Although the season on the Devon rivers started weeks ago, my tackle had been marooned in lockdown at the other end of the country. Finally able to travel, I zoomed up the motorway to be reunited with precious cane and gently purring reels.
The following day was glorious, the sun shone and a gentle, warm southerly breeze wafted through the trees. I was anxious not to be late for a very special meeting and allowed an extra hour for travel gremlins. Google maps refused to talk to me but silently guided me through road closures and diversions until I reached my destination under the South Downs just five minutes early.
I had given up hope of buying the unique, custom built Southwell fly rod that came to light a year ago. I had pleaded my case but it was in vain. Then, out of the blue, I was offered the rod and we arranged to meet. The rules allowed us to chat in the garden with tea and an exquisite collection of rare expensive split cane. The custom made Southwell rods and highly desirable cane fettled by Edward Barder sent my head spinning. The quality of the rods was stunning.
When I grasped the brown cotton rod bag I could tell that it’s contents were special. The rod felt light, even dainty. I examined the nodes and checked the seams before fitting the rod sections together. It came alive with that tell tale steely feeling of Bob Southwell’s rods. It had been ordered from the shop in Station Road, Croydon as a custom build. The Pezon et Michel fittings were not standard but suited the 9′ of lithe cane. The rod had no signature but the provenance was exceptional, without the back story this rod would not attract much attention.
The glorious afternoon continued, much chatting was interrupted by a surprise. The gift of another rod. I was too overcome to show my gratitude. The ancient rod bag label said Pezon & Michel, a strange coincidence. I had been curious about the French rods since reading Charles Ritz’s book and waggling a guest’s Parabolic beside the Rother. The rod was a restoration project that would keep me busy for many months.
Two rods acquired during one glorious Spring afternoon! I drove home the long way round, relaxed and smiling. I took Southwell IV to the lakes the following day but serial incompetence meant that although I hooked a few Trout they all escaped. The rod behaved impeccably but I was very rusty.