Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Angling Art - Eelus

I thought I'd share with you this lovely stencil and papercut artwork by my favourite urban/graphic artist 'Eelus'. I believe it was a commission piece, not commissioned by me unfortunately.
The man is incredibly talented and I have collected his work for a while now and was lucky to receive the following piece as a gift with another purchase. It hangs above my angling bookcase and always makes me smile.
Check his website Here.

Another urban artist who most will be familiar with, Banksy, has also, in the past, taken to spraying fishy themes.This little fellow was found beneath a bridge by the canal at Camden.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Redmire - Phone Wars.

Redmire Pool.... To many, just the mention of the two words is enough to send them into another world, even another time. I openly admit, the place has me entranced, a love affair that started when I was just a boy. A copy of the Angling Times annual fell open to reveal a black and white photo of Richard Walker holding that most stunning fish, he named 'Ravioli', others named her Clarissa. I have been hooked ever since and have found myself in the most fortunate position to have fished at Redmire for a weekend in each of the last three years, and have had the honour (for that is what it is) to capture two of its residents.
 With all this in mind, today is quite a stressful day, it being the day upon which all devotees of this small farm pool, take up their phones and dial one single landline number in the hope that a certain Mr. Bamford will answer in his own affable style and grant access for an allotted time to that paradise on the England/Wales border.
 At Gurney Towers the day, that has become known as 'Phone Wars' to regulars, is planned with military precision. Lady Sarah on one landline and me on another. I'm not sure if this doubles or halves our chances of getting through but it is a formula that has worked well up to now.
 The whole business is a bind, but seemingly fair and the whole sorry episode is forgotten about when one is at peace on the pool.
 Well, once again, I am happy to report that our planning and persistence has paid off. Lady Sarah ,once again coming up trumps and getting through quite early (after fifty minutes) to secure for my party five days in September, which was my preferred choice..I am, as they say,"As 'appy as Larry"...That Lady Sarah has strange and wonderful powers indeed..

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

'Nothing For A Pair, Not In This Game!'

The work party ethos is one of camararderie, of team building. A place for men to bond whilst sloping off and dodging the hard work that the few seem to do each year. Why then did I find myself alone this cool, damp morning with a shovel and a barrow. Fact is, all bailiffs must attend a mandatory pair of work parties. I had already put in one good shift. I'd even tried to save a few trees from the bloke on every syndicate that can use a chainsaw (because it makes him a man). Alas, the trees fell in my absence. On a brighter note, the willow he 'took out' last year 'because it was rotten' has made a miraculous recovery.
 I received the text a couple of weeks ago "work party 29th jan plz atend", fact is, I can't "atend". I have a very important task on Sunday, more of which I will divulge next week.
 There I am then, cold handed, creaky backed, humping barrow loads of finest CEMEX gravel along the tracks to fill in the ruts and puddles.There's a pair of anglers on the opposite side and I recognise them as regulars as one raises an arm aloft...My toil continued, back and forth with a full load, I questioned my offer to put in a solo shift.
 After about 3 hours my body told me that enough was enough...Now it was time for the reward.
 I'd brought along a bag of bits, a landing net and The Lucky Strike.
 As I strolled round a pair of magpies flew into view, a good omen? I chatted to the anglers,they informed me that they had not caught a fish in six sessions and couldn't believe how they had just switched off.
 Oh well, I settled at a nice snaggy swim. there must be  Perch or something lurking.

The Lucky Strike, I think I will call her Lucy, looked resplendent, paired up with my trusty wonky handled Speedia. Small waggler, size 20 Drennan hook, single red maggot, pinkies as feed.
 I cast out and poured some tea from the flask, no kettle today, I was travelling light. No bites were forthcoming, but as I sat there, contemplating my surroundings, I couldn't help but wonder about the fish that Lucy had landed in a former life, many years ago, and the gentle men at Allcocks who'd cut, planed and glued, I really did get lost in another place for a while. This is the magic of cane, I never wonder or indeed care, who, or what, has built my modern rods, they don't have the same aura..Lucy, however, is alive again.
 A while later, a pair of swans paddled into the swim, why do some anglers tend to flap and flail at them? They were most welcome visitors, even if I wasn't sharing my sandwiches. One took quite a shine to Lucy.

