Sunday, August 26, 2012


As promised, here's a photo of the handle I was working on. It's not a perfect match for the one I was copying, but it's turned out fine.

Back in May I posted some photos of a dry-run handle that was a bit unusual. Although it wasn't to everyone's taste a customer took a liking to the concept - minus the painted reel seat! This is now finished.

Taking these photos proved more difficult than fitting the handles. I've no experience of 'studio' photography using multiple flashguns to light products and arranging things so the background is white and shadowless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nose to the grindstone

Not so much the grindstone, more the lathe. I'm in the process of a complete strip and rebuild of a St Croix lure rod. The finish on the blank was going to be a 'mare to remove. My workaround was to sand it as smooth as I could, chucking it in the lathe and using a medium wet and dry to level out the chips in the finish and any remaining varnish from the whippings. This also served to key the blank for a coat of matt black spray paint. I then handed the painted blank over to some nice people I know to give it a clear coat. The result is pretty darned nice.

My next task is to fit a custom turned cork handle to match an existing rod as closely as I can. This is a laborious task. First of all the cork shives have to be reamed out. I started by putting a hand reamer in the lathe to make a quick job of it. This got some of them close enough, but the ones to go lower down the blank needed more work, which was done by hand using a couple of my reaming sticks. These sticks are a pain to make. Glueing abrasive tape in a spiral along lengths of scrap rod blank. But well worth the effort when it comes time to open up preformed grips..

With the reaming done in stages the shives are pushed tightly into place on the blank to get the handle length right. They are then all removed before glue is applied and they are clamped firmly together. In 24hrs it'll be time to make cork dust!

Time taken to get to this stage is around an hour. When the rear grip is shaped, which will take something like thirty minutes of careful sanding, the reel seat can be glued into place. Then the reaming and glueing will begin for the foregrip. Another day later that can be shaped. All in all it takes me a couple of hours spread over three days to finish a custom cork handle like this one. More pics will follow - provided I don't mess up!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Psychic eels

The novelty of catching small eels had worn off. That was one reason for me staying away from the canal. Turning up to find weed-choked swims, moored barges or hordes of dog walkers were others. After listening to England making a hash of the fourth day's play in the final test the sun had come out, cheering me up a little and giving me the prod I needed to get the rods out.

The sky was clear, the sun bright, but as I walked past the newly cut field of stubble I sensed a hint of impending autumn in the cooling air. This was even more apparent when mist starting rising when the damp land was in shade as the shadows lengthened.

I managed to find a clear swim to fish and proceeded to scatter maggots in two places. One was close in to my left, the other straight across to my right, tight to the reed stems. Then the two roach halves were cast out over the maggots, bobbins attached and alarms switched on.

There were plenty of small fish dimpling and swirling in the marginal surface weed. Fly life was evident with longhorns and midges in profusion. These were no doubt being targeted by the massed swallows that were skimming the canal's surface, and later were flying high. Even when the light had almost gone there were swallows flying over the water, feeding up before commencing their migration south. A lone brown hawker was also making the most of the flying larder.

Apart from a single bleep to the right hand rod and a few tentative twitches of the line all was quiet. The rising mist wasn't doing my confidence much good, the clear sky and cooling air didn't help either. As the stars came out I tidied  up the ruckbag, folded the chair and heard an alarm sound. The right hand bobbin was jerking up and down so I pulled the line free of the clip and opened the bale arm. Line was slowly taken so I struck. Nothing. The rig was tangled on the retrieve. Maybe that was the explanation. I recast. Then I set the chair up to give it another fifteen minutes. This wasn't the first time an eel had picked a bait up as I was packing up. I wonder if they know?

My nose was getting chilly when I checked my watch to see the deadline approaching. That was when the left hand alarm sounded. Again the bobbin was twitching. This time it made its way up to the butt ring. My strike was met with the familiar wriggling feeling of a hooked eel. It felt pretty decent too. However, once visible it shrank. Another run of the mill canal eel that was easily unhooked but escaped before I could check its weight. Damp grass and an almost mystical water seeking ability saw the fish slither to freedom. Time to go.

That might be it for me with the eels. If the average size was a bit higher I'd have more enthusiasm for continuing. I don't expect four pounders every time, but these pound to pound and a half  'straps' are just a bit dispiriting. I could even stand more blank sessions if the eels were a bit bigger. Still, I'm not one for making plans and a late summer heatwave might change my mind. In the meantime I've reminded myself about some rudd fishing I've not got round to, and there's always the lure of a night or two after zander now the days are getting shorter. Or I could upset the summer piking police and snatch a morning after old esox!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Counting my chickens

At the risk of everything going wrong I'm going to take a chance of mentioning a couple of new rods I've been working on over the last year or so. I've been asked for, and a quit fancied for myself, a two piece lure rod for many years. Last autumn I managed to get a prototype blank made. It wasn't quite what I'd intended, but it had something about it.

After giving it a bit of a try out over the winter I took the LAS show where it met with approval from a couple of the handful of people there. As I knew I'd not be doing any lure chucking over the summer I passed it over to someone I could trust to give me honest feedback, and enough fishing time to see if it would stand up to heavy use. This 'field tester' is so impressed he's offering me money to buy the rod! The general consensus is that the (so far nameless) rod is ideal for fishing swimbaits - and trolling. Provided the production blanks turn out just like the prototype I'll have the rod on show at the PAC show in Harrogate next month.

That's not all I have planned in the rod department! Over the summer I've been trying to get a bait fishing blank developed. I handled the first of the prototypes that felt right this morning. I'm hoping to have a working prototype to build into a fishing rod soon. With a bit of luck this will work out the way I want it to and also be on show at the PAC show.

Of all the aspects of my work developing new rods is the bit I enjoy most. The biggest buzz is when people tell me the rods are just right. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Another GB Gold!

It's not often I win anything. There was a poll on the Pikers Pit forum to select the 50th article for The Pike Pool - and for some reason my article got the most votes.

It's a piece about paternoster rigs for pike, and can be read here.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Still eeling

Not being able to get enthusiastic about catching anything else at the moment I went eel fishing again. For what seemed like the first time this 'summer' the evening was still, sunny, and warm. And the horseflies were out. Swarming round my sweaty head when I got to my chosen spot which was free of the moored barge at last.

Although it was still a couple of hours before dusk I cast out two deadbaits, both on a  long-link leger this time. Then I sat back and tied up some traces, listened to the radio, and generally chilled out. Bliss.

It's not so much a set your watch by them job when the first takes come, more a set your light meter. It seems that the eels wake up when the sun gets to a certain point as it lowers in the sky. Pretty much on cue the right hand bobbin started to dance. I missed that one and recast. Almost immediately the bobbin was jiggling again. Eels do tend to come back to  baits after having them pulled away far more than other fish. A recast bait is often taken quickly like this. Other times I have drawn a bait back to the leger after a dropped run to have it taken again in short order. Sometimes a tug of war has developed between me and the eel! The second take was also missed.

This was the signal for another common eel trait to manifest itself. A take on the second rod shortly after one on the first. Again I played cat and mouse with the fish. Eventually landing one of the smallest I've taken on a deadbait this year. Maybe half a pound. Perhaps it's time to step up the bait size to avoid these little ones? Then again they might still chew on them to annoy me.

During the Test Match commentary it was noted that one of the England players was late taking the field after lunch. The reason was reported to be 'stomach cramps' which the commentators took to be a euphemism. In order to avoid a 'stomach cramp' incident I packed up shortly after returning the small eel...