Well, what a complete treat. Had it not been for the admirable John Stephenson of Thomas Turner, I wouldn’t even have known this cornucopia of delights was happening. From the moment I met John Andrews on the door, I knew I was in for a grand time. Not only did I meet up with seemingly lifelong friends like Richard Masters and Neil Freeman, but I also bumped into legends I had long heard of from afar.
And that brings me to Andrew Batchelor and his amazing floats. Of course, I worked with that other float maestro Andy Field for many years, and had heard of Andrew, but I’d never realised just how good he is ’till this super Sunday. I stood gawping by his stall and realised what a central part beauty and art can play in our fishing. I’ve been working with Thomas Turner for a year now, and never a day goes by without my realising the deep treasure trove that anglers have created over the centuries. Redditch confirmed something important to me. Yes, you can collect items to put on display and admire but, for me, the ultimate is to actually buy items that you take to water and use there. I bought an Andy Batchelor float, and I know I will watch it on springtime tench lakes with such pleasure that whether it goes under or not will be nigh on immaterial to the impact of the day. Fishing is wonderful. Tackle like this makes it more so.
But I’m hardly saying anything you of all people do not know. I will add that I like the sustainability in evidence this remarkable morning. From John I bought ten floats for twenty pounds (actually JS’s money) and they were made from Norfolk reed. The key is to take that part of the stem that has been under the waterline and then dry it out over a whole year before varnishing. For two pounds, the result is simply a float that demands to be fished, and who would ever buy plastic again?
Martin too, sitting there, servicing and renovating ABU reels before our eyes. Looking back to my roaching in the Seventies, I’d gone the ‘pin route, though many had suggested closed face reels instead. Handling a Martin-rescued ABU 506, I thought they might just have been right.
I lost my heart there for sure. Andrew Davis had on display (and on sale) one of his Avocet rods, and I came within a barbel’s whisker of purchase. I didn’t, and I am gutted, and probably always will be. I think of the barbel, tench and chub it would have caught me in such graceful style and I weep.
That was the wonder of Redditch. I go into a modern tackle superstore with a list of things I need and buy them without fuss or thought. I might as well be purchasing toiletries from Tesco, the passion this inspires. At Redditch, though, thousands of pounds could have left my wallet and I’d have driven home singing! It really was that good!