I continued to spray a couple of pinkies at regular intervals, hoping for that first magical bob of the float. A pair of green woodpeckers flew into a nearby bush, making a right old noise. I'm not sure if they were a male and female having a row, or two males arguing over territory, but eventually one told the other to 'do one', so it did, swiftly followed by the other. They are quite splendid birds, their garish colour and gangling flight makes them proper characters.
 No bites then ? This needed investigating, I had a hunch. I climbed the bank behind me and put on the polaroids. Yep, there they were, two Jack Pike, sitting mid-water in my swim. No Roach or perch here then. I decided to move to the other side of the bush.

Now although I was away from the Pike, I did feel a tad blatant in this swim, the gin clear water allowing maximum visibility to my scaly mates. At this point pair of pheasant clambered through the undergrowth, I was now wondering if the bird population was getting that springtime feeling early.
 The two anglers walked past on their way home having not had so much as a bite. I was now alone.
 It might now be a good time to tell you that about a week ago I saw three police cars and two vans on the small lane behind the lake. Lady Sarah and I wondered what the fuss was all about. Now I'd mentioned this to my father at the time. It was only this morning, however, whilst kindly dropping me off at the lake, that he told me that a big cat, described as puma-like had been spotted in the vicinity...I WAS NOW ALONE!!
 He was driving back this way soon, so after another hour and no fish, I called it a day.
 The rod is a dream, I already know she's a goodun, I will have to wait for that special first fish though, because despite seeing a pair of magpies, a pair of anglers, a pair of swans, a pair of pike, a pair of woodpeckers, a pair of pheasants, and doing a pair of work parties. Apparently, you get nothing for a pair in this game!
Oh well, at least I didn't get eaten by a puma.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Perfect Cuppa ?

"Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world."

The elixir of the Englishman, that marvellous pick-me-up, the drink that fuelled an empire. Of course, there is tea , and then there is Tea.
The good Lady Sarah, in her infinite wisdom, knows that ol' Gurn enjoys the finer things in life. I am becoming more and more likely to be taking tea on the bank these days, with either my trusty sidekick Steve or his reliable rival Kelly. With this in mind she has brought me some fine Miles' Ceylon loose tea.
 Neatly packaged in its own mini tea chest caddy, well I just cant wait to brew up. I even have a tutorial from His Noble Yates-ness to aid me.....

Many have waxed lyrical about the magical ritual of 'taking' tea....I think my favourite quote is..

"Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of effervescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."

Miles Tea and Coffee Merchants

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Another Winter Project - Wicker Seat

I saw this on eBay a while back and just had to have it. The thought of sitting aside a small willow fringed pool on a balmy summers eve with a glass of finest red in my hand, waiting for a bite. Well it was just too much.
 In some quarters they are described as 'canoe chairs' but the portability, compactness and it ability to hold various bits and bobs in that underseat compartment lend it perfectly to piscatorial pursuits.

On the whole it is relatively tidy, so just a general tidy up and application of lotions and potions to wood and leather should suffice. I'll post some pics when it's finished.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Peter Drennan and Bernard Venables

I thought I might share with you some details of a touching Christmas card we received in the shop from Peter Drennan.
The front (above) carries a reproduction of this wonderful study of roach.
Inside it says, "Bernard Venables was a great angler and a poetic writer with a rare ability to draw fish. He lived into his 90's and the last time we fished together, I remember him saying:'Your tackle box is better set up, I'll have to sort mine out for next season.' May we all be looking forward at 90 years of age!"
 On the back is this fantastic photo of the pair of them.

The text reads..."Bernard Venables and Peter Drennan, circa 1994, examining Bernard's watercolour which is the subject of this years Christmas card."

What a wonderful tribute to the late Bernard Venables this is. An influential gentleman of our pastime he was clearly held in high esteem by his peers.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Allcocks Lucky Strike Restoration..A Winter Project.

