My rods for Barbel Fishing
I am a fisherman, and quite adept with my hands, but a photographer I am most certainly not. At this time I still find photgraphing a rod is a rather impossible task - a compromise between being far enough away to see the rod (and the all-important ring spacings) but still enabling some detail to be seen. Better photos may follow later but in the meantime some of those here will just have to suffice.
There have been particular stages in my barbel fishing "life" and these are reflected in my rod/reel choice and, of course, materials that were available at the time.
and this is the story so far ...
My early barbel fishing was done with a variety of rods including a cane James of Ealing Mk.IV avon and then I bought a G/F Bruce & Walker Mk.IV Avon, which I coupled with a Mitchell 300.
In the seventies I decided that I'd try an build a rod of my own and I bought an 11ft Sportex part-built blank and fitted Fuji single-leg lined rings. About this time I also bought two Match Aerial centrepins and decided that, for these, I'd like an extra ring to aid casting.
So I bought two more Sportex blanks, a couple of built cork sleeves, two sets of Fuji single-leg lined rings. I also decided that I would still use my Mitchell 300's (had two by now) so I designed the build as a compromise with one larger butt ring and two close-spaced rings above this. Also, that balance was paramount so I would add a brass weight in the end of the butt .... but for which? the Mitchell or the Match Aerial? dilemma but the centrepin won.
I thought that there was no need for a full cork handle (economics) so I left the glass "bare", but soon realised that it was a bit vulnerable, so I bought some linen thread and made a continuous whipping along the length, which took ages. Disaster struck in that when I applied a coat of varnish it picked up the hairs of the thread and made a spiky mess, but rather than strip it all off a start again I tried sanding it, and ended up with a pleasing textured "grip" which, several coats later, was very good - so good in fact that I couldn't have designed it that way. I was very pleased with the finished rod - it was exactly suitable for what I wanted it for and it looked a bit different too.
Butt cap, which also "housed" the brass counterweight, was of turned aluminium subsequently painted black, and a black (replaceable) Darvic disc fixed with a nylon screw.
I had had many thoughts on reel fittings. Screw fittings were not that readily available so I decided to stick with sliding fittings. But I had long felt that any rod with sliding reel fittings that would be used with both a centrepin and a fixed spool, there was an issue with holding the reels securely, especially the centrepin, mainly I think due to the c'pin having less long feet than the fixed spool.
Deciding there was an advantage (during tests) of feeling more through the blank I tried many ways of fitting "special" spacers, of various materials, directly to the blank around which the cork would be fitted. The main idea was that the reel foot would be in contact with the blank via this more solid material and the cork wouldn't cushion the vibrations. But I gave this up when I decided that maybe I had imagined this, for when some pals tried it they thought there was little, if any, substance in my theory. So I just remained conventional, except I did make some "bondene" sleeves which fitted under the reel foot and this seemed to hold a c'pin more tightly. These can be seen (fitted) in the picture below, but separately in the one below that. In retrospect I wished I'd not included the fixed-spools in my thinking at all, as I had hardly used them with these new rods at all.
I used these rods for a good number of years, and although carbon had started to make an appearance I was convinced that it offered no advantages and that I liked the action of my glass rods so much I'd "never" change ...
.. then one day something changed all that. I arrived at my chosen venue, quite alone and with nobody anywhere on the bank, selected my swim, unfolded my seat and decided I'd really have a good day. Then I unzipped my tubed-holdall and ... no rods, they were still hanging up at home.
So, another dilemma. Do I make a journey home for my trusty rods, a round trip of 150 miles? NO. Do I go home and forget fishing for the day? NO way, I'd not got a day off work to do nothing. Could I borrow a rod? errrr, nobody on the bank at all, let alone anyone I knew well enough to ask. So it was go to a local shop and buy one.
After he stopped laughing, the shop-owner whom I knew well, said he had some cheap rods that would be suitable but no, I wanted something worth having and opted for a 12ft Daiwa Powermesh 1.25lb tc (carbon) rod, with detachable handle. The rod also had sliding reel-fittings which I actually preferred (or so i thought) as with the rod flexing right to the butt, and under the reel............. Hastening back to the bank with my new rod, I set up, had a fish, was amazed that I liked the action, and had six more. Seven barbel on a new rod, and it was magic.
What to do now? well I used this rod a further couple of times and liked it so much I bought another. I didn't use fixed-spools at all now so removed the butt ring and whipped two close-spaced smaller rings, and relegated my glass rods to the rack.
Now with these rods I'd be set for years and years, or so I thought. Fish were becoming bigger; I wanted a more powerful rod, especially with my increasing forays to the Middle and Tidal Trent; I had lost confidence in Maxima line.
So in 2002 I sought the advice of my mate Roger, a very good rod-builder and fellow barbel fisherman, who recommended the 11ft Harrison Gti as "the best barbel rod blank available" - a view I still hold today even though there have been several "flavour of the month" blanks from Steve Harrison's factory since. So, the beginnings of the "paul4 Barbel Rod" were beginning to take shape ...
So what did my years of experience in building and using barbel rods tell me I wanted?
# this year (2017) I replaced some of my Seymo 247S rings due to the insert popping out of the frame. I sought advice and replaced them with Fuji BSVOG rings, which are the same design and look pretty similar
For the way I build a rod these days - nothing startling, nothing special, click here
Initially I built two of these rods. I also built one for each of two pals. Some 15+ years on and I'm still using them, and my pals are still using them too. I think I got it right.
There were some anglers asking about my rods but I couldn't ask Roger for materials to build more, even if I was inclined - I'd be taking bread from his mouth, well crumbs anyway - so after about five years of me (and us) using them, I asked if he'd build them exactly to my specification, and they are available as the "paul4 Barbel Rod" click here for details.
Since then I tried building one on a different blank, a Harrison GTx, 12ft, 1.5 tc, and with a "special" soft top. My first outing resulted in two barbel, both doubles, the second outing one double and an upper nine. BUT funnily enough, I don't like the rod, but will give it a try again this coming season. Now, and I don't want any more rods to be honest, I find that there is a 1.75 tc version of the GTx and I might well be tempted ...
So, unlike many barbel anglers, I don't keep rods that I don't use. I have two of each design featured above - the glass ones for nostalgic reasons; one of the Daiwas (sold the other to a good pal) just in case I fancy returning to a spot of tenching, as they would be perfect for this, if a little "light" for me to use for barbel these days; and my latest rods; oh, and the GTx. I don't need any more rods.
last updated 1/8/21