Article - Coarse

MKIV Diary - A Follow Up

By John, added on 27/08/2007

When we last left off, Malcolm had just packed up the rod and taken it to his local Fedex depot. Airborne…the MKIV was on its way. Surprisingly considering the miles it had to cover, the rod arrived safely in only 3 days, door to door Canada to England in 3 days...amazing. So, grabbing the camera to get a few opening shots for this piece, I laid the tubular package out on the living room floor and set about opening it…. ridiculously carefully. I needn’t have worried, Malcolm had chosen such a hard, thick tube to pack the rod in, itself sat inside the cardboard Fedex tube, that there was no way the rod could have been damaged without some sort of major incident.

Moments like this are to be savoured and so I took my time deftly sliding the light green rod bag out of the bazooka like tube. Then with light hands, carefully untying the drawstrings and sliding the rod out of its bag, I got my first look at my first cane rod...

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Everything about the rod was superb. The finish, the satin varnish coating, the neat whippings, the rings, the handwritten script, the interesting tone put into the cane, the blued nickel silver ferrules, I could go on. You could just tell instantly that so much care and attention had gone into the rod. It's the first time I can really say this about a handmade rod too, despite having had a couple of custom built carbon rods over the years. In addition, the handmade rod bag, turned stopper and personalised painted label, all combined to put the finishing touches on the whole wonderful package. You rarely see such attention to detail anymore.

After several minutes of admiring glances and looking the rod up and down, it was time to fit the rod together and feel how she felt. The ferrules slid together nicely with just the right amount of effort and I remember thinking that I’d been spoilt being introduced to cane rods with such a straight example. A quick flick and a swish to gauge the action, that questionable, age old habit that all anglers seem to carry out, and it was time to try out a few partners on the rod.

Now strict MKIV traditionalists might argue otherwise, but I’ve never been overly keen on the long 30 inch handles that the original MKIV Carp rods, and the later Bruce & Walker glassfibre version I have, had. On a 10ft rod they seemed like they were a bit too long and would mean the reel being seated down from the top of the handle and I’ve been raised on reels always being near the top of the handle. There are probably arguments on either side of course, and depending on the circumstance, but you have to go with what feels right for you and therefore I went for a slightly shorter handle of 25 inch, actually a similar length as later used on the Walker MKIV Avon. This length to me just feels better. So the rod’s handle, which we had spent several emails discussing, had come out just as I wanted. The cork was of good quality, not one of these handles half full of filler and its diameter felt just right in the hand. The customised reel fittings, so painstakingly created, also set the handle off nicely.

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First up, taking a Mitchell 300 from the Reel Doctor, I placed it on the handle and was pleased to see the reel fitting perfectly, nice and secure. Next up was to try the Youngs BJ Centrepin and it too fitted just fine…marvellous news. Purists turn away now… but just for fun I also tried a modern little Shimano 3500B on it too…well it’s sort of vintage being an updated version of the old Seaspin.

Of course you can’t really judge or form a proper opinion on a rod until you have actually got out and used it. As always seems to be the case when you’re desperate to get out and go fishing, one thing after another seemed to keep cropping up and stop me taking the rod out. I had a couple of venues in mind which were worthy in my mind of christening the rod, one near and one far.

In the end I was glad life’s sequence of events found me walking down a familiar path and I found myself arriving at my local lake one evening for my first MKIV outing. An attractive club lake, currently anyway…but always at threat from the chairman’s digger but that’s another matter, I’ve loved fishing this lake as man and boy. A fitting place as any to have the first cast.

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That first evening was all about enjoying the rod, I didn’t care if I caught anything or not. I was just happy sat there in the grass with the MKIV laid in front of me with a tiger nut flicked just off the end of the reed bed opposite. Simple, traditional carp fishing - what better way to spend an English summer evening?

Strangely the lake was deserted, odd for such a nice evening, and it began to feel like everything had been pre-arranged to provide the prefect occasion. As the sun began to drop and dusk approached, sure enough up shot the bobbin and a good run was met with a firm strike and a powerful carp putting the rod into a loving full curve.

Though undoubtedly lighter than the normal carp rods I was used to, I didn’t feel under gunned, the rod just soaking up the lunges well and capable of putting just enough pressure on when required to steer the fish away from snags. The clutch on the Mitchell 300 did a typical ‘now I’m working… now I’m not’ act but always started to give eventually… dependable if not predictable then. For five or so minutes I was really enjoying being attached on this lovely new cane rod and on its very first outing to boot.

Then disaster loomed its ugly head, with the fish coming ever closer to the bank and now within sight, the tension in the line just disappeared and up sprang my rig back to me with the bait still attached. Just like that, no explosion on the surface, no dramatics…one second steady tension and the next it was gone. I stood there in silence for a few moments, the perfect conclusion to the rods story was within metres of the bank and then was just as soon gone…maybe I was guilty of thinking it was a done deal.

