It happened in a moment, but now I know the sort of extended passion that dwells on the edge of a scream. I’m going to break the news to my wife when the moment’s right. Honesty is the best policy when you’ve succumbed to a bit of naughty, naughty. She won’t be pleased, but she’ll understand; after all, men will be men. She’ll just assume I had a momentary itch that had to be scratched. Women are generally OK about such things, provided they’re sure that such lapses are simply passing, and not under-pinned with sloppy stuff such as love, or emotion. At that stage, I’ll probably change the subject, because the extra-marital lady in question