It would seem that Allcocks had no intention at all of making a classic fishing rod when the Lucky Strike came to the drawing board, rather perhaps, a short handled boys rod.
However, they used quality cane and the tapers just seemed about right for a general purpose rod and the rest is history.
 Chris Yates has at least one in his collection and can be seen to use it adeptly in the wonderfully evocative A Passion For Angling. This has perhaps added to the rods mystique and it is now highly prized and sought after by the cane enthusiast.
 My rod came into my possession in what can only be described as a dilapidated state, here are some photos of the rod as I received it.

It is my intention to restore this rod, not to the over-restored flamboyant specification we see in some quarters but to a useable 'sympathetic to original' grade, with the slight improvement of agate lined tip and butt rings. This will be my first ever rod refurbishment ( a knackered classic, yep, ol' Gurn's gone in at the deep end ),  and I will take you with me on a warts and all journey. I will no doubt make classic beginners errors but hope to take you up to a time when I catch my first ever fish on what will become, hopefully, my most special rod.
 The first job in hand was to lay the rod down, section by section, and to mark on paper all of the positions of all the guides, ferrules and intermediate whippings. I used the last length of a near used till roll rescued from the bin at work for this job, laying the roll out trapped beneath a glass at each end, next to the rod , and not forgetting to mark each section (butt, middle,tip) and marking an arrow pointing to tip end on each.
 The next task was to remove all the old rings and whippings...
 To remove the whipping thread I used a craft knife (scalpel-type). I've seen articles telling that it is best to cut along the thread and pull the whole lot off in one go, this is not the approach I took fearing the possibility of damaging the cane. My chosen method was to nick the thread at the end and unravel taking things very steadily..it worked a treat. It was at this stage that I encountered my first surprise; I know that Allcocks whipped the Lucky Strike in two colourways, early models are all blue and later models yellow tipped with black, and black intermediates, it is, however, not an exact science. Take a look at my photos, I thought that my rod, although an early one, had the yellow and black, that is until I removed them, They are actually blue, the yellow being the degraded varnish. The ferrules seemed to be sound so I left them on, they did however, have some surface corrosion and didn't fit together, this would have to be addressed later.

The next job was to remove the old varnish, I've heard that some people use various stripping potions for this job and that it can be completed quite quickly. I did have some concerns that a stripper might seep into the cane sections and cause de-lamination so I opted for the alternative method of manually scraping it off. I used the back of the craft knife blade for this held against the blank at a right angle. It was much more difficult and time consuming than I had anticipated but I took my time and so far have not had a 'FFS' moment. I was surprised to see that the cane was darker than I thought it would be, I'm guessing that this is a product of heat treatment in the factory. Once the varnish was removed, I used the finest grade sandpaper (not wet & dry) I could find, and smoothed down the whole blank, until it looked like this...

The next thing I tackled was the Allcocks logo, I did smooth the varnish above it by using ultra-fine flour paper and took things VERY slowly. I must admit that I am not sure if it made much difference. Anyway, afterwards I gently cleaned the area with a solution of washing up liquid dabbed gently with cotton wool.
 Once everything had dried thoroughly I stabilised the area with a single layer of artist's acrylic varnish...

You will see that the 'o' is missing from 'Allcocks' and a small section of the black oval surround. The intention here is to add the restoration onto the base of varnish and then add another coat...

Here is the logo after restoration, not perfect, but much, much better..I used Faber-Castell Indian ink art pens in gold and black.
I now turned my attention to the brass fittings, I have chosen to leave them in situ and to manually clean them with fine wire wool, once again this is incredibly time consuming. The ferrules were so corroded that they no longer fit together. I knew that one has to be extremely careful with the male ferrule and I believe the preferred method is to use 'Brasso' and elbow grease, I actually opted to use fine wire wool, but took things very slowly and eventually  both sets of ferrules gained a nice popping fit.
This what they looked like at this stage........

I now turned my attention to the cork, once again wire wool was employed to clean fifty years worth of grime away, some advise against this practise (soapy water  with a scotchbrite pad or white spirit and rag are alternative methods).....

At this stage the brass was clean and gleaming, some choose to leave it that way, but originally these fittings and ferrules would have been 'blued', I know this because I had cleaned through this layer.
 I obtained a product with the impressive name of Birchwood-Casey Brass Black Metal Finish.....

