Friday, 6 February 2015

One Man & His Carp Rods Part 1

In these next two posts I'd like to share with you my thoughts about the rods that I've owned through the years and what I've used/use them for today. This post isn't a series of rod reviews, it's more of a story about what I've owned, their significance in my life and what they've meant to me. For me my fishing rods are an extension of myself, they're more than just carbon and lacquer, they allow me to interact with my environment in a very sensory way. They're my life lines into depths that most people don't even know exist. 

My rods have threaded themselves throughout my life and whatever chaos the world has thrown at me, they've always been there, ready for the cast, willing to help me stand a chance at catching a scaly beauty. As my rigs fly through the air, so do my worries, they're a tool to put the world around me to rest so I can sit and soak up what being on the bank is all about. I look upon them the same way as I do my drums, they able me to communicate, our rods are an integral part of our angling lives.

We learn with them, we progress with them, sometimes we leave them behind and move on, but each rod that we've owned has played an important role in developing the angler that we are slowly becoming. It's a life long journey, you can't rush it and the tools we choose to use help to shape our ability and understanding of the "art" that has chosen us, angling chooses us, we don't choose it. My goal has always been to have a setup that communicates to me exactly what's happening under the surface. Every rod I've owned I have saved up for and bought myself, doing this allows me to appreciate its value, this is an important life skill, to understand the value of things.

There are so many different rods on the market nowadays and it can be slightly overwhelming when it comes to choosing the correct ones for you. I believe it's all personal preference and taking into consideration how much fishing tackle has developed through recent years, you don't have to be spending stupid money to get something of good quality. Whatever tackle you have, budget or high-end, be proud of it, just like the soldiers gun or the drummers kick pedal, look after them. Don't get hung up on what others think of your gear, any item you've worked hard to get makes it special. 

The Right Rod For The Job
As with all elements of tackle, there are fashions and trends that seem to come and go, nowadays the higher test curve rods seem to fall into favour with the majority, and having the latest 'cool' rods can sometimes take priority over suitability and functionality. I have no interest in fads, all the rods that I have built up through the years were purchased for a reason. I understand that many can't afford more than one set and they have to find a good "all-rounder", meaning that a slightly higher test curve is necessary, but I think it's important to have the right rods for your style of fishing and the waters you target. As you venture further and broaden your horizons a new set of tools might be required.

Focusing on the 'test curve' point a little more, I feel there can be a slight confusion, in the current climate it's easy to think you can only really land big carp on 3IB test curve rods or above. This of course isn't the case, high test curves are fundamentally for distance, I only use higher test curve rods 'solely' for when I'm fishing at long range, I have never gone over 3 1/4, if the blank is compressed correctly I find I can get the distance that I need most of the time, if not, I adapt. When I play a fish I want to feel every lunge and pull, I want to understand the carp and its movements, its strenghts and its weaknesses. Some of the best fights I've had with big carp have been on my light tackle. 

Basic Rod Actions

One of the beauties of fishing is the fight, we wait long enough for it and I want it to last, I find with a lighter rod it can be a very exhilarating experience, it makes the heart race and most important of all there's less pressure on the hook hold, thus preventing the chance of a hook pull. When I land a carp my main aim is to make sure it goes back in the same condition it came out in. If you're getting hook pulls on a regular basis then you seriously have to review your setup/rigs and playing style. There are no rewards for winching a carp in fast, I believe it increases stress and ups the chances of damage occurring, it's an anglers job to cherish the fish he catches.

Through the years I can safely say that I've gone through my apprenticeship with all my items of tackle. I first started off with £30 Sundridge carp rods, these were ideal to learn the trade on, I have fond memories of the cheap blank creaking when it was bent over double. In all honesty they were perfect rods to have at the time and they served me very well indeed. They allowed me to experience the cast, feel for the drop and land me my first ever double figured fish. It was magic and they set the foundations for my carping quest. It was only when I realised that carp angling was going to be a constant flame in my life, I started to look a little more seriously into purchasing my first proper set. This is a moment that a lot of us will never forget, the excitement and the feeling of getting your first 'proper' carp rod. I'm willing to bet that all of you remember your first fishing rods - hold on to those memories, that's where it all began.

