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Telephone: +44 (0)1635 552 916
Email: edward@barder-rod.co.uk
7 May 2006
Edward Barder Rod Company reviewed in The Independent on Sunday


by Keith Elliott

My first fishing rod cost in 10s 6d (52.5p in todays money).  It was made of cane and wasnt very good.  It died, eventually, of misuse.

Last week, I received an email from a pile-em-high tackle show, advertising rods for 4.99.  That rod will be 20 times lighter, better, more adaptable and more durable than my pride of the Grand Union Canal.  These days, you can get a quite superb rod for 100.  So why would anyone want to fork out 1,700 for an Edward Barder?

Let me say that I have no vested interest.  I dont own one; probably never will.  I suspect my wife would bobbitt me if I bought even the cheapest in Barders range, a Mark IV carp rod for a mere 1,000.  His is work is not even modern.  Were talking seriously retro, the sort of stuff your great-grandfather might have fished with.  But people wait up to two years to own one of his creations.  Whats the secret?

My only encounter with Barders work has been waggling one in a vaguely fishy way at a tackle fair, so perhaps I should quote my writer friend Tom Fort.  He says: More beautiful than anything in the Uffizi or the Louvre.  It tapers to a wand-like delicacy, yet is pregnant with power and resilience.  Wow!  And you thought we were talking about fishing rods.

There is no real reason to fish with cane.  Its yesterdays material.  Carbon fibre is lighter, more powerful, more forgiving.  But its soulless.  Cane may be quirky, but it somehow has life, a connection with nature.  Its the difference between driving a dodgem car and a classic convertible Aston Martin.  Sorry: got a bit carried away there.  But cane does funny things to you.

We are not talking about that wonky garden stuff that holds up your beans.  This bamboo, Tonkin cane, comes from one very small area of China, and is getting increasingly hard to source.  Barders stock includes cane from 50, 60 years ago.  It is seasoned, sliced into strips, straightened and cut into precise tapers so six perfect equilateral triangles create a hexagonal shape.  Then its heated, glued, sanded and sanded again.

Ive made it sound simple.  It isnt.  Tapers are measured in thousandths of an inch and everything is done by hand.  Then all the fittings (rings, cork handle, olivewood reel seat, ferrules) must be put on.

Barder showed me a small box containing rings of cork cut into circular sections.   How much for that box? he asked.  Cant catch me out.  I know that corks become very expensive.   25, I said.

More than 400, he replied.   And Ill only be able to use about one in 10.

Barder and his assistant Colin Whitehouse, turn out about a rod a week, working flat out.  Im starting to understand their 1,700 price tag.  But its only when you see the finished product that you see why people fall in love with cane, and why Barder is unquestionably Britains finest rod-maker.

Tom Fort puts it far better than I can.  I defy anyone who loves fly-fishing and has a scintilla of soul not to thrill at the sight and feel of these exquisite creations.  Angling pornography, you might say.

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