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The, Rod and the Reel

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Angling, we are told, is becoming more and more a science every day. Fish are becoming more wily, scarce, and difficult to catch, while the sport is becoming increasingly popular. New fishing lines, new hooks, new baits, and new tackle are being so constantly invented, that it is difficult for the most practised angler to become acquainted with them all, much mere the fish, cunning as they are. The angler has, however, ere consolation amid these new and perplexing inventions - the old skill and the old appliances have not lost their charm, and will yet secure a basket of fish when the modern patent inventions are completely at fault. A formidable list of articles is occasionally given as necessary for an angler's outfit, suggesting the necessity of a museum in which to store and label them. Anglers are generally vain about their equipment, and our grandfathers thought a particular coat of a dark colour aided the sport. The materials necessary for angling will depend in a threat measure on the locality and nature of the sport, whether fly, trolling, or bottom-fishing. We have seen good sport obtained with a, willow rod, a horsehair line with a bit of dried sedge for a float, when the most expensive outfit was comparatively useless for the purposes of sport. Attention to minutiae is 01" infinitely more value than a mere expensive outfit. Skill is of more importance than costly appliances, though useless by itself; and even science is valueless without experience.

Of course the angler must have a rod, and on the choice of one he can exercise his taste, for they are as varied in size, weight, material, pliancy, and price as the most fastidious could wish. Any tackle-dealer will be only "too happy" to satisfy the heart's desire of the young angler, who, however, should know what he requires.

The bottom-fisher's rod should be strong and light, just springy enough to strike a fish quickly, and sufficiently supple to equalise the pressure from top to butt. Though it need not be so limber as that used for fly-fishing, it should taper with equal precision from the butt to the top. The length depends upon whether it is to be used from a boat or punt, or from a bank. The average length of a bank rod should be about seventeen feet, in some instances a twenty-feet rod would not be too long, while half that length would be sufficient when fishing from a punt, when it need not exceed thirteen or fourteen feet. If furnished with two or three spare tops of different degrees of stiffness and length, the bottom rod becomes the " general rod," and may be used for nearly every purpose. For roach and dace fishing, the rod must be so light and so perfectly under command as to enable the angler to " strike" with an almost imperceptible turn of the wrist.

With respect to the material. If you purchase your rod, as ninety nine out of a hundred do, you w ill have plenty of choice. You may have them of hazel, ash, lancewood, or hickory, or judiciously combined with a whalebone top, according to price and finish; but. let it be handy, light, well balanced, and supple. Never have your rod in more than four lengths, nor if possible exceed three. One of three lengths with a hollow butt in which to place two or three top-pieces, will be found the best for all general purposes. It may be fitted with a spike at the bottom, ringed und fitted with two winches or reels for trolling and fly-fishing.

Exclusive of hazel, the woods ordinarily used in the manufacture of rods, are three or four varieties of bamboo cane, ash, willow, greenhart, hickory, and lancewood. Hickory has, however, become to be considered as the rod wood par excellence, as it is light, strong, and solid; but for butts, it gives way before ash and willow. It will not stand boring, and after all it takes its place as the middle joint, and leaves greenhart or split bamboo for the place of honour, and the humbler woods of home growth in the grasp of the angler's hand. The first time I saw greenhart as a portion of a rod was in Limerick, and there I found it so highly thought of, that entire rods were made from it. It is a heavy wood, hut extremely useful for tops, as it combines strength, fineness, and elasticity in a remarkable degree. I have seen yellow pine used for the butt of some old rods, made when hollow butts were unknown. The bamboos and canes speak for themselves. The split bamboo is jungle cane, split into narrow slips, planed, smoothed, and glued until it forms the exquisite top joint. There is a white cane used for roach rods, for which it is admirably adapted.

