass rods, big doubles would take me an absolute age to land, and 20s, although extremely rare beasts, would put up the fight of a lifetime. Nowadays, with most of the conventional rod and reel setups being used, if the fish takes a little bit of line during the fight it is almost certainly a big fish. How things have changed. We have ended up in the old beachcasting scenario where we choose tackle to deliver the rigs rather than choosing the tackle to match the size of fish we are catching. Sad really, a lot of fun can be had with medium-sized carp on sensible tackle.
An Almost Forgotten Era
Whilst my brain is in rod and fun mode, I want to raise the following issue. We are in very grave danger of forgetting about a very important era in carp angling – glass fibre rods and the like. We have the Golden Scale Club singing the praises of, and using wooden rods, but fibreglass rods have also been around for a long time. When I first started working in the tackle trade, the only two carbon carp rods that I was aware of were Hardy’s Graphite (American terminology for carbon) No.1 and Bruce and Walker’s Compound Taper Carp. Everything else was fibreglass, yet it is so rare these days to even read or hear mention of them. It is almost as if we skipped from cane to carbon. I purchased my first carbon carp rods in 1982 – the old Sportex Dual Taper 12ft 1¾lb (I’ve still got them as well). There were very few carbon rods on the bank back then; they looked ‘alien’, being so thin and having fewer guides than was the norm. I mention this fact because at the same time carp fishing was going through a massive change, a change we have never seen the likes of since. Hair and Bolt Rigs were just starting to be used by the majority and suddenly carp were quite easy to catch. This brought loads more anglers into carp fishing when suddenly carp fishing was considered a worthwhile pursuit by the average angler.
Since this time carp fishing has grown totally out of proportion, yet the tackle, or more to the point, the rods, which our pioneers were all using for the few years leading to this, are almost forgotten about. I would imagine if you talk to some of the ‘new on the scene’ carp anglers many of them probably think that carp rods evolved from split cane to carbon, there is never any mention at all in the magazines about fibreglass rods, yet there were many classics – The Gerry Savage Farstrikes, The Jim Gibbinson Cloopers, The Jack Hilton Particle Rods, the North Western SS4s in 10ft, SS6s in 10ft 10ins, the SS5s in 11ft, the Fibatube 132s, the Terry Eustace T24s (always wanted some but could never afford them) absolute classic rods with hundreds sold (there weren’t thousands of carp anglers back then). Oooh, those were the days.
I find it a shame it is all being forgotten. I know I’m a sad ***t and perhaps need to get a life, but I can still remember all the North Western codes for the glass rods, right through from the short spinning rods (from which I made several stalking rods), right through to the last of the glass rods, which were the AC7s. It may all seem irrelevant now but a big chunk of our history is in danger of being lost forever.
Unfortunately I don’t have the time to organise it but I would love to see a ‘retro carp group’ start up, something between the Golden Scale Club and the present – possibly pre-1985? The anglers using this gear made massive inroads into making carp fishing what it is today.
From a personal point of view I love the comfort we now have but I think I could sacrifice a little bit of that to go back to the days when it was an event to bump into another angler fishing for carp. The biggest change, I think, is that in the late-’70s (sorry I can’t go back any further than that), you could judge a carp angler’s experience by their tackle. The better it looked, and the more home-made gadgets they had, the longer they had been at it. Nowadays the carp angler who has the worst and tattiest gear is generally the one who has been around a long time and knows it isn’t just the tackle that catches the fish.
Let’s not let the next generation of carp anglers come through not knowing about playing carp on glass rods when it’s pitch-black and not having the slightest clue where the fish is. I have actually had a few conversations about this retro-type thing since first chatting to Martin Ford about it at some antique tackle auction we attended. From the reaction I have had from the people I have spoken to (and I know Martin has had the odd chat elsewhere) there appears to be quite a few from the old school out there up for a bit of fun. I wonder if anyone will ever get around to trying to organise such a group?
See you next time
Best Fishes, Shaun
Originally published in “Carpworld” – October 2007