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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Isle of Lewis, UK.

    Default An Old Fenwick HMG's Story

    Back in July I bought an old rod on eBay listed as a ''Norco " Ishbel Sheppard " 12' - 6" #8/10 Salmon Fly Rod'' because, well, I didn't think it was a 'Norco'! I think they only built fibreglass rods, in fact. There was no mention of Norco in the photos so I contacted the seller who replied that he'd ''seen similar writing on a Norco rod'', hence his assignment.

    What had initially caught my eye was three things. 1) It came in a high quality aluminium tube with a Dermot Wilson label on it. 2) The cork handle and fittings looked on a par with Hardy rods of the period and 3) the ferules .....

    The first thing I did was to Google 'Ishbel Sheppard', the name on the rod, but that drew a blank.
    I doubt many in the States know of Dermot Wilson but he was an influential figure in the UK in the latter half of the 20th century. In this extract from 'Nymphs, The Mayflies: The Major Species'' by Ernest Schwiebert he describes how Wilson arranged his meeting with Frank Sawyer and later fished with his colleagues Len Bishop and Jack Sheppard.
    Wilson ran a chalk stream fishery on the River Test and operated what I'm told was the first mail-order fly tackle firm in the UK. He bought his premises in Nether Wallop from Cliff Constable, a renowned British cane rod maker, and later sold to Orvis c. 1982 when they set up a UK presence here. Like Constable, Dermot Wilson was known for his quality and also as an early importer of American graphite blanks, so I looked more closely at the rod.





    Yes, it would be heavy but it looked well made for all that. And those ferules, reinforced and on the upper sections, tip over butt, I've seen them before and know them as 1st Gen Fenwick HMG-style, like an inverted Champagne flute. Given my curiosity about older carbon I decided to bid and picked up the rod uncontested for fifty quid.
    I fished it once this season but found my #8 Spey line far too light for the rod. I'll try a #10 next year. All I got was one tentative pull from a fussy fish, so no opportunity to bend the old rod yet.

    I thought that would be that but earlier this month I visited Veals, an old tackle shop in Bristol, to ask about a different rod, a possible Winston, built there c. 2002. I got chatting with Steve Wedlake who has worked there for over 40 years and in time the conversation touched on Dermot Wilson.
    "My wife used to work for him on the mail order businesses,'' he said, so I mentioned this rod, the 'Ishbel Sheppard'.
    "Oh, I knew Ishbel,'' Steve said!
    "She was Jack Sheppard's wife. Jack worked for Dermot back in the '70s."

    Well, that pretty much made my day. Not only did it confirm my suspicions that this was a Dermot Wilson rod, I really like knowing the history of the thing. Tbh, I can't see me fishing it much, I have lighter, more sensitive rods, but I'll keep going until a decent fish obliges and I've seen the thing bend like it was designed to, then I think I'll know 'Ishbel' a little better.

  2. Likes tcorfey, Ard liked this post
  3. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: An Old Fenwick HMG's Story

    Hi James,

    I don't know my rods too well but the finish on that certainly echoes Hardy dressings of the 1979 - 1984 period for many of the graphite.

    My reply was triggered by the mention of Fenwick HMG and there may very well have been significant differences between the products sold in the UK and those here but...……… Back in 1978 I bought the new HMG (high modulus graphite) five weight from Fenwick. My previous rod had been the old brown finished fiberglass in a six weight so I had no basis for comparison to this new technology.

    I bought the Fenwick for $125 and in 78 that was a fairly expensive production rod. Got it because the Orvis graphite's were about $375 so I took the short cut. By seasons end I was disillusioned with the rod but kept with it through the 1979 season. I can distinctly remember sitting on the creek with my fishing friend that fall of 79 lamenting over the rod. Near as I remember I said, "I don't know about this rod, I swear that I can't make it work". Near or far casting was lackluster and I could not produce the loops required for accuracy at range. By that point in life I'd become fairly good at casting but that rod I just couldn't make it work. I finished the fall with the old fiberglass six weight.

    I sold it for 65 dollars in October and used that 65 toward an Orvis Far & Fine five weight and never thought of getting another fly rod until 1994.

    That has no direct link to your experiences with Fenwick's it is just a piece of memory from me.

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Isle of Lewis, UK.

    Default Re: An Old Fenwick HMG's Story

    Hi, Ard, thanks for your insight. It does chime with my own still-limited experience of the black, 1st gen HMGs (which I reckon yours was given the date?). As well as this 12' 6'' I have a 9' #5 non-factory HMG and, though I've yet to cast it side by side with others of its time, I remember it as being rather steely and 'unfeeling'* - which this d-hander certainly is with a #8! The difference between them and my 11' 4'' #8 2nd gen HMG is chalk and cheese, the latter being far deeper flexing and more sensitive in the hand - much more to my taste, anyway.

    I'm also struck by the difference between the 9ft #5 HMG and my custom 9ft #6 Lamiglas '96% Graphite' of the same period. The Lamiglas is a far sweeter rod to cast though 3/4 oz heavier. I didn't know what it was when I first put a line on it but was so impressed I did the detective work, even corresponding with the original owner via the UKFFF to establish its origins! I ought to do some accuracy and distance tests between these two and the Loomis Composites/LCI rods I've picked up since associating with you lot.

    Edit: And, Yes! Very much what one would expect of Hardy / Farlows / etc., at that time. It does sing 'quality' in an old-fashioned, stately Rolls Royce kinda way.

    This summer I was asked if the screws which hold on the lower reel seating hub penetrate the cork as far as the blank - and even into it!?
    I really don't know.
    I can't see it hurting on a cane rod but might a graphite rod be weakened by being drilled into?
    I know I could take a screw out to check the depth but I'd rather not, in the hope someone here might know the answer?

    *Edit: I just dug the rod out today and it's not the stiff rod I was thinking of! The 9' #5 is whippy and wobbly in the extreme with one hell of a lot of bounce. It says #5 but I wonder if that's DT not WF? Only a cast will tell ...
    Last edited by Lewis Chessman; 12-05-2019 at 03:18 PM.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Columbia, MO
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: An Old Fenwick HMG's Story

    Great story, James. I love knowing the history of things and must compliment your detective work on this.

    "As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler" ...Izaak Walton

    "Nothing is as bad as something that is not so bad"...Sr. Percival Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel

  6. Thanks Lewis Chessman thanked for this post

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