The joints of the rod ought to be looked to carefully before the purchase is completed, particularly if the rod is made of reed or cane. In order to give an extra finish and evenness to the rod, the workman sometimes cuts away a part of the bark or cilicious covering of the cane, to fit on the ferule, so that the rod is not only weaker where it ought to be strongest, but it is liable to rot from the impossibility of preventing the wet from getting in at the joints. So often has the ordinary brass joints failed the angler in the moment of his need, from this and other causes, that the Spliced Rod finds much favour with those who live in the country near the streams in which they ply their avocation. They are simple and inexpensive, though somewhat rude in construction. As many an ingenious youth would like to try to make his own rod, I will endeavour to explain the construction of two good rods which are within the reach of any country youth. Select a number of pieces of straight hazel, of different thicknesses, in the fall of the year, when the sap is gone, and place them in any convenient place to dry; Old Dame Barnes says an oven, but that plan is hardly to be recommended now-a days. They should, however, be turned frequently, to prevent their warping or drying irregularly. In the course of a year, or less, if the place is warm and dry, the pieces may he matched together in proportionate sizes. From the top of the thinnest cut eight or ten inches, and hind on a taper piece of whalebone with waxed thread - such a s is used by saddlers is the best for the. purpose. The whalebone may be cut with a long slant, to suit a corresponding slant in (he hazel, or slightly split and made to overlap a tapering point. The stock and middle piece, and top, may be joined together by a long splice, or a fished joint. If intended to remain together for the season, some saddler's wax may be rubbed between the joints, and then neatly bound with strong waxed thread. Every angler should learn to bind a splice with neatness and adroitness, in case of accident to his rod when in a remote district. The waxed silk or cord should be neatly and closely laid together, and the ends should be securely fastened. To fasten off, lay the fore-finger of your left hand over the bind, and with your right make four turn1; of the thread over it, then pass the end of your thread between the under side of your finger and the rod, and draw your finger away, draw taut each of the four thread? separately, and when firm and tight, draw the end close, and you have a neatly and firmly tied splice. "When, however, the rod is to be taken asunder day by day, a closely stitched leather band is welted and drawn tightly over the splice, and then whipped with twine, and as the leather dries it becomes tight and firm. This forms a light, useful rod. A piece of lancewood may be cheaply and judiciously substituted for the spliced top for bottom-fishing, and the butt may he made of yellow pine.

An exquisite rod for fly-fishing may be made in the above manner, of ash for the butt, hickory for the middle piece, and lancewood or split bamboo for the top, with a whalebone top; or it may be made in two pieces, the bottom of ash and the top of lancewood. The rings should not be too close, nor the reel too heavy. Some curious calculations have been made with respect to the rings of a rod, so as to equally divide the strain, and by the whippings add strength to the rod farthest from the ferules. We may add that the reel should be placed near the end of the butt in single-handed rods - six to eight inches will be found a convenient distance. From a dozen to sixteen rings may be used, according to the length of the rod, the first of which may be placed eighteen inches from the reel, and the next twelve inches, decreasing in proportion until the end loop is reached. The last ring should be about four inches from the loop, and a longer distance on each side of the ferule. In a spliced rod, the allowance to be made for the joints need not be so great. These general hints will be sufficient for all practical purposes. Mr Moffat, in the " Secrets of Angling," attaches great importance to these multitude. The first ring in a thirteen-feet rod with four joints, he says, should be seventeen inches from the reel, which is to be placed 8½ inches from the butt. The rings are then placed apart in the following order: - 12½, 17½, 10, 11½, 15, 8½, 9, 9, 7½, 10, 4¾, 4½, 5½, 5½, leaving the loop 3½ from the last ring. I cannot attach much importance to these measurements, which to be effective must depend on the material of which the rod is made.

There are several varieties of fancy rods sold in the shape of bag rods and walking-stick rods. These can only be recommended from their portability. The former are made in about two-feet lengths, so that they may be packed in a portmanteau, or carried in a pocket. They are usually of cane or other light material, and are useful for light fishing in small streams. The walking-stick rod used to Le a great favourite with the dilettanti fishermen. It is made of bamboo, and the joints fit into one another in the same manner as a telescope. A handle screws into the upper end, and a ferule to the lower, so that it may be used as a walking-stick. I cannot recommend the young angler to outlay his money in so fancy an article.

