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Salmon Fly Rods and Blanks

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Salmon fly rods are unlike any other type of rod, the double handed casting, the power of the spey cast, the length, all make for design challenges unlike any other type of rod. In my opinion, the UK still reigns supreme in design and manufacture of this style of rod. The Americans have made great inroads in smaller single handed rods, but I believe that ourselves, Daiwa, Bruce and Walker and Hardy's still lead the way, with ourselves, Harrison's at the head of that group. So I suppose, I would conclude that makes us the best in the world in this field. I would like to think so.

We started making blanks for salmon fly  rods about nine years ago. At that time we were mainly engaged in making match fishing blanks. I think our first rods were made when we were approached by Malcolm Grey, who had worked for Hardy's and was now making his own rods under the Greys of Alnwick brand. Malcolm was an expert rod builder, and knew what he wanted as a finished rod, but did not have the ability to manufacture his own blanks. Initially we developed a good alround 15' spey casting blank for  Greys. The sort of rod that would be reliable and easy to cast for beginners, yet delivering the best possible performance for the expert. Slimmer and lighter than rod blanks available at that time, they became an established success. In a slightly evolved form, we still make that blank as our 15' Speycaster. It is probably still our best seller. Grey's fortunes in the meantime have been up and down, with Malcolm selling out and the brand now incorporated into the House of Hardy and utilising Fibatube blanks.

Here at Harrison's, Mike Helliwell is our expert on fly fishing. He is an accomplished alround angler, and regularly fishes for salmon; but in truth we depend on the input of external experts for the evolution of our salmon rods.We have worked with most of the top men in this field, and make a wide range of rods to meet their demands. Following on from our  first success of the 15' Speycaster, we were asked to make a slightly faster, crisper rod, that would appeal to the more experienced angler who had developed a taste for faster single handed rods, and was looking for that type of feel. The 15' Fast Action was born. Not really fast in the absolute sense, nor a fragile thin walled US style blank, this is a slim light blank utilising higher modulus materials in the butt, and T800 in the tip. It loads in a different way. It is like a progressive rate spring, that becomes tighter the more it is loaded. The feel is of being more in contact. Timing of the cast becomes a little more critical, and this is not the rod for someone who only uses the fly once a year. It is for the dedicated, experienced angler.

Fifteen foot remains the most popular length, but we also produce as blanks, 12', 13'6", 14', 16', in a variety of line ratings. The 12' blank is quite versatile. Besides being a terrific small river fly rod, it can also be built as a useful shrimping and worming rod. It occurred to someone, perhaps it was Mike, I cannot recall, that could be built into a rod that cad be used for both fly and fixed spool use. As an experiment we have built a few of these rods with two reel seats on the handle. One in each of the two positions that suit fly and fixed spool reels. The rings need to be lined cradles, not snakes, but this becomes a very useful rod.

Our second most popular length of rod is the 13'6 #8/9. This rod is a joy to handle.We have made these for UK and export for several years. It is light, slim, but very robust and reliable. There is no place for paper thin rods when wading in fast water. We have derived from this a number of subtle variations  both longer or shorter, and with a bit more power for # 9/10.

In the last year or two we have made a series of blanks for the different casting styles evolving. For the Swedish market  we make some faster lighter rods again. These compare in weight to the lightest American rods, but I hope that in performance we have them beaten.

Additional to all of the above we also make a few four piece blanks that will make up into rods that can be left in your car boot waiting that vital phone call on the state of your favourite river.

Blanks can be obtained mail order from Lathkill Tackle, whilst rods built on our blanks can be bought from Sportfish, John Hutchinson, Manchester Game Angling Centre, Hooks and Tackle of York, and several other specialist dealers in our dealer list. There are also several rods on the market built on our blanks, ask your local dealer.

Finally, just as in the past with cane and glass rods, we think taping the joints whilst fishing remains a good idea. Casting a salmon fly puts tremendous strain on a rod, and a turn or two of insulation tape will guarantee your joints do not work loose whilst casting. 

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Dr. Stephen Harrison 2000