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The changing world of tackle manufacturers

The changing world of tackle manufacturers

Ron Cousins explores the changing world of tackle manufacturers…

It was 50 years ago that Bob Dylan first told the world that “the times they are a-changin’ ” but I don’t think he was reflecting on the world of angling. The waters around us slowly evolved as dams for drinking supply and hydro-electric projects provided more angling opportunities throughout France. In Britain, farmers started to dig lakes to provide fishing for paying customers to compensate for the restrictions imposed on them by the EC’s Common Agricultural Policy milk quotas. But recently, Bob’s prophesies seem to be catching up with Izaak Walton’s contemplative man’s recreation.


France is used to Russians buying prime vineyards but on the other side of la Manche there is shock that one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious fishing tackle shops, Farlows of Pall Mall, is now oligarch owned. The London store where generations of the Royal Family have shopped for rods and reels now belongs to Vladimir Rybalchenko, a keen salmon angler well able to indulge his passion as he also owns the vast Atlantic Salmon Reserve, Russia’s most famous game fishing area.

The world’s best known name in fishing tackle manufacturing is British company Hardys. Established in the Northumberland town of Alnwick in 1872, they hold a royal warrant and have been run by generations of the Hardy family who each demonstrated how good their products were by winning casting tournaments all around the world. Vintage Hardy tackle like the Zane Grey multiplier reel and Altex fixed spool reel change hands for huge sums as do old copies of the firm’s annual Anglers’ Guide catalogue that often ran to 400 pages. However now there are no Hardy family members involved and the iconic brand has just been bought by America’s Pure Fishing, part of the giant Jarden Corporation based in Rye, New York.

Dating back to 1945, French tackle manufacturer Garbolino has had the lion’s share of the fishing pole market in France from 1999. A huge investment in specialised plant allowed carbon strands to be made into carbon fibre and then into impregnated carbon sheets to make ultra-light poles up to 16 metres long. With the Garbolino family long gone, the business has now been swallowed by another giant. This time it is by French company SERT who already own a number of other popular brands for carp, sea and lure fishing. They are sponsoring my fellow Welshman and international competition angler Lee Edwards to promote the tackle in the UK.


As well as changes in the tackle world there is also a bait war going on in France as challengers from the Far East try to muscle in on what has always been the territory ruled by French groundbait manufacturer Sensas. Pretty well every French coarse angler has the familiar green ‘Sensas’ marked bait bucket carrying various packets of the firm’s powdered groundbait to be mixed at the waterside - it’s also the market leader in Britain. Old Ghost groundbaits from China are wooing the angler with fish-enticing mixes of ingredients including snail and cod fish blend, sausage and corn mix, green algae and silkworm chrysalis. Meanwhile Japanese bait firm Marukyu include seaweed, squid and krill in their range of baits and groundbaits. As the French angler prefers to buy a French product whenever possible, the newcomers could be in for a struggle. Add to that France’s dominance in international angling over many years, with Sensas backing the squad, and the fact that neither China nor Japan has ever made an appearance in a World Angling Championship, and this looks like a win for the home side in the end.

There may be changes in the businesses that supply the essentials for our sport but, except for the inevitable few euros increase in the cost of a carte de pêche, fishing in France remains unchanged. There is a vast amount of water in river, lake and canal to enjoy and a wide range of fish species to suit all angling tastes. The fish uppermost in most French anglers’ minds at this time of year are poisson carnassier - brochet (pike) and sandre (zander). These fish eaters are the only two species of coarse fish protected by a close season which runs from January 25 to April 30 so as well as celebrating the Fête du Travail and handing out sprigs of lily of the valley, the spinning and bait fishing tackle comes out on May 1.

Early season brochet and sandre will usually be found in the shallower, faster stretches of the river where most of their prey like gardon (roach), rotengle (rudd), vandoise (dace) and ablette (bleak) will be shoaled up and recovering after spawning.

Finding them in lakes isn’t so easy but again most fish will be in the shallower water, and areas with lots of weed cover or bankside reeds are good places to start. Many French anglers boat fish this early in the season using plug baits, lures or shad type baits to cover a large area of water and the same objective can be achieved by strolling the banks with a spinning rod.

It really is a great way to spend a spring day and much can be learned about the water even if no fish are found. However, when a hard fighting predator slams the rod over and sets the pulse racing, all the effort is worthwhile.
The Federation Départementale de Pêche encourages anglers to be conservation minded and return their catches safely to the water. If you do decide to eat your catch remember there are strict size limits, a brochet must measure a minimum 50cm from nose to tail and a sandre a minimum of 40cm.

With their powerful streamlined bodies, impressive teeth and the strength to make arms ache before they come to the net these fish are worthy of any anglers attention. Give poisson carnassier a try, or as Bob would say, “don’t think twice, it’s all right.”


© Living Magazine - all rights reserved. First published in Living Magazine April 14