Then I laughed, actually out loud, for some reason it didn’t really matter, sometimes these things happen and when you know you haven’t done anything wrong as such you just have to accept them as part of the game. I’d be enjoying the evening so much, I’d been able to feel the wonderful composure of the rod with a large angry fish attached and I think part of me realised this was enough for it’s first outing.

Incidentally I knew which fish it was too, like old friends we had met several times over the years. But thinking about it now as I write, landing it would have been like the door finally closing for me on that lake, rather than a new door opening which is what this rod represents to me. And so I packed up, one fish lost but happy to have got to finally use my MKIV.

The following week I got another opportunity to nip up the lake for an evening. On this second trip I didn’t even see a sign of any carp, though a couple of small bream and a tench did grace the net. You’ll excuse me if I ignored these and put them out of my mind…nice creatures as they are…they were not the christening I was after.

By now it was over a month since the rod had arrived and I had only managed to use it twice with still no picture of a fitting fish to send to Malcolm. Though I was keen to get the first one under the belt and out the way, I couldn’t bring myself to take the rod to a venue that would almost guarantee a carp or two in a few hours. The first one had to come from my favourite local lake and be a proper old carp to mean something, not just some stockie from anywhere.

Soon after I returned for the rod’s third outing. Strangely I knew exactly where I wanted to be on this occasion and didn’t even bother to do a lap or two of the lake to look for signs of fish first. Hardly text book stuff but I only had a couple of hours and knowing the lake well, I had a good idea where the fish were likely to be on this occasion. Again a tiger nut was cast off the end of a reed bed, close enough to the sanctuary and security they offer but not too close that a fish couldn’t be kept from them. A sprinkling of mixed hemp, corn and tigers later and the pitch was set.

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So there was I, sitting back and enjoying taking in the sights, the smells, the atmosphere that only a traditional carp lake has in summer. Again almost on cue, as dusk approached the little bobbin slowly began to lift in one clean motion up from the floor. Clamping the spool on the strike, for the second time the MKIV took on its full curve as again it was attached to a decent sized carp. I have to admit this time I really played the carp with the softest of soft girly touches, just keeping tension in the line and letting the carp swim about as it liked, only turning it if it was going near a known snag. It was a decent, if uneventful fight this time and after about 10 or 12 minutes the fish looked like it was beginning to tire and slowly it came nearer and nearer. Then up she popped and under the net went.

Third time lucky the rod was christened. Sixteen pounds of plump but well proportioned, almost leather like mirror carp. Not a monster by any means but more importantly, in good condition and an attractive old warrior. A quick portrait or two on the mat, a drop of Klinic to the hookhold, and back she went. The rod had notched up its first carp and handled superbly in doing so.

As this rod’s build was documented so well, here on this site, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel some sort of pressure to follow up this article series by christening the rod with a worthy fish. So now I was quite relieved. Stupid I know, fishing isn’t about targets or deadlines, but when someone has gone to all that trouble to build you a lovely rod, taken the time to document it so you and others can enjoy seeing the whole process, I was keen to show Malcolm that it was being put to good use. It was a real pleasure then to email him that first photo of his rod with a good fish laid next to it. I hope he feels I have done it proud.

Whilst it may have been originally designed for carp fishing, in a short time I’ve learnt that a cane MKIV is a much more versatile rod than I was previously aware. Combining the ability to cast light baits with the power to subdue large fish, it really is a very useful tool. After all, in the current rod market a ten foot, one and a half pound test curve rod is more likely to be akin to a stepped up Avon or barbel rod power wise.

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After its first carp then, the next time the rod was out of its bag was for a day’s barbel fishing on the river, kindly arranged with fellow PP’er Graeme. Attached to a centrepin, its 10ft length makes it an excellent choice for roaming and rolling meat for barbel. In this fashion it again did me proud, helping me land a 11lb barbel that was easily the match for many carp twice its size in the current. With the centrepin screaming away, the rod again proved how well the action soaks up the lunges with no signs of ever locking up. It was just as happy that day sat in the rest whilst ledgering, the tip, even on this powerful rod, still sensitive enough to spot bites… even if sadly this time they were from a couple of small eels.

So that’s pretty much the rod’s story so far and this follow up to the MKIV Diary series comes to a happy end. I have a few special trips in mind for the future that I hope will come to fruition, maybe it will even see the banks of Redmire eventually. One thing’s for sure, it’s destined to become a firm favourite for many years to come and hopefully land me more good fish in the future (and fingers crossed the odd leviathan along the way!).

I must finish off by saying a big thank you to Malcolm again for building me such a lovely rod and giving me the opportunity to have as much input as I liked along the way. In addition I’d like to thank him for generouslygenerously writing this wonderful MKIV build series that I, and I know many others, have enjoyed following. Every time I use the rod I will remember the whole experience…it has all been a real treat.


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