The price of rods varies from sixpence to three or four guineas. A good useful rod may be bought for half-a-guinea. The cheap rods are only useful as toys for children. Rods should be kept in a canvas bag; and as damp is their great enemy, they should always be wiped dry before being put away. If they have been much used during the season they ought to be re-varnished. For this purpose coachmaker's varnish (copal) is the best. Two coats are required, and the first should be dry ere the last is laid on. If copal varnish is not to be had; an excellent substitute may be thus made: - Spirits of wine, 2 oz.; orange shellac, 1 oz.; gum benjamin, ¼ oz. The mixture must stand a fortnight before using. Another receipt is as follows: - Gum sanderach, 4 oz.; shellac, 2 oz.; gum benjamin, 1 oz.; spirits of wine, 2 pints. When dissolved add two ounces of Venice turpentine. Dragon's blood will give it a warm red tone; Vandyke brown a rich brown colour; black sealing-wax, dissolved in spirits of wine, will make a fair black varnish, [n the absence of varnish of any kind, the rod km y be rubbed over with boiled linseed (drying) oil. The practice of painting rods, as recommended by Isaak Walton, is seldom followed now, and cannot be recommended as a process for preserving rods from the attacks of insects or damp.

The ferules and joints of an ordinary rod call for some remark. Common rods are fitted with brass ferules, into which the end of the upper joint fits. "When the latter is of plain wood it is apt to swell by exposure to damp or rain, or shrivel and shrink in the heat of the sun or a dry wind, and, consequently, likely to come asunder in the most critical time. No joints are to be trusted but those which have turned brass sockets and brass tips to fit them. Even the. " bayonet-joint " is sometimes essential, though by no means indispensable. Should the brass joints become " set," by damp or other causes, they may be released by turning them in the flame of a candle or lamp; and even the varnish may be preserved by twining & piece of writing-paper round the joint previously.

The Reel, or Winch, may be considered as almost an integral part of the fishing-rod, for it is useful in bottom-fishing, though not necessarily so essential as in fly-fishing or jack-fishing. The characteristics of a good reel are lightness, strength, and plainness. There, are three varieties in use - known as plain pillar-reels, stop-reels, and multiplying-reels. The latter is sometimes spoken of as " an ingenious and valuable contrivance." Ingenious it may be, and valuable to buy, but practically worthless in everyday experience. It certainly enables a long length of line to be wound up in a short space of time; but, as it ha-s been remarked, "with a great waste of power" when a fish is at the end of the line. Their use is much affected by those anglers who admire- fancy and scientific (?) contrivances. The plain pillar-reel, with deep narrow grooves and side-plates, and a tolerably large axle, still maintains its popularity. Its great drawback - that of giving out the line with too great rapidity, and overrunning, and thereby choking itself, and endangering the loss of the fish at a critical period by a sudden check – has been remedied by a " check" contrivance, which, while it allows the line to run out freely when required, prevents the too rapid action of the reel when the strain has gone. This is effected in two ways, - one by a tooth working with a spring in a ratchet-wheel, and the other by a friction plate or washer. I like the latter plan the best: first, because it is noiseless; secondly, because it is less liable to get out of order, and when it does can easily be repaired; and, thirdly, Le- cause it can be adapted to an ordinary plain brass reel at little rot t., g It is simply a plate of thin spring, a little less than the diameter of the reel, made slightly convex, and slit in half-a-dozen places to about one-third of its diameter. Thus plate is placed between the reel-drum and the supporting-plate. The best reels are those in which the handle is fixed in the side-plate of the reel- dram, as by this contrivance the ugly and tormenting crank may be dispensed with. The "Nottingham reel" is a simple pillar-reel, of great freedom of working, - too free in fact, - and perhaps the most perfect reel is one made by Mr Ryder, of 48 Ellis Street, Birmingham. It is formed of composition, which stands wet and hard usage remarkably wed. The veriest tyro need scarcely be told that the use of the reel is to hold the running tackle for the purpose of playing a fish.

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Pictures for The, Rod and the Reel

Notingham reel
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Modern Reel
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Brass Reels
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