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Fishing Lines: Just what I always wanted - a split-cane rod

READER DEMANDS for Christmas present ideas seemed to offer scope for the easiest column I've written in months. All I needed to do, I thought, was to pen a panegyric about my new magazine, Classic Angling. "What about all those who aren't interested in antique tackle or the history of angling?" my wife asked. "Well, they should be," I retorted. "What about those already taking the magazine, then?" she added. A curse on women's logic. She's right. It would be abusing my privileged position. So instead, I'll do the job properly and suggest some worthwhile presents for the fisher who appears to have everything.

Let's start with rods. You can never have enough of these. Each aspect of angling demands a specialist rod. At the highest level, you must take account of a water's width, flow, condition, fish size and the colour of your friend's hat. For non-anglers buying for a keen fisher, it's almost impossible to choose the right one. It's as personal as your underarm deodorant. The answer here is to go to a specialist maker producing split- cane rods (or to read a magazine that tells you about it).

Such rods are made by splitting bamboo into hexagonal sections and glueing them together. It was by far the best sort of rod until the 1950s, when glass-fibre, rapidly followed by carbon and boron, took over. But these modern developments lack soul, being made by robots rather than man, and have none of that delightful "feel" that a wood rod possesses. Yes, they are heavier, but that's a small price to pay for beauty and tradition. Talk to cane rodmaker Edward Barder - and prepare to wait.

Walk into a tackle shop, and you'll face a bewildering array of reels. Better still, don't bother. Get in touch with Hardy, the greatest name in fishing tackle manufacture, and ask about their limited edition specials. For example, the Alnwick company has produced a revival of the Bougle, a reel first made in 1903. This was named after Louis Bougle, one of the few Frenchmen to be accepted as a honorary life member of the English Fly Fishers' Club.

Try to buy one of the original reels now (they come up at auction occasionally) and it will cost you around pounds 1,500. but the limited edition specials, which are fine for modern-day fly fishing, will set you back only a few hundred pounds - and they could eventually rise in value too. (To find out if they will or not, you probably need to refer to a specialist magazine).

Not into fly-fishing? Then how about one of the modern reproductions of arguably the greatest English reel, the Allcock Aerial? Several companies turn out limited edition versions for between pounds 200 and pounds 300. Some are so beautiful it seems a sin to use them for fishing. Again, a super gift that could rise in value. Equally, you can still buy old Aerials - though you probably need to refer to a specialist publication to find out where to do so.

Still too expensive? Well, a few publishers are now producing modern versions of classic angling books. If you could find the originals of titles like The Art of Fly Making by William Blacker, Jones' Guide to Norway by Frederic Tolfrey and The Whopper, a rarely seen children's book by BB, you would need deep pockets. (A copy of The Fly Fisher's Guide, an 1816 book by George Bainbridge, sold at auction recently for pounds 6,500), but the reproductions, which are again limited editions, sell for between pounds 40 and pounds 90. If you can afford the original, of course, you have a tremendous investment and a piece of angling history. Why, there's even a bi-monthly colour magazine that writes about the great fishing books. Such a pity I can't possibly mention it...

l Rods: Edward Barder Rod Company, Ham Mill, London Road, Newbury, Berks (tel: 01635 552916). Reels: Traditional Angling, The Old Dairy, Newplace Farm, Pump Lane, Framfield, East Sussex (tel: 01825 890161). House of Hardy, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 2PF (tel: 01665 602389). Books: Medlar Press, the Grange, Ellesmere, Shropshire, SY12 9DE (tel: 01691 623225). Fly Fisher's Classic Library, 3 North St, Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7QJ (tel: 01364 653828). Classic Angling, PMA House, Free Church Passage, St Ives, Cambs PE17 4AY (tel: 01480 463565).