Article - General

The Idle Angler: Part One*

By Ian, added on 10/02/2008

"He has discovered that it often pays better to idle and loaf about than to work, and the consequence is that a new disease has been engendered, which I have termed ‘ergophobia’"

Spanton WD, Brit Med J (1905): 300/2

courtesy of:


As I have mentioned in previous articles on PurePiscator, I have little spare time for fishing at the moment. I rarely get in a session of more than two hours, and more usually it’s an hour to 90 minutes or thereabouts. Not only does this tend to limit my choice of venues to those either within walking distance or a few minutes’ drive, it also focuses the mind on targets, tackle and tactics. I’m lucky that I live in Norfolk and there is no shortage of potential rivers and drains in my locality. This short-session approach may sound hurried and unattractive, but it is far from that.

All this suggests as though I am actually planning some sort of campaign and that forethought has been applied, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have to confess to everyone reading this that I am a lazy sod. As a wannabee Idler, if I had to spend half of each short session I get tackling up and down again, I probably would have given up fishing again by now. Well, maybe not given up, but I’d certainly be less inclined to make the mad dash for the waterside when a window of opportunity arises.

Thus, I have done a Zanussi and made an ‘appliance of science’ to the problem of maximising actual fishing time rather than spend a good part of it making up a rod, threading line through impossibly small ring eyes (presbyopia has set in), dropping shot in the grass, mis-tying vital knots and then reversing the procedure when I finish. Each of these tasks eats up the minutes and when time is at a premium, the tendency is to rush things and, “as any fule no”, mistakes then happen. If it’s been a bad day at the coalface, this leads invariably to swearing, jumping up and down and hurling items of tackle to the far horizon, none of which is conducive to peaceful fishing, or indeed one’s blood pressure.

My own epiphany on this topic came when I discovered the “proper” telescopic rod. I first tried keeping rods broken down but still threaded with line (including terminal tackle) and fastened with Velcro bands (the stuff sold on rolls as tree ties is infinitely cheaper than branded versions from your tackle shop) . This works quite well, but they remain awkward to transport unless you want to cart about an industrial sized holdall, and still when re-assembling the rod you can find the line has managed to tangle itself in some unfathomable manner and the only remedy is, literally, to cut your losses and start all over again. This rather defeats the object of the exercise for the everyday Idler. But for any session of a few hours or more, this remains my method of choice.

Next I tried multi-piece travel rods. These come in anything from 4 to 7 pieces, and more learned authorities than I would have it that the action of a multi-piece rod is superior to that of a telescopic. I’ve tried a few and very good most of them are, too. In particular I can vouch for the Fladen Maxximus 13ft match rod, the Wychwood 4 piece 13ft float rod, the Harrison 4 piece Avon and the JW Young Travel Barbel rod. However, despite their obvious attraction as travel rods that can be kept in the car or taken on holiday (in most cases, but check the length first – some are too long to fit in a suitcase and will need a special, reinforced travel tube), the problem of tackling up and down still remains, as does the likelihood of tangles if you leave them part set-up.

My final and, as our American cousins would have it, ongoing experiment was with telescopic rods, and the market is pretty much flooded with these things, particularly if you want to go spinning. However, I am dealing here with those suitable for float or leger work and the choice is, gratifyingly, somewhat smaller. As one might expect, it is very much a case of getting what you pay for. The cheap ones (and there are lots out there) are uniformly horrible - cheaply made, thickset, ugly, sporting too few and nasty rings and usually with all the subtlety of John Prescott in a tutu. Beware, also, of beachcasters and other assorted pokers being sold as freshwater rods. That said, if you explore a little and try out some different makes, you may well be surprised. Shimano do an impressive range of telescopic float/match rods under the Catana BX banner, ranging from 3.9 to 5.1m in length and including a 15 footer for heavier work (the 45S model in the table); pedants may notice I cleverly mixed imperial and metric units in that description in a vain attempt to hold the attention of both the young and “mature” angler.

