I had been searching for a Bob Southwell rod called the ‘Blagdon‘ since discovering a 2014 auction photo. A proper auction, not online. The fuzzy shot revealed a long rod with green whippings and the correct period fittings. I left a random note online asking for information about Southwell rods and after several months, up popped an email offering me a ‘Blagdon‘. I bought it the next day.
This was not the auction rod, the inscription was different. There’s another one still to find. My initial impression was that the rod I had bought would need a light refurbishment. I always start with preservation in mind, it never works out that way. Horrors are invariably discovered under the magnifying glass and so it turned out.
Unlike the other Southwell rods I have, this one had been fished-to-death. The rings were worn out. Expensive fly line destroying half moon bites inside each of the full open bridge rings consigned them to the bin. Why didn’t Southwell use snake rings? Even the Agate butt ring had several grooves and was bent. The cork handle was chipped, the tip section had lost a few inches and the cane had a slight set.
The many scars in the varnish were witness to a hard life. Definitely not a collectors piece. My biggest concern was a suspicious looking whipping near the tip, was it concealing a fracture? The marks in the varnish, the mangled tip ring and missing cane suggested that the rod tip had probably been trodden on. Unlike my other Southwell rods this would need a full refurbishment, it could not be used otherwise.
I repurposed a natural cork from a traditional bottle of wine. It matched the old cork handle very well. I was given an original black button from the Southwell era. I found a gem of a butt ring that had been crafted from real Agate and looked more like designer jewellery than a rod fitting. It cost as much. I even found some Pearsalls silk of the correct colour.
The handle restoration is complete but the full restoration is a winter long project. It’s fiddly and time consuming. The intermediate whippings are widely spaced but need good light and a steady hand. The rod will be ready in the Spring. Probably.