There was a time not so long ago when a three-piece 13ft float rod was standard issue for all match anglers.
Sheffield, Leeds, Rotherham and Birmingham all boasted legions of matchmen whose angling clubs were linked to massive national industries and working men’s clubs. Every weekend would see charabanc outings to the banks of the Witham, Welland, Trent or Severn, where floatfishing was still king and legering came a very poor second.
The best float rods of the day were mainly built on a Golden Jubilee blank, reappearing as WB Clarke’s
All-England, Milbro Enterprise or Billy Lane Match rods.
The first carbon rods weren’t far away, though, and when Fothergill and Harvey’s carbon blank appeared in 1975 they cost a king’s ransom at £133. The early carbon rods, nowhere as good as today’s, cost the equivalent of over £3,000, as much as you’ll pay for a modern flagship pole.
This history lesson earns a place here because 13ft float rods, once the most popular on the market, have evolved tremendously and are available at a steal of a price.
One such model is Daiwa’s 13ft three-piece Harrier Match, which can be found for as little as £44.99.
The rod is built on a decent enough lightweight blank, making it easy and comfy to hold. Its medium-fast action will cast small 3AAA wagglers with no trouble, and it boasts a full cork handle with an EVA lock-down foregrip, lined guides and a matt low-glare finish.
It isn’t the crispest float rod I have ever come across, and it may lack a bit of finesse. But what it can do in spades is handle whatever comes its way – something I was to find out while I was live testing the rod at Boston’s Westwood Lakes.
I had set my stall out for a net of roach and ide, or maybe the odd bream, but the tea-stained Kestrel Lake looked that dirty, I’d have been content to get a bite from anything.
With Storm Imogen racing with unstoppable force across Lincolnshire, this was far from being the best of conditions for floatfishing.
Still, with a 0.10mm hooklength and size 20 red maggot-baited hook on a slow-falling rig, something would surely have a go… wouldn’t it?
It seemed like an age for the bite to come, but eventually it did, and the blaze-coloured float tip sank slowly beneath the surface.
The strike was met by a little more resistance than I had expected, and the rod instantly took on an alarming fighting curve. This action, best described as on the through side of progressive, is pretty much what you want from a float rod if you’re likely to encounter bigger fish.
At first I thought I’d hooked, or even foul-hooked, a carp, hardly what I wanted from a silverfish session, and especially since I was using such lightweight terminal gear.
But as the scrap progressed it became obvious that I had hooked into one of the lake’s legendary barbel.
My balanced tackle was never more welcome than when I slipped the net under a pristine winter Bertram!
The Harrier Match, a long way from being one of Daiwa’s most expensive rods, had absorbed every lunge without my ever breaking sweat that I might get busted up and lose the fish.
Yes, it can be used for small silverfish, but take it from me, the Harrier is capable of an awful lot more when called to battle stations – just like its aircraft namesake, in fact.
On a day when everything but the roach wanted to feed, the Daiwa Harrier proved itself as a great silverfish all-rounder, with enough backbone to cope with much larger quarry when the need arose.
The rod would be well suited to a mixed commercial fishery, where the next bite could come from a matchbox-sized rudd, a powerful carp or, best of all, a belting barbel.