Table or telescopics

I bought the 15 footer and it acquitted itself very well on the Dordogne, a big and challenging river, last summer. This range has superseded the previous AX series, although both are available to buy (where stocked). The only physical difference I can see is that a slightly slimmer blank is used in the BX series, so they are more aesthetically pleasing, and lighter, than their predecessors, and the BX has more rings. Noted Work Party member Roy is a devotee of these rods and uses them widely on his (many) holidays; I thank him for pointing me in Shimano’s direction initially when I was looking for a good telescopic. In use they are very acceptable, being no different from a traditional fast-actioned float or match rod in any major detail. The blanks are slim and lightweight, producing something you could hold all day – although, of course, the confirmed Idler should put the rod down in a rest and be sitting back, drinking tea. Prices start around £69.99 retail, but you can get them cheaper with a little internet research. Sadly, not too many tackle shops in the UK stock Shimano telescopics (despite advertised promises, when you ring up the usual response is “it’s out of stock, mate”, followed by a non-committal sucking of air through the teeth when you enquire, politely - after informing said salesman that you are not his “mate”; in fact, you’ve never met him - how long it might be before they get more). So, after several wasted phone calls in the UK, I got my 45S from Germany via some web searching (see links). That said, some UK tackle shops are good and a couple are mentioned in the links below.

I have read criticism of the sliding ring system used on the more expensive telescopic rods, whereby two or more rings are “floating” on the tip section and are slid into place and locked by friction as the section is extended. I can say I have never found it to be a problem in practice.

Shimano also make some very good telescopic feeder rods (Hyperloop) which are styled as “light/medium” or “heavy”. They are quite substantial affairs, and certainly heavier than their multi-piece Beastmaster equivalents. Incidentally, the Beastmaster rods are excellent, but why oh why did they come up with such a stupid name? It’s not quite as bad as some of the macho nonsense that tackle manufacturers employ to christen their overpriced products, I grant you, but it’s bad enough. Anyone needing to purchase a rod with a stupid moniker to enhance their masculine potency requires more than fishing as therapy. And another thing….why on Earth does Shimano stick a plastic flag, advertising their name, to the butt section? This large tag is held on with sellotape, which is the very Devil to remove and leaves a nasty, sticky smear which can only be cleaned off with alcohol or similar solvent. What a pointless gimmick, I already know it’s a Shimano because it says so on the rod. And, finally in the gripe department, if you, the manufacturer are selling a telescopic travel rod which can be left set-up, put a bloody keeper ring on it. What a Grumpy Old Idler I am.

Askari stock a wide variety of telescopics from several manufacturers, but beware as some are truly awful – the price factor is usually the guide here. I have found the Riverman brand to be acceptable. Another maker with a good, albeit small, range of telescopics is Shakespeare. I have one of their Ganza Telescopic Match rods, and it really is a nice tool for floatfishing on small rivers and close-range work on stillwaters. At 12ft it is a tad short for controlling a float at distance or in adverse weather conditions, but in the right place it is a very adept and well-made little rod. In addition, Shakespeare offer the Mach 2 series, which includes a similar 12 ft rod for around £35 (street price); I am unclear as to which is the current model so you may find one or other more easily obtainable. I have seen conflicting information on the line rating of this rod (1- 3lb, or up to 6lb) from different advertisers and there is no information at all about it on Shakespeare’s website [a plea to tackle manufacturers – some of your UK websites are out of date (Shakespeare) or non-existent (Drennan, Abu); please do something about it since it’s the best source of information for most of your customers. In this respect Shimano leads the field by a country mile] . Another Shakespeare offering is the Mach 1 travel rod, but this is a multipiece rather than telescopic rod.

Masterline is the originator of the John Wilson Nomad series of travel rods. I have used the telescopic Avon from this series (street price approx £70), and it is ideal as a light leger or float rod (a quiver tip is included). Its finish is understated compared with the Shimano rods, for example, and this alone will appeal to some. It boasts a 1.25lb test curve, so it can handle itself well and its other attractions include the small travel size (or footprint, to use modern parlance) and a half-decent case. Its action, as the name suggests, is more typical of an Avon rod which sets it apart from most telescopics available. On a recent trip to the Test, this rod coped admirably with large trout and grayling and although it might be considered a little short at 11 feet, its performance as a float rod under these conditions was exemplary. It did not, however, fare so well in a howling gale on a Norfolk river, but then I’m not sure anything would cope with that situation easily. Idling at home or in the shed should have been the preferred method that day.

