Wasn’t there a fishing program with the name Dirty Tackle? Or was it a radio show? Nick Fisher? I should know because I did work on it but it all seems (and is) a long time ago. No matter, the name sticks, and I realise I need to talk tackle because it is on my mind, as you will see, and also because the Forums are full of tackle talk, dirty or not. In fact, I guess some of us like angling for the tackle rather than what it catches. 

To kick off, I notice over the years, and recently too, Hardy Marksman coarse rods continue to get talked about on the Forums even though they are now discontinued. Or perhaps because of that fact!? I have sworn to tell nothing but the truth in these writings and I stick by that. So this is how I personally see these rods. To start, are they value for money considering they were made in China? Hmm. At the time, pretty much everything rod wise at Hardy was made offshore, apart from the Gladstone built cane wands and there was good reason for that. Partly the finances worked then but also the workforce in the Alnwick factory was disinterested, to put it mildly. There was not much love lost between the shop floor and management and the Chinese put their heart and soul into doing the best job they could. So you can make your mind up on that one!

A carp landed on a Marksman 14 ft Specialist

As to the rods, for the last 13 or 14 years I have battered many of the rods in the range to extinction and back. Most have been the original models, not the second generation Superos, and some are even unbadged prototypes. I’m not a huge fan of the Ultralight Bomb rods – they are too stiff for what I wanted. Nor do I quivertip much so the rods in the Feeder family have never had much use. Perhaps that is my fault as anglers as good as Neill Stephen used to swear by them I remember. 

The Avons and the float rods are a different matter altogether and I use them for 90% of my coarse fishing. I’ve never noticed a whole deal of difference between the Specialists and the Specimens but no matter. What I have found is that they all of them have been colossally versatile and enduringly tough, whilst still being a delight to use. The 14ft float rods are arguably my favourite and they have landed roach, barbel, tench, big bream and carp to 35 pounds plus without ever looking uncomfortable. Never once has a Marksman broken on me…last year I witnessed FIVE Acolytes snap by the way. The Avons are equally robust and adaptable and the 12ft version I even use for my close in pike work..with half a dozen 30s telling that tale. I guess there are lighter and cheaper rods out there, but, with absolute honesty, I’ll be staying put with Hardy.

Dirty tackle is me. I’m miles from being the proverbial tackle tart but there are times I wish I had been. I spent a drab winter weekend sorting the garage out ready for my house move. Woe is me. I found some cracking rods, many of which I’d forgotten I even possessed, but nearly all had been treated badly! No tubes. No bags. No stoppers. No ticketing or guarantees. Plenty of spiders and not a few mouse gnawed rod butts. Mind you, I wasn’t the only one to treat tackle as a tool for the bank rather than an item for the display case. I found John Wilson’s barbel rod and reel that he gave me when he went to Thailand. The rod ( a John Wilson Masterline Heritage WHR 115 Carp) was as battered as any of mine and the reel ( a Rovex Oberon Baitrunner) looked like those barbel had driven a truck over it.  Equally depressingly, I stumbled across a Richard Carter Dragonfly he had made for me especially a quarter of a century back. Sacrilege is the only word I can find for its condition today.

There were a few bright spots. A pristine hardy Angel fly rod along with some Hardy fly reels that had not become glued with sweetcorn juice cheered me up! My matched pair of Mark1V Carp rods looked pretty fine, though the set on both made me  wish I hadn’t used them for Wensum barbel back in the 80s and 90s. Best of all, my Fred Buller Hardy Pike rod I found intact, the black glass and green whippings still gleaming. This rod Fred had given me himself, towards the end of his life when I went to meet up with him and his beloved wife Margaret at the house of tackle maestro Keith Elliot. Fred had meant so much to me and had been so generous to me to boot. In 1990 or thereabouts he even lent me his Ballinrobe cottage on Lough Mask for 5 or 6 weeks whilst I straightened my life out. Yes, I was relieved his gift hadn’t gone “dirty” like the rest of it!

All this made me realise that whatever I am lucky enough to accrue in the time I have left, I will jolly well look after and treasure. And that again, is the truth!