Classic Coarse - Hardy Marksman Specimen 13' Float Rod
by Geoff Maynard
When I was a kid, I really wanted a Ferrari. Only two things put me off getting one. Firstly, there was no way it could take my fishing rods. Secondly, it was slightly out of my pocket range. Perhaps a roof rack might have helped the former problem but nothing could affect the latter. I also wanted a Hardy fishing rod but that too was almost as unobtainable as the Ferrari. I had to wait donkey's years before I acquired my first Hardy and that was a second hand one because to me at that time, they were just plain unaffordable.
In the 1950s and 60s, aspiring after high quality items of any sort was the province of the very wealthy. How times have changed. Never mind the credit crunch, we are rolling in it compared to how things were forty years ago. Today most people consider a two-car family in a house with a colour TV in every room to be the norm and what used to be luxury items have become everyday purchases. We have global trade practices to thank for that. Mourning the loss of 'traditional' local manufacturing plants is not taking a balanced approach. Building luxury items in China makes them affordable to the average Joe in the street and this holds true at the waters edge. The result of this new found Western affluence is that today even those anglers on an ordinary wage packet can afford the very best fishing rods that money can buy; and with that tag the name Hardy comes immediately to mind.
Hardy recently decided that returning to the coarse angling market after a 25 year break would be a good thing. For the reasons listed above I couldn't agree more. Their new range of Marksman coarse fishing rods are obviously going to be very good and the 13ft Specimen float rod is no exception (n.b. All the other float rods in the range are labelled "Specialist" to avoid any confusion - ed.) It comes in a strong, green Cordura tube which is fitted with both a shoulder strap and a carrying handle, with what looks like triple stitching to ensure they never come adrift. Open the tube and there is the olive green cloth rod-bag carrying that distinctive Hardy label. It all screams Quality. Open the bag and you won't be disappointed with what's revealed.
This is a lightweight, three piece, deceptively powerful float rod finished in a very tasteful dark green with lighter coloured whippings. The first two guides are twin leg with single leg line guides along the rest of the length. The rod rings themselves are all lined Fuji SiCs and stand very proud of the rod to ensure that on rainy days, especially when paired with a centrepin, the line won't be sticking to the rod and impeding the cast. The tip and middle sections have plugs on the ferrules. Not ordinary plugs to stop mud getting in, but strong aluminium ones, designed to slide right inside and protect the most fragile area of a lightweight float rod when in transportation. Somebody really thought about this. The handle on the model I tested is cork with a sensible screw fitting to secure the reel and a handy but often neglected hook-holder loop fitted just above it.
I love using centrepin reels with float rods so I naturally coupled it to the latest Hardy Conquest pin and took it into the garden for a waggle. Here I had a surprise. In my opinion the balance of the rod is designed for use with a heavier reel. I think it really needs a fair sized fixed spool or a heavier wide-drum old-fashioned pin to balance it at that crucial finger-tip fulcrum point immediately above the reel seat. This has absolutely no consequence for rod-rest use of course but could be important when roaming the banks of a small stream all day, so it's worth mentioning.
The action of the rod however is astounding, probably the finest of any float rod I have ever used. Hardy developed something they call Anti-Lock on these rods, allowing the power-lunges of a larger fish to become absorbed into the body of the rod. All rods do that to some extent of course, but… Well, it's hard to describe… When you are playing a fish it's… Hmmm. Oh! That's what 'indescribable' means! Just feel the difference for yourselves and take my word that it's a feature that has made a rather good fishing rod into a superb one. Casting with it is a breeze, nice and crisp. Playing a good fish - the real test of a rod - is the finest rod-bending action you will ever experience. Hardy claim that with this Marksman range, they set out to provide the finest fishing rod money could buy. Well, if they haven't achieved it with this rod, they are not far short.
I took the float rod to a local lake full of small but angry wild carp to test it out - and in a short, three hour evening session, test it those fish did. A few small roach first sent vibrations down through the tip and were swung in. Then five wily wildies, carp between 2lb and 4lb were outwitted. These crafty fish may be small but they fight like ruddy demons. The rod had a very good opportunity to show its colours and it performed wonderfully. The power-curve of the rod against the sky was a sight to behold. I tried to photograph it but the light was too far gone so you'll have to take my word for it. I'm really looking forward to trying it out on bigger rivers or on the lakes where longer casting requires a fixed spool reel - and I'll keep my 30 year old Hardy 11ft Carbon Match for pin work on the smaller rivers.
So at long last my dreams are becoming fulfilled. What was unaffordable is no longer so. I now have a brand new Hardy float rod at long last. All I need to do now is persuade Ferrari to open a factory in China and bring out a roof-rack model. For about two grand please.
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