I always look forward to the annual Sportfish Reading show, and this year was no exception. With many of the top brands in fly-fishing setting up impressive stands in the ever-expanding marquee, the show is an excellent event to attend whether you aim to buy anything or not. For the last few years the weather has been atrocious, but sun and low winds greeted us this time around making the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
Dad and I arrived around ten, an hour after the gates opened, and already the place was buzzing. There wasn’t much on the shopping list - only some fly-tying materials - so the plan was to spend as much time on the casting lawn as possible. We walked the length of the marquee to work out who was there and who wasn’t and then, as always, made our way toward the Hardy display.
My love of the rods they produce earned me the nickname Tackle Tart when I was in the England Youth, but I assure you that my preferences are justified. The Zephrus truly is a step on from the already excellent Zenith, with the lower-mass tip and refined action allowing more control over the line in the air and at shorter distances while still retaining the power of its predecessor. The Wraith is even more impressive. Much stiffer than most other rods but still retaining feel, the whole blank works seamlessly to shoot line in a very controlled, very impressive way. I own one, and I love it.
While we were outside we were paid a visit by John Horsey who was just back from Ireland, and had a pleasant chat with him before he was whisked away. The opportunity to talk with familiar and unfamiliar faces of the angling world is certainly something that attracts people to the event. Chris Sandford was there tying flies and (probably) drowning people in superlatives - “Wow! Isn’t that fish/fly/blade of grass magnificent! Lovely! Super! Marvellous!”; Charles and Alex Jardine were there, the latter fly-tying and the former giving demonstrations; Simon Gawesworth and Marc Bale manned the Rio and Sage stands; and in the past others such as Matt Hayes and John Wilson have been in attendance.
Hardy produce excellent products, as mentioned, and so do Sage. The ONE is superb, the Method even more so. Although the Method is described by Sage as being the faster of the two, I’d disagree. The ONE has a much stiffer tip but is less powerful, the Method being more my cup of tea, working deeper into the blank. Previously I’ve also cast a MOD, a Circa, an Accel and a Pulse and was impressed with each one, proving that Sage know how to build great rods at any price and for any situation.
The Scott Radian is also a honey. The representative that day was a very nice Norwegian man called Tom who was more than happy to give me a crash course in single-handed spey casting and an opportunity to cast the nine-foot five-weight. Scott have made a super rod in the Radian, with all models in the range exhibiting the same characteristics. With a deep loading but lively blank, the very high recovery rate allows the rod to perform well both in close and at distance whilst boasting unparalleled feel and precision. All models are also extremely light, and all of this lead me to purchase one a couple of years ago.
By now it was past one o’clock, so we decided to grab lunch. The organisers always book a delicious hog roast, and after surprising one of the caterers - “We have one under 25 over here!” - we sat down outside the marquee. Space on the casting lawn had become a cutthroat battle of reserving your spot with intent and a bit of cheek, a process only eased by the demonstrations happening on the casting platform that drew people away, and after a quick visit to the shop we decided we wouldn’t stay much longer. There was one more stop to make before we left, however. Alun Rees is a representative for G.Loomis and attends the show every year. Dad and I met him on our first trip there some six years ago and he kindly spent much of his time teaching me how to cast. We make a point of going over and saying hi, and this year Alun was out by the water with a spey rod. “Do you want to try?”, he asked. Having never cast a double-handed rod before the experience was quite enlightening, there being this whole new skill set that needs to be mastered, and as I got to grips with the challenge we had a chat about life, the universe and everything.
After bidding Alun farewell and one more quick walk through the marquee dad and I made our way home. There is something special about the Sportfish show that keeps us going back, the reminder that fly-fishing has its own community, and now the business has acquired the rights to the adjoining fishery we may even be able to indulge in aspot of fishing next time around. So I guess I’ll see you all there next year!