It’s true that 2021 has seen the introduction of quite a few new rod ranges that have punched well above their weight with regard to performance against price.
Shakespeare’s very affordable Superteam range is one of them. The rods are nicely put together, and well and truly aimed at the keen commercial fishery angler.
But it isn’t just the commercial angler on a moderate budget who the iconic firm is catering for these days, because with its recently introduced SKP Solitude range it offers a comprehensive collection of rods covering everything from specialist barbel fishing to traditional float tactics.
The series is crafted toward the more discerning traditional angler looking for trusted rods with a modern material build, yet designed and dressed using old school-style decals, furnishings, and fish-playing actions. And Shakespeare has absolutely nailed it with Solitude’s retro look and feel.
Now, these rods are a little heavier on the wallet than, say, the latest incarnation of the Superteam or Concept models. But then, they are a little bit special. They’re the type of rod that you would want to own and spend time with. They look that little bit different from the run-of-the-mill models that we’re used to seeing on the banks. They’re also still very competitively priced at well under £100.
Looks-wise, the blanks are finished in an olive colour scheme with matching olive whippings tipped with gold, providing them with a classy bygone era appearance that many anglers will surely find most appealing.
If the irreplaceable Jack Hargreaves of Old Country TV show fame was looking for a new rod then you just know he’d have one of these corkers.
The model on test duty, the two-sectioned 11ft Light Feeder, comes with a couple of push-in quivers with white tip ends, and ratings of 0.75oz and 1.25oz. Seven hard-wearing ceramic lined guides adorn its fast tapered period-style blank that also boasts, as you might expect, a full-length cork handle with a metal hooded screw down reel seat that looks capable of holding up to a 5000 sized reel.
WATCH OUR VIDEO REVIEW OF THIS ROD ON YOUTUBE: ANGLING TIMES
I’m sure many of you reading this are of an age that can relate to this type of rod, and in some ways it reflects my own fishing career. I spent my early years with my dad and grandad on small to medium-sized rivers in pursuit of chub and roach. In my case I started in my home county of Oxfordshire, biking to the banks of the Evenlode. Then, once I’d passed my driving test, my horizons broadened to take in the Cherwell, Windrush and Upper Thames. No wonder I have a journeyman’s penchant for small-river chub rods.
Over the passing years I’ve used everything from expensive hand-built wonders, to cut-down float rods with spliced-in quivertips. Materials have been as varied as tank aerials, split cane things, floppy fibreglass horrors, silly money carbons, borons and composites. I’ve fished with them all at some time or other!
How many have I kept? Well, just the one, and it was built at Gloucester Angling Centre at around the turn of the century, or so it now seems.
Anyway, moving on, the build quality and overall look and feel of the Solitude 11ft light quiver are simply impeccable. This lightweight, highly responsive two-piece rod made from a decent enough carbon cloth has, without a doubt, been designed by someone with the same passion for small rivers as I have, and who knows exactly what they’re doing. For my money this little belter has plenty of mid-section muscle, matched with a tip-end with enough guile to show the faintest of plucks from roach, and the ability to land them using smaller hooks and light lines without fear of hook pulls or breakages.
At a push it would also hold its own for summer barbel work when using leads and small PVA mesh bags.
I doubt it’d be found wanting casting weights of 2.5oz-plus, as long as it wasn’t a coupled with a long chuck.
Under strain, the retro blank reveals a quickly progressive type of action that allows it to be used confidently using hooklengths of around 0.12mm upwards, and hooks as small as a size 16.
I was most impressed with the power reserve the blank generates from the bottom of the butt. It certainly has more than enough in its locker to dissuade even the largest of chub from that last-gasp headlong dive into the nearest snag… something all chub have an annoying habit of doing when they’re close to the net.