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September 2007 – Fishing for new tackle

The cancellation of this year’s Country Landowner and Business Association Game Fair due to a waterlogged site at Harewood House in Yorkshire was a big blow to exhibiting businesses.

Now some dealers have been offering discounts to make up for lost trade. Could you, like me, be in for some new tackle? To make it easier imagine all your gear has disappeared in a particularly thorough burglary: how would you start again?


Let’s begin with rods. What about budget? It’s arguable that if your only salmon fishing trip is one week a year you might opt for something cheaper than those at the top of the range.

For years I have fished with a 15 ft Daiwa Whisker that has seen good service and caught a lot of fish. On a mid-price budget - about £350 - I would narrow my choice between the new Daiwa Scott MacKenzie Signature and the Guideline LPXE. If just starting out the Shakespeare Oracle rods are excellent value for money at less than £100.

But if you’re looking for something with a bit more class – in the higher price bracket of £600 to £750 - for salmon I would choose between the Sage TCR, the Sage Z-Axis, the Loop Opti, the Loomis Roaring River Stinger GLX and the new Hardy Swift. They’re all very fine rods but my vote by a narrow margin goes with the Loomis.

If your fishing is mostly grilse – the smaller salmon – you may want the American-style option of a single-handed rod with a seven or eight weight line. I would probably go for something nine or 10 feet in length in the Z-Axis range.

On the chalk streams I like to scale down to something around seven or eight feet or even shorter, depending on the stream. Another option is to buy second hand. My favourite trout rod is a 7ft 6ins cane Jennings-Moran bought for £180 at one of Neil Freeman’s auctions in Chiswick.

I love the feel of a cane rod and recently acquired a new one, hand crafted by Darlington-based Ian D Martin. It’s a beautifully fashioned rod. If you want something made from modern materials, Sage rods take some beating although I picked up two excellent US-made Diamondback Aeroflex rods for a bargain price at last year’s Game Fair. Cane rods can cost anything from £300 to £1,000, even more if you choose to have your rod custom built by a specialist manufacturer.


Functionally the reel is less important. Most reels on the market will do the job just fine in fresh water. You can get a good salmon reel for between £150 and £500. But if you’re heading for the salt it’s best to get something anodised with a disc drag. The thing about reels is that they’re lovely machines in their own right and the best made ones can hold their value. Some Hardy reels in fact have grown in value if they have been looked after.

Responding to the taste for retro-style reels, Hardy is marketing the Bougle´ MarkVI reels. It’s a good idea. We should never forget the zing from the reel check when line is paying out to a strong running fish. Priceless.


Closer to the business end there’s the line to consider. For trout and salmon I think the Snowbee XS lines take a lot of beating without breaking the bank although for fishing a heavy sinking tip the Guideline Power Taper Shooting Head is an excellent system.

Just as important as the casting line, of course, is your leader and tippet material. For salmon fishing I mostly use Seaguar fluorocarbon leaders unless I want the line to float when I will still opt for Maxima nylon line. For trout tippets, Riverge works well. There is a good range available in the £35-£60 bracket.

And the rest

As for the rest of your kit, it’s wise to have a good pair of waders. I prefer the breathable boot-stocking type, with the option of thermal layers underneath, to neoprene waders or the all-in-ones that I used to wear. Everyone tells me the choice must be between Simms and Patagonia but have you seen the prices for Simms’ G4 Gore-Tex waders?

Why pay £589, the price quoted by some of the leading UK dealers, when you can get the same pair in the US for £350 plus import tax at current exchange rates? Indeed you might think that a few pairs of $99 breathable waders from L L Bean’s online store is better value, particularly if you buy a tube of Aquasure adhesive to seal the holes from wear and tear.

But I would not compromise on boots. If you’re fishing rocky ledges a felt sole with studs is probably best. I use a Simms rubber-soled boot with studs, only because the shop had no felt soles in stock at the time.

One piece of equipment I have found difficult to find is a good light raincoat that folds up small enough to fit into your vest pocket. I have a black Jack Wolfskin Gore-Tex PacLite walking coat that I can get at quickly when it rains.

My Musto vest has enough pockets for most things I need. I’ve resisted buying the various ruck-sack style packs but I suppose they come in to their own if you have to hike some way. I like the simplicity of necklaces but have opted instead for zingers on my vest for the various bits and bobs such as snippers, forceps and fly-drying material.

For safety’s sake I usually use a wading stick. The Simms collapsible wader is handy for packing in a case. I have a life jacket but rarely use it, preferring a belt round my waste. Life-jackets make sense, obviously, but I wonder sometimes whether they may encourage a false sense of security, tempting me to wade further than I should.

Another important safety accessory are glasses. I use Cocoon sunglasses that can be worn over ordinary glasses.

Lastly there’s the hat. It’s a personal choice but I would advise wearing something wide brimmed if the wind allows it. Otherwise a peaked cap is fine or something fleecy in cold weather. Shop around carefully and you might have some change for a few flies. They can prove quite useful too.

Various tackle suppliers have loaned rods on test during the year and stock most of the items mentioned in the column.

Sportfish of Reading (, 01544 327111)
John Norris of Penrith (, 01768 864211)
Graingers of South Kensington (, 0207 584 9666)

For other tackle mentioned here try:

L L Bean (

Ian D Martin’s website can be found at
Email: [email protected]

For details of Neil Freeman’s angling auctions go to:

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