While on holiday in Dorset in 2017, I bought Charles Ritz’s book “A Fly Fisher’s Life”. It had been in print from 1959 to 1977 and looked worthy of a place in my book cupboard. I found it an awkward read, a mix of ‘how to fish’, his reminiscences and rod design gobbledygook. It had been revised to death. Only it’s price saved it from the bin.
My fly rods are either Hardy or Southwell and I had never considered buying a French rod. Last year I was given a two section Pezon et Michel fly rod which needed restoration. The rings were rusty and it had been covered with a thick coat of orange varnish which had crazed. The Indian ink inscription read Flyxor and the rod number told me that it was the 23 rod made on 28 April 1940 at the factory in Amboise. The rod was in production until 1970 and was then rated at #6/7 although this early model was clearly not suited to such heavy lines. The Flyxor was their most basic, entry level model.
The origin of Pezon et Michel was a partnership between Pezon and three others in 1895. The first, non-tempered, hand planed, split cane fly rods were bought in during 1924 and were based on English designs. In 1935 Charles Ritz was hired as a technical consultant and the rod design shifted towards American tapers which Ritz had picked up from Jim Paine.
Electric ovens and machinery capable of planning cane to .01 mm accuracy were installed in the factory. The first factory produced split cane fly rods with the new Ritz parabolic tapers were released in 1938. France declared war against Germany on 3 September 1939 and was invaded on 10 May 1940. My rod was therefore made as France prepared for war ! How bizarre.
I stripped the rod carefully and found silk to match the original. The cane is blonde, needle straight and there are no glue lines or delamination. The nodes alternate and are very close together, less than six inches. The nodes have been machined flat, not hot pressed. They clearly used low grade cane but the rod has survived WWII and poor maintenance.
I shall christen it on a Devon river by catching a brown trout.