Fishing has blessed me with enchantments, memories and friendships that are far beyond what an angler of my only very average ability deserves. My fishing experience, as my eternal salvation, seems to owe far more to grace and unmerited favour than it does to anything I've contributed to it myself.
This is a tale of two angling friends who I feel I know, although have never met, two fishing rods, one ancient and venerable, one new and shiny, and impending plans for adventures on a small, intimate, Leicestershire carp lake.
And so, to the friends- an English Devonian, and an American Floridian, Michael and Don. (Don's the one with the extensive, impressive and hirsuite "facial furniture", Michael the one holding the equally rather impressive looking perch)
The worldwide interweb thingy is often the focus for hostility, and some people's hysteria might prompt one to wonder if bullying and unpleasantness even existed before British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee had his "light bulb moment", although my memories of schooldays make me doubt such a claim. However, for all the opprobrium that some people hurl at it, for me the Internet has been the catalyst for a number of fishing friendships, many of them trans-Atlantic, and some which have ultimately led to me meeting up with and fishing alongside companions from the world of the web, both in the UK and the USA. However, I have yet to meet either Don or Michael in the flesh, but as internet friends they have proved to be proper gentlemen and extremely generous. Which brings me to the two fishing rods in question, and my forthcoming carp pond adventures.
I got to know of Michael on a Facebook page that delights in the name of TARTS (an acronym that stands for Traditional Angling and Retro Tackle), cue: "Vicar and Tarts" jokes. A while back he was selling a few rods from his extensive collection of split cane beauties and I purchased from him one of the rods on offer, an 8 foot carp stalking rod (pictured below) with lovely whippings and patina, that he himself had lovingly restored. That purchase was the least of it, though, as a friendship developed which resulted in him kindly gifting me another vintage split cane rod ( an Aspindale float rod) and half a dozen antique reels.
Don, is a professional custom rodbuilder who works for American Tackle, and has his own company DMD Rods. A few years ago I purchased from Don, who I first encountered on the now defunct Christian Outdoorsman Forum (now a Facebook page), a unique handmade carbon spinning rod that he crafted for me, and which has proved a dream to use and on which I've landed pike to approaching 20 pounds and is, understandably, a treasured possession. We've remained internet and Facebook friends, from time to time messaging each other on FB, as well as "liking" photo's of each other gripping fish and grinning, or pictures of our kids and families, but a few week's ago an intriguing chain of e-mail messages began. Questions were asked about import tax details and my home address, but all was kept very secretive. Well, now the secret is out, and it transpires that Don, for no reason other than personal kindness, had donated rod building components from American Tackle to twice World Custom Rod Builder of the Year Nuno Paulino from Portugal,a good friend of his, who he commissioned to make for me a one of a kind, bespoke, state of the art carp rod. The finished product features Christian symbols, purple and gold whippings, a space age reel seat, and even has Da Vinci's "Last Supper" and other sacred art woven into the carbon of the blank, and can be seen below. The rod somehow seems to combine the look and feel of a European Cathedral with elements that are almost reminiscent of the artistry you find on the most exclusive of custom painted motorbikes. If any "fish bothering stick", as one of my non angling friend refers to them as, could be described as having a numinous quality, this is it.
Paulino, who had a brief spell as a professional footballer in his younger days has recently written a lavishly illustrated book about his creations, and my new rod is among those featured in it. Of the rod he writes: "The word "inspiration" takes on a higher meaning when crafting a rod for a member of the English clergy. The theme becomes one with deep personal meaning for both client and craftsman." What is beyond dispute is that the finished work is inspired and a showcase of Nuno's skill and ingenuity.
And so the plan? Such tools deserve to be used for the purpose for which they were designed, namely the landing of fish, and so each will be "field tested" over the next month, starting next week with the split cane rod, and then, on a subsequent trip the custom build. For the cane rod it will be a reacquainting with the throb and pull of a displeased carp for a rod that has probably already seen well over half a century's worth of action -a return to active and noble service. For the newbuild, and the metaphor seems appropriate, a baptism as it finds itself pulled into a fighting curve for the very first time. The same pond, a favourite of mine, will provide the venue for both trips, as "functional art" performs its function in the pleasing setting of the English countryside. You, dear reader, will- of course- be the first to know: watch this space.