Split cane fishing rod Fennel

A New Fly Rod

Mrs H had warned me that if I ever bought another fishing rod, she would feed it in to a garden shredder. "Or," she said while giving me her sternest of looks, "I'll feed in something else – that won't splinter!” She had good reason to complain. I’d bought several dozen fishing rods during a twelve-month period of ‘bamboo indulgence’ and then, after deciding that most of them were unusable, spent seven weeks restoring and re-varnishing them in the family bathroom.

"This is too much,” said Mrs H as she walked, head in hands, into my 'workshop'.

"But it’s the only room in the house that’s dust-free,” I replied, "and I only have another three rods to varnish.”

"One more week then, after which you will absolutely definitely need a bath, and a shave, and…”

"Another rod rack?”

"Enough! For nearly two months I have put up with having our bathroom covered in newspaper. The constant whiff of varnish is giving me a headache and you smell like the homeless love child of a rotten potato and a pickled onion.”


"Yes. Your rods look great, but you look – and smell – a mess. No more. I beg of you.”

"Okay darling. I understand. Perhaps I should wash in the kitchen sink?”


"Only joking.”

"You’d better be. Besides, why do you want so many rods, anyway?”

After a long pause, and much thinking, I replied, "Because I need them.”

Asking an angler why he or she needs so many fishing rods is like asking a woman why she has so many pairs of shoes. The urge to purchase such items, be they rods or shoes, goes beyond the desire to collect or hoard. It’s as if something in our DNA tells us that without them we are somehow 'incomplete' – just empty hangers awaiting garments that will give us purpose. Of course, the rational-minded person will say that one needs a range of items to accommodate all eventualities. A woman will want to accessorise differently for different events and an angler will want, if there is such a word, to ‘tackleise’ to accommodate all potential fishing conditions. Of course, one’s spouse doesn’t always sympathise with an angler’s need to own more rods that he or she has pairs of socks. And if a man has more rods than a woman has shoes, then there’s no logical or emotional resolution. It’s war. I realised this after tallying up the number of shoes in Mrs H’s wardrobe. She has twenty-five pairs whereas I, after a large brandy, can declare that I have twenty-four split cane fishing rods. (Others made from lesser materials don’t count and, besides, will soon make their way to the great lightning conductor in the sky.)

Twenty-four rods isn’t too many, is it? If I remember correctly, there are fifty-six species of fish present in UK freshwaters. So it’s only right, respectful and proper to have at least one rod for each.

So I reckon I’m urgently due another. After my experiences recently at a 'big trout water', you’d be forgiven for thinking that I need to buy a twelve-foot ten-weight lion tamer. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m so against the mantra of ‘size is everything’ that from now on I will make a conscious effort to fish for smaller and wilder fish. To do so will require a new rod, and a new ruse to avoid the wrath of Mrs H.

I decided to invent a story; one where I’d stumbled upon a shoal of burbot and, burbot being so incredibly rare, presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fish for them. I told Mrs H that burbot only fed in the third week in May and the only known method of catching them is on a Grey Wulff fished on a size 12 hook. I also told her that my preliminary reading on the subject had explained that burbot, being so incredibly rare and such finicky eaters, would only succumb to an angler fishing with an eight-foot five-weight fly rod with translucent whippings and an olivewood reel seat, made by Edward Barder of Berkshire, England. ("Yes it’s expensive darling, but I’m only thinking of you and our bathroom. You see, this one won’t need any restoration...”) I told her I didn’t care if I only caught trout on the rod; it was burbot I was after, and they wouldn’t possibly take a size 12 Grey Wulff in the third week of May if I was using my normal eight-foot five-weight fly rod (the one with burgundy whippings and a walnut reel seat).

Mrs H had the power to grant me the fish (and rod) of a lifetime. All I needed was her blessing.

"Sweetheart, I neeeeed this rod,” I said.

"Like you needed that pair of split cane carp rods that turned out to be so limp your friends nicknamed them The Brewer’s Droops?" she replied.


"The ones you never used and eventually flogged at the car boot sale.”

"Oh, those.”

"How is this rod different?”

"It’s for burbot.”

"And where will you catch one of those?”

"In the river, in the third week of…”

"Sorry Sunshine, I’ve heard it all before. No can do.”




Which brings me on to my request: I need to ask a favour of you. Given my propensity for out-and-out cowardice in the face of a scorned woman, I was wondering if you could test my next ruse to get the rod. You’ll need the participation of your other half, but don’t let her (I’m assuming it’s a her) know that you’re doing this for me. Play it straight and note her response. If it works, let me know and I’ll try it. If it doesn’t, then let me know anyway and I’ll lock the shed door in case your other half asks Mrs H if she can borrow the shredder.

Okay. Now remember, there’s a new fly rod riding on this, so make it count. Here’s what I’d like you to do:

  • Find a moment when your other half is looking especially relaxed, radiant, and receptive to romantic advances. (I’m told that the end of Antiques Roadshow is a good time.)
  • Offer her a glass of wine and light some candles (women love candles, it’s something to do with their fondness for moths). Then walk away – into an adjacent room. This is important. We don’t want her to think you’re after something. Act cool. Be natural. Put some Dire Straits on the music player and shuffle your feet from side to side as if you’re using them to mix cement. (Apparently this is very manly, making your feet subliminally assertive and, as I’ve found, warming up the soles of your shoes for when you need to make a quick getaway.)
  • Walk back into the room. Tell her that you’ve been thinking about the good times you’ve had together and especially the time that you and she went to [insert details of event here]. Say that you’ve been trying to think about what exactly it was on that special [day/night] that made you so proud to be [married to/engaged to/going out with] her. Then say that just then, when you were in the other room, you realised what it was. It was that she was so beautiful and that the dress she was wearing was perfect. She’ll now either thank you or complain about your nauseating seduction technique. Either way, you should say that you’re serious, that the dress has really got you thinking. And that, you have to confess, you’ve started to take an interest in dresses. (I hope, at this point, that she looks concerned rather than offers you free reign of her wardrobe.)
  • I’ve read that a shock often puts women off their guards, so it’s important to pause for a few seconds before saying that she shouldn’t misunderstand what you’re saying; that you don’t want to wear the dresses, just that her fabulous taste in clothes has made you appreciate the importance of fashions and that it’s important to buy quality things that make you feel good.
  • Tell her she’s lucky you’re not a woman, that you’re not competing for wardrobe space and that you don’t have to change what you wear to match the seasons, and that you are, after all, just a hapless bloke who muddles along, asking only to be loved and for the occasional opportunity to go fishing.
  • Remind her that you have no ‘little black dress’, but if you did, it would probably be a fly rod that would be reserved for special occasions. It would be the one that made you feel best about yourself and the only one that would never go out of fashion.
  • Tell her how you wished that you had such a thing, so that when she looked back on her memory of when she’d seen you most happy, when she knew that you truly loved everything about your life together, that she would be imagining you with such a rod: an eight-foot five-weight split cane fly rod with translucent whippings and an olivewood reel seat, made by Edward Barder of Berkshire, England. Ask her if she can visualise it. Ask her if she loves you. Ask her if she wants you to be truly happy. Ask her if she’ll let you buy the rod…

Phew. Message delivered. Did it work? 

Answers on a postcard to: Fennel Cowardly Hudson, c/o The Priory in Hiding, Bouvet Island, Mid-Atlantic. 


This is a sample chapter from Fly Fishing, Fennel's Journal No. 5

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