It has been my pleasure these past couple of days to assist His Wyeness, Geoffrey Maynard of Hay, in catering for three members of the Sheringham Society, up for their annual get-together. As a rule attendance is greater but commitments prevented a full-on bash at Llanthomas this year.

The Sheringham Society was formed in 1995 to bring together like-minded traditionalist anglers in the spirit of Hugh Tempest Sheringham, celebrated angler and countryman of the late nineteenth / early twentieth century.

In a time without specimen groups there prevailed, nonetheless, a large element of snobbery in fishing, but Sheringham shunned the ‘game v coarse’ distinction with his love for all freshwater species – particularly the roach of the South Eastern rivers. This he made manifest through some of the most lyrical and enchanting prose in books such as ‘An Angler’s Hours’ and ‘An Open Creel’ and, as editor of The Field, Sheringham had the perfect vehicle in which to convey his passion for rural affairs.

With others, this dedication is upheld by our guests Michael Comyns, John Olliff-Cooper and Kelvin Rutledge from County Roscommon, Hampshire and Essex respectively, each rejoicing in their love for cane rods, landing-nets and even rod-rests. This is easy to understand when presented with a mint-condition B.James MKIV Avon, a Kennet Perfection or, perhaps, a Davenport & Fordham’s Farstrike to wave around. These men find nothing ‘heavy’ about such rods. For them, they are what fishing rods should weigh and they’re the rods they cut their angling teeth on so there is no pretentiousness or elitism here: it’s what they’ve always used and continue to prefer.

Michael Comyns came all the way from Carrick on Shannon and was justly rewarded with two good barbel.

I have to acknowledge that the majority of anglers will not have grown up with split cane rods and that even guys in their 40s might only have fond memories of hollow fibreglass, so they simply cannot empathise with those who’d enter the tackle shop with absolutely no intention of buying – only to admire and marvel at the racks of beautiful cane rods produced by B. James, Sharps, Davenport & Fordham, Modern Arms, Dawson, Constable, Hardy and so many others. It is to their makers’ credit that cane fishing rods fomented such passion at a time when (with the odd exception) bamboo and solid glass were the only materials available.

John Olliff-Cooper waits for Kelvin Rutledge’s barbel to arrive.

Veteran Sheringham man, Stu Tod, who lives nearby, was especially pleased to see his old colleagues gracing the banks of the Wye once again. Stuart is Britain’s only manufacturer of silk fly lines and trades under the name of ‘Cadno Silk Lines’; he makes lines to order and also refurbishes silk lines to a very high standard – “Good enough for another eighty years”. Enquiries, please, via FM or through

…later, Kelvin nets a barbel for John!

Reels, too, bring a nostalgic sigh to those of a certain vintage, with genuine Milbro Mitchell 300s sporting the small, 4-spoke tension cap; the very first version of the Abu Cardinal; an Intrepid Elite and even an Intrepid Supreme on show. This latter model was in the shops along with the Intrepid Standard and the Intrepid De-Luxe but the discerning Sheringham fellas draw a line at actually using these very primitive reels: they’re now best as curios in an old fishing cabinet – where mine are!

Well-known angling writer, John Olliff-Cooper

In the salmon hut, talk was of past successes and of trusted, long-gone tackle items like the heavy canvas, leather-footed Efgeeco rod holdall. Kelvin mysteriously left us drinking our tea while he popped-out to his car and returned two minutes later with just such a holdall in pristine condition! If my experience is anything to go by he should get another 30-35 years out of it!

Geoff with a real scrapper

There were cane ‘Walkers of Hythe’ kit-rods to admire; my own closely-whipped, unbranded 12ft cane GP rod from the poor man’s Petticoat Lane, Club Row; classic, creaking wicker baskets to sit on and all manner of leather bags and reel cases to pass around – not forgetting (dare I say) a truly splendid plum and walnut cake.

Kelvin Rutledge concentrates on his traditional late 19th Century android

Despite an extraordinarily high number of nuisance paddlers on the river, rods were bent and reels did screech to the pull of barbel on the first and second days, but the Monday saw only Geoff Maynard catching dace and me with a trout of one and a half pounds caught on a fly cunningly textured and designed to glisten, feel, stretch and squirm exactly like a worm…

So…an unhurried, relaxing time was enjoyed by all despite the rain; indeed, it provided an excellent excuse for regular hut-talk and lashings of tea.


Cliff Hatton.

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