There are more manufacturers of telescopic and travel rods than mentioned here but I have no direct experience of using their products and therefore cannot comment. Roy has recently pointed me in the direction of new contenders from Abu which I will check out in due course. Masterline has now introduced a multipiece variant of its popular John Wilson Avon quiver rod and that may be an attractive option for fans of this rod wanting a shorter, travel version. The choice is between ultimate portability and quick set-up (telescopics) or maximum travel potential, eg on aeroplanes (multipiece). If leaving a travel rod in the car for that snatched session on the way home, make sure it will fit in the boot and can be hidden out of sight, before you buy. I should add that some users of telescopics, which are by their nature usually longer in the collapsed form than multipiece rods, recommend cutting the handle just below where the bottom of the longest telescopic section reaches and fitting a spigot, thereby making a detachable handle. This can shorten the travel length considerably and turn a telescopic into a suitcase rod. Interestingly, the new Abu telescopics have a detachable handle, so assuming it all works OK, hats off to their designers for a bit of lateral thinking.

One word of caution about telescopics, especially the more delicate float/match rods – the top section can be prone to breakage. This is not usually due to any particular weakness compared to a normal carbon rod, but has more to do with the nature of how it is handled in transit. I have noticed that the tip section of some telescopics is rather fragile and appears to be made of a very fibrous form of carbon which can come apart easily if pressure is applied in the wrong direction. In this respect, the Wilson Nomad series scores over others because the tip section appears much more robust. The Nomad 13ft Float does, however, have fewer rings than the equivalent Shimano (8 in total, compared with 9 on the AX and 10 on the BX) which may be important for some users. In my experience, problems are caused mostly by the contraption the manufacturer supplies to protect the rod! I have found that some of these are completely unforgiving and can move position and break off the tip. For that reason I keep my telescopics in an old rod tube (in the car) or just carry them by hand if “made up”, minus the so-called “protector”. A padded or neoprene rod tip protector, eg the Nash Tip Top, is often a better option than the manufacturer-supplied item. I’ve not had any problems with telescopics in use, only in transport.

Another point to note with these rods is that grit, dirt or groundbait can lodge easily on a section and get transported inside the tube when the rod is contracted. At the very least this will scratch the rod’s finish, but it could also cause damage. Give it a wipe as you tackle down. The Wilson Nomads, which when new are an attractive green colour, scratch more readily than Shimano rods and can end up looking like they’ve been through several wash cycles too many.

Yet another cautionary or advisory note is that if you buy any rod mail order, get the extra insurance to cover damage in transit and make sure you check any package before signing for it, or mark it “unchecked” if the courier won’t wait. I received one rod (telescopic) that had clearly been stood on during transit and another (normal 3 piece) damaged beyond repair even in a stiff rod tube. Obviously, it is preferable to buy from your local tackle dealer if you can, but, as I have already indicated, the UK tackle trade is not good on stocking these rods.

All I need now is to find a maker of a telescopic split cane MkIV and I’ll be a happy Idler. Actually, a Chapman 500 makes a passable cane travel rod with its detachable handle.

Being an Idle Angler has additional benefits. Reducing the rod load has had a liberating effect on my general tackle set-up. “Fishing Lite” is my new policy, something which pleases the Idler in me. Vest pockets filled with bits’n’pieces, a small tackle bag with essentials and bread, corn, worms or maggots for bait, maybe some pellets or paste as an aside, coupled with a net, rod rest and something to sit on (I have a self-inflating stalking seat, or an unhooking mat/seat is a good option), is all I need for a short session. The telescopic rod(s) of your choice can be left made-up and ready to go (remember to keep checking the hook length and hook sharpness if you do this or you may live to regret it). The regulation holdall can be seen as a luxury accessory and left at home. All can be grabbed from the shed in a matter of moments and I can be set up and subsequently idling within two minutes of arriving at my destination. Needless to say, this is also a good policy to adopt if you like stalking fish, but the average idler is not too well disposed to unnecessary expenditure of energy in such a manner.

The additional bonus of Fishing Lite is that tackling down requires but a few moments as well. The telescopic rod collapses quickly to its original state and there is very little extraneous material to collect up and cart away. This means one can keep a line in the water until the very last second, even when the mobile is vibrating madly and the screen is flashing “home” – calling to find out when you will be back to cook dinner/mend the fence/supervise homework/paint the cat…you know, all those jobs that fill up time and prevent the Idler doing what he does best – bugger all.

*I shall now go away and work on Part Two – if I can be bothered

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Telescopic rod links (Masterline)

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