Harrison 4 Piece Avon

Reviewed by Robin on 01/02/2009

Firstly my sincere apologies to Colin who wrote his own review of this
rod but as you will see my findings somewhat differ. Shows how
subjective these things can be. You might well end up thinking that I’m
the one out of step though…

I love ‘Avon’ rods in all their forms, primarily for their versatility.
I have Hardy glass ones, B. James cane ones and Harrison carbon ones
too. In fact I have had various incarnations of the standard Harrison
11ft, 2pce, 1lb 6oz test curve going back to 1994. This last is indeed a
very versatile rod on which I have landed numerous carp and a few salmon
quite apart from the usual run of barbel and chub and small stuff.

So about eighteen months ago, and with the above in mind, I decided that
I would treat myself to a pair of the four piece version. Having ordered
the un-ground blanks from Harrison I set about finalising the ring type
and spacing, handle, reel fitting and cosmetics and came up with a
practical modern travel rod of understated and traditional appearance.
Very tasteful I thought..

Vic Gibson carried the work out and the finished rods duly arrived a
couple of weeks later. I was very pleased with the look and feel but
frankly a little concerned that they seemed to be somewhat heavier in
action that I had anticipated. The two leg Seymo rings may have
contributed to this and also the un-ground finish, although Steve
Harrison says that this makes only a negligible difference. The four
piece construction does make a difference, but this is allegedly
accounted for in the 2oz increase in test curve over the standard
version. All in all though, in my humble opinion they do not feel even
remotely similar to my standard Avon.

As a result of this I’m afraid they got less use last year than I had
planned. I used them on the Kennet a few times last winter and caught a
handful of barbel but they just kept feeling a bit heavier than I prefer
for this sort of fishing. Having said this they are still much more
supple than the average mass produced ‘Chinese’ rod sold for barbel
fishing these days.

Part of the problem is that I switch between glass and carbon from trip
to trip and the differences are therefore more obvious and take a bit of
getting used to. Even though I’m very aware of this, most carbon rods
feel much stiffer than they would if they were the only rods I used, so
to speak.

I have a problem with test curves in general. Bear with me on this and
I’ll get back to the four piece Avon in due course, providing you
haven’t all fallen asleep in the meantime!
In the USA, where I fish a lot, they have no truck with test curves.
Even Steve Harrison admits that test curve ratings are often misleading
and depend, amongst other things, on the taper. In fact some would say
that fast tapered rods really can’t have a meaningful test curve at all.
Over the pond they use ‘line rating’ and casting weight ranges. This can
throw up some strange results. My favourite Sage spinning rod has a
powerful butt, a very fast taper and a very fine tip. The optimum
casting weight is just 5/8oz but Sage say you can use lines from 8lb
right up to 17lb test. Now Sage don’t usually get this sort of stuff
wrong. Personally I find that the best line when fishing small jigs with
this rod is 10lb test but I quite often use 15lb when trying for baby
tarpon. I’ve landed plenty of fish to 25lb or more with relative ease on
this little flats rod. The point I’m trying to make is that if this rod
was British I know that it would be considered suitable for trout and
best with 6lb line (!).

Getting back to the Avon and following this train of thought, Colin in
his revue thinks that 6lb or 8lb lines are optimum, but uses down to 4lb
test, and who’s to say he’s wrong, but when my rods arrived the first
thing that went through my mind was 10lb. I might just use 8lb I
suppose, but 10lb seemed the best all round. 6lb would appear to me too
light. 10lb test is therefore what I’d used up to last week.

Now last week I decided to go winter catfishing. A contradiction in
terms I know, but I had found a winter catfish hot-spot on my local lake
in 2006 and had a hankering to try it out again after the ice finally
thawed. On this trip I used my Baby Ballistas teamed up with my little
Van Staals loaded with 12lb test as I’d run out of 15lb. The cats were
indeed in their hotspot and obviously ravenous because I spent all day
playing fish! For the record I landed cats of 14lb, 21lb, 24lb, 34lb,
36lb and 38lb 4oz. Remarkably I also lost as many as I hooked. An
amazing day that ended with very pleasantly sore arm muscles.
Anyway, I determined to return a few days later and on a whim decided to
give the four piece Avons an airing.. I put the same reels and line on
the rods and frankly they felt spot on with 12lb test (Berkley Big Game
by the way). Look at this another way; thirty years ago an 11ft, through
action, 1lb 8oz TC rod would have been called a carp rod, wouldn’t it?
Even in those days we used 12lb line on them. After all I used to use
15lb on my much softer 11ft Hiltons.
The day started much more slowly than the previous one but eventually
the indicator slammed up and I was into a cat. One thing I learned early
on from guides in the USA is to fight fish hard, only giving line when
really necessary, then putting on maximum pressure the second the fish
hesitates. In this way I’ve seen huge tarpon rolled over on light tackle
in the right hands. You have to trust you tackle and knots though! So
with this cat attached to my Avon I didn’t pussyfoot around! (Pun
intended). The fish made an initial longish run but after this a war of
attrition ensued, and one which the rod was entirely up to. Eventually,
and after a few tense moments involving a nearby sunken tree, I hauled
it’s head up and over the net cord, kept the pressure on, and the rest
of it slithered into the net. The cat weighed 45lb. Later in the day I
hooked another and after an almost identical fight landed a second cat
of 47lb.
I must stress that at no point did I feel under-gunned with the four
piece Avons, which handled both fish with aplomb.

So there you are... Are these the best Avons ever, or perhaps just carp
rods in sheeps clothing? Whatever they are, providing you’re not too
bothered about catching the species that most traditional angling sites
seem to be obsessed with such as the noble gudgeon, you just need this
one rod for everything. It’ll cope with anything from chub right up your
average sized whale!!!

Verdict: see above


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