Apparently, this is some pretty lethal stuff, as you can see from the label !!
 I would imagine that the 'bluing' procedure is much easier to do if all the fittings are removed. As I didn't want to do this, it was a case of masking off the cork and cane around the fittings. I then cleaned the brass with white spirit before applying and even coat of the Brass Black with some of Lady Sarah's cotton buds,  I then left it to do it's magic for two minutes (even though it said one minute on the label), the fitting was then rinsed under the tap and patted dry with kitchen towel, five minutes later I polished the fitting with tissue paper......this is a very time consuming procedure and I had to repeat it many times to get the desired colour.
 The final finish was slightly patchy but I intend to wax the brass fittings after the whipping process to gloss and even the colour...
....and so, onwards to the whippings. The thread I have used is Gudebrod Nylon Royal Blue in grade D, I hope this will be pretty close to the original.
I don't own one of these all singing and dancing whipping stations, so improvised with an old rod-pod that I never use. When whipping the rod I placed a duster over each rest to protect the blank.

....it certainly made life easier even if it is a bit Heath Robinson , as did these two tools, a sharp scalpel and a fly-tiers bobbin, the latter I would suggest is a necessity, almost like having another hand.
I won't go through the in-and-outs of how to whip thread, there are plenty of good tutorials on You-Tube, and as this is the first time I've whipped intermediates all I can say is,"hats off" to anyone who takes on something like a B.James Mk IV.
I gave each whip a dowsing of colour preserver as I went along leaving the tag ends of the intermediates on for this first coat, with two more coats to follow.

You can see here the agate lined butt-ring, this is one of the very few 'improvements' I have decided to make to the original build.
 If I'm honest, I hadn't looked forward to whipping the rod, but it was in fact, the only part of the restoration so far that had been easier than I'd anticipated. Sure, I've done the odd repair before, but intermediates on a tip section, never.
 The done thing is to reverse the tip section to even up the fifty years worth of  'droop' the section may have accrued. I must admit that the rod is remarkably straight for its age, and this may sound strange, but after much deliberating, waggling and flexing, the rod 'told' me not to do this, so I didn't.
Also, those 'Luckys' whipped in silk or grade A nylon in yellow and black do look lovely, and I understand aesthetics count for much, with some....but, they're not 'right' are they? Well not for me, or my rod anyway, and that's the important thing here, myself and this rod already have a rapport...and so to varnishing.
 Everyone has their preferred varnish and each will tell you theirs is the best to use, the list just goes on and on.
 In the end I listened to someone who's rods I'd seen and I trusted and opted for Humbrol gloss.....

First, I gave the whippings and intermediates a couple of coats using a fine brush and allowing two days between coats. It is important to turn the rod for the first two hours of the drying process to avoid runs, for the whippings I did this manually propping each section between two equal height objects and turning them 45 degrees by hand every few minutes. This allowed me to do all three sections at the same time.

For the varnishing of the full sections I was lucky enough to blag a rod turner from a friend, I would imagine the job to be far trickier, but still do-able nonetheless, without one.

You can see that the rod is held in position by three bolts forming a chuck. These are tightened to the male ferrule which has been protected with masking tape. The motor turns at a slow even pace and helps to avoid runs in the varnish.
I found the varnish much easier to work with if the whole tin was submersed to three quarters of the way up in warm water...

I did use a very small brush for application though some suggest using ones finger for the job. Each section received three coats, allowing 24 hours between each. I only deemed it necessary to remove any imperfections with very fine sand paper after the second coat.
 Having finally varnished each section, the only job left to do was to wax the brassware. Once again I masked everything, then polished all 'blued' brass with Granville Wax Polish.
 There you have it then, my first rod refurbishment went remarkably smooth. It is time consuming, it is, at times tedious, but the sense of achievement is fantastic. Let's see some before and afters then..
















The thing that brings me most satisfaction is the knowledge that this rod has been sitting in a shed for many years, fortune brought it to me, and I have been able to bring it back to life, it will sit on the bankside again, saved from the bonfire and will catch fish again....that pleases me immensely.

I will cherish this rod always, I hope to be able to tell you of our future adventures and tales of our captures. This will start in a few weeks time when the varnish has fully dried.....I can't wait.

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