Original Sportex

It was at the beginning of the 90's, I remember going to my local tackle shop and drawling over the Sportex range that were positioned on the top shelf. Owning a set of these was a dream to me but they were way out of my price range, I'd pick them up and hold them, they felt expensive and clean, secretly I thought to myself that I'd own a set one day. I'd spend ages looking at all the different makes of rod, picking them up, putting then down and repeating the procedure. After much deliberation and saving every penny I had, I ended up getting a set of the Daiwa Power-mesh in 2 1/2, they were tasty looking rods and I took great pride in looking after them. I remember them feeling solid and heavier than anything I'd used before. There were two ranges for Pike and Carp, I purchased the Pike rods, they seemed to have just that little bit more back bone, plus I thought the 'Esox' printed on the rod looked cool.

Early Daiwa Powermesh
At the time I was using the now legendary 'DAM Finesse Bait Runners', they balanced perfectly with the Power-mesh rods and it goes without saying I was proud of my first real carping kit. The action of the Power-mesh had an awesome "tip to middle" feel, it could throw a lead a good distance and was pretty forgiving under the tip. I landed a lot of good carp with them from all different types of waters and they stayed strong through years of abuse, to be honest they still look as new as the day they were purchased. I don't have many memories of really casting at distance with them. For the first few years I didn't venture on to waters where distance casting was required. But, thinking back, there was never a situation where I felt 'under gunned' and it was with the Power-mesh that I landed my first 30IB carp, so for that reason alone they will always remain high in my estimations.

I learnt a lot using them, they allowed me to progress and start to gain an understanding that would eventually shape my rod choices in the future. I still have them in my armoury, I may well dig them out to use every so often, "for old times sake". For me they're a highly recommend set of rods and still stand up proudly against today's tackle. They're perfect for short to medium range fishing, if you find a set on ebay, I'd suggest you snap-em up, they're old classics now.

TFG X2 Series 'Slim Blanks'
As time went by rod development advanced in leaps and bounds, I had my Power-mesh for well over a decade before I started to look around for a replacement. As you can imagine, this was a mammoth task and I didn't know where to start, I spent many an hour obsessing about what I wanted. I spent hours on the Internet researching all kinds of carp rod, I was after something a little slimmer that had just a fraction more back-bone, mainly because I was now looking to fish slightly larger lakes and started to use PVA bags a lot more. At the time it felt like a natural progression, as my angling broadened so did my understanding of what I required to do the job properly. 

Being one to always shy away from the mainstream I'd made up my mind that I wanted to avoid all the generic choices, it was a new chapter in my fishing so I wanted something entirely new to go at it with. I'd heard a whisper that Matt Hayes had teamed up with a guy from Shimano and they were developing a new set of carp rods, they were going to be TFG's first bite of "the carp rod pie". They were to be super slim, stylish and understated and from what I'd read and seen, the rods looked really good, it was a matter of weeks before they were released so I held tight until I could see them in the flesh.

To cut a long story short, the minute I laid eyes on the TFG X2 series I purchased three of them straight away. The second I picked them up they felt right, they were slim, sharp looking and had an awesome 'medium action'. They were forgiving in the tip but dished out some serious back bone when lent on. My set was in the 3IB test curve which was ideal for what I needed, they were slightly softer than your standard 3IB 'TC' rods. They handled fish beautifully, cast very well and were easy to compress, on the cast they whipped back nice and fast. They could manage small to medium sized bags well, they struggled on larger solid bags but to be honest I didn't really use them much at the time. 

The Eye Of The Storm

There was a murmur that the X2 series were built on 'Free Spirit" blanks, this wasn't the case though, the blank was good and from a distance looked similar to 'Free Spirit', but that was as far as the comparisons went. I became very fond of them and they got a huge amount of use for a lot of years. I did find that they seemed to get softer over time and it got to the point on a few occasions where I just couldn't get my baits to where I wanted them. With some rods it really is just a "swings and roundabouts" situation, what they lack in one area, they make up for it in other ways. 

It's hard to find a rod that has a perfect balance to fit every angling requirement. If the X2 series didn't slowly soften I think they would pretty much tick every box. But having said that, if you fish small to medium waters where you don't need to get distance, then you'd have to go a hell of a long way to find a better rod. They have since been discontinued, the only chance you will have to get any will be on the second hand market but I can assure you, they don't come up much. Like the first addition of most things, TFG had out done themselves with these rods and everything they produced afterwards just didn't seem to come close.

Perfect Symmetry

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