This is the time of the year when brochures come through the post like the rain on riverbanks! Everyone now has at least one large arbor reel, and many companies have several at various prices for different pockets. You can get one of these reels for less than thirty pounds, though I guess I see more around that are closer to two hundred! You hardly dare go fishing without a large arbor reel, but if you want to have a good laugh about the merits of this tackle item, you ought to read what Steve Parton has to say about them. He is very sceptical about the advantages that the tackle companies would have us all believe that using a reel like this gives us.

You might imagine that not much could be changed on a basic item like a fly line. Think again! Cortland has long been one of the market leaders in this country, and I have had a long "love-affair" with the peach coloured "444" line. The latest magazines though, will tell you that Cortland are now marketing a "555", which is better by far than the line it supersedes. I wonder if this will prove to be the case? The "laser line" never took-off as well as marketing men suggested that it would, partly because it is stiff and cracks up much quicker than it should.

A glance through my latest brochure showed me seven pages of different lines that are now available. Many of the top brands are priced at fifty pounds, which is rather a lot of money for something that really doesn’t cost that much to produce. I know that the exchange rate is in our favour, but on my recent trip to Australia, I was able to buy top fly lines for much less than the British market prices. My beloved Cortland was generally available for the equivalent of £23-£26 and even the top priced line that I found, the Scientific Anglers range which seems to be the market leader, was only around £40.

The rod situation is the same. Sage has just introduced the "SLT" and Orvis the new T3. I was fortunate enough to try the SLT and I must say that I would like to have earned enough money whilst I was away to have treated myself to one of these rods. But I was more than happy with the Orvis Trident I used on the trip and I may well see if I can get a decent deal on this rod for the coming season. My present Orvis rod has seen better days, and my old Orvis Osprey lost several inches off the top the season before last. I realised that my unconditional guarantee would not cover this model, as I had swapped one of my ten foot "Hampshires" for the shorter Ospreys with my good friend Ron Neil, and the guarantees are not exchangeable. The rod was so old that Orvis couldn’t even get hold of a spare top to match, and so it rests somewhere in their head office. I must do something about getting it back in order to carry out some sort of repair myself.

The cheaper end of the rod market gets better and better: Good quality rods are now made by an enormous number of companies and I think that newcomers to the sport, whilst having a great choice, must also get somewhat bewildered! Thankfully lots of places allow you to "try before you buy", so there should be no excuse for false purchases. I try to have a cast of any new rod I see a friend using. It is the only way to be able to comment on them. For a long time I held a prejudice against one famous rod manufacturer, but this was only on hearsay from a friend who believed the rods to be unreliable. It proved to be a totally wrong opinion to hold and, thankfully, I am now much more open minded about such things.

I think that I mentioned in my writing form "down under" about the rod market there being totally dominated by the American companies. I saw only one or two anglers using Aussie or New Zealand rods; the rest were split virtually half and half between Sage and Loomis, although a few used Thomas and Thomas. I liked every rod that I tried!

Another area that seems to get updated almost weekly is the clothing market. A recent trip into a major tackle outlet left me most impressed with some of the latest jackets to hit the shelves. The days of waxed cotton seem to be long behind us now and, as with other items, there is something to suit each pocket.

My club, the Bristol Reservoirs Fly Fishers Association has its annual auctions coming up in February and members get the opportunity to buy or sell tackle then. It is a popular event and really marks the start of the new season when members meet up with friends and fellow anglers. I will give some more details in the next couple of articles, but for now I am going to get back to the tying table and get some more patterns ready. I have tied hundreds of flies in the last couple of weeks, however, most of them have been for friends I met in Australia. I will get my boxes stocked pretty soon and will let you know what I plan to tie for this season in my next piece.

Tight lines,
Martin Cottis