The original Browning Black Magic was an iconic pole that passed into match fishing history but is fondly remembered as the stuff of legend.
When it first appeared in the mid-1980s, Bob Nudd – the man everyone tried to beat – championed it. Frankie had Two Tribes, Oxford bag trousers were all the rage away from the bank, and the Ford Sierra estate was the fishing vehicle of choice.
The first Black Magics to arrive in the UK superseded Browning’s Red Spiral Titanium pole, which back in the day would have set you back a whopping £800 or so.
However, many anglers still bit the bullet because when it came to long-lining on deep venues such as Ireland’s lower River Bann, the Black Magic power pole delivered in spades. With its put-in joints and super-slim profile, it was strong and easy to use... a must-have tackle item of its time.
It also had enough linear action to swing out a hefty float, and would have been fitted with long, solid carbon flick-tips (preferred to elastics back then because hook-ups were quicker and fish could be plucked from the water and swung to hand double-quick).
The fishing in Ireland went a bit pear-shaped not long after that, and big sponsored events such as the Embassy Pairs dwindled as their advertising budgets evaporated into thin air along with the cigarette smoke that had made them possible in the first place.
Happily, though, things have changed. The Irish festival scene is back on track, and quite possibly healthier than ever before… all of which brings me nicely on to Browning’s latest incarnation, the Black Magic II Gold.
The seven-sectioned 12.5m pole is built from the same carbon fibre, and to the same high standards, as its more expensive Xitan cousins. Yet it carries a price tag of around £459.99, or £399 for the 11m version… and for that you get three spare pre-bushed (no cutting back needed) top kits and a cupping kit.
Venue for the live test was the ever-reliable Willows Lake on the Decoy complex near Peterborough. Several easy-to-reach islands lend the water nicely to medium-length pole fishing on the 11m line.
The latest Black Magic Gold shares some of the original pole’s traits, being strong, with a good section wall thickness. This enables it to cope with big fish and the occasional ‘agricultural’ strike.
Its stiffness at 11m is more apparent than at its full 12.5m, as it does have a bit of bounce and play during shipping. But it’s nothing less than easy to fish with. Its flexible power-playing action makes it ideal for targeting big lumps in the margins, or fishing up against snags.
Other big plus points include an exemplary gloss finish that sees the pole run through your hands like a greased grass snake. Its put-over joints come together and apart with a reassuring swish, and never jam.
Three spare top kits and a cupping kit enable you to fish the margins, up in the water, or with a paste rig, so it’s ideal for commercial fisheries.
The verdict: This latest Black Magic II Gold bears very few similarities to its predecessors. But it is nicely on trend for the modern commercial angler, and very well suited to the keen club matchman. Built with abounding strength that will cope with the largest commercial fish, it has faultless, reliable section joints and is definitely built to last.
Price: £599 (12.5m) or £499 (11m), cheaper if you shop around. Spare Power top kits are available for £45.95