Antique Greenheart rods and an Intrepid Boyo reel in Falkirk

Thomas Turner

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Famous names such as Hardy, Farlow, Carter, Allcock’s, Army and Navy, and many more all used this wood. Referred to as Greenheart Green Willow or Green Heart, it’s the same wood.

Greenheart is a tropical hard wood, many makers sourcing stock from South America.

Although heavy it’s renowned the world over for its durability and versatility. It requires no treatment and is highly resistant to decay both when growing and after harvesting. Its uses are limitless, everything from gates, railings, framing, engineering, decorative pieces, and of course fishing rods.

Its resistance to absorbing damp makes it especially suited to our market.

Turned on a lathe and fitted with brass reel mounts and ferrules, I don’t think there is a more decorative rod for display. As split bamboo cane rods came to the fore in the late 1880s, Greenheart started to fade in popularity, but examples were still made after WW2. Longevity: like all wood, it will eventually dry out, but the grain is so dense this will take 3 to 4 times longer than say pine or fir.

Can you fish a 100-year-old greenheart rod? In most cases yes. It’s old, heavy, and has a soft middle action but these rods will roll a line out beautifully.

Playfair of Aberdeen’s famous Grants Vibration salmon fly rod with spliced joints are still a popular antique fishing rod for the purist. Most of the rods we see are sea trout and salmon rods proving the power and suitability of the wood for big fish. Care must be taken with ultra-thin tips. They are not so resilient as split cane and that’s why many of the greenhearts were supplied with an additional spare tip from new.

Some greenheart rods do not use cork on the handles. The butt sections were turned down from one section and polished into a greenheart handle. A multi-colour spliced wood handle is even more attractive when strips of light bamboo cane are interspersed with greenheart. Many of the makers would offer additional cost options and one of the most attractive is the leather-covered handle. They all look amazing when matched with a brass salmon fly reel. Who cares if the fittings are polished, they look even better for it in my opinion and every fish caught feels twice the weight.

In Scotland, the Falkirk Community Trust houses one of the few greenheart lathes used for turning wood fishing rods still in existence. Made by Mathieson, it stood the test and time and looks functional to this day. Rescued from the basement of Scrimgeour’s Tackle shop in Newmarket Street, Falkirk it’s now on public display.

As a schoolboy and later an apprentice motor mechanic I frequented Scrimgeour’s in the ’60s & ’70s and secured my first reel, an Intrepid Boyo. That was as far as my meagre budget would stretch. All this time I was standing one floor above a rod-making machine of significant importance. I would chat to Mr. Scrimgeour when he brought his BMC Mini Cooper S to Crawford’s Garage where I served my apprenticeship asking him, “What’s new?”. Careful planning would allow my next mega spend on a new float box or monofilament line, Halcyon days.

Have as browse through our rod stock, from wall hanger to fish catcher we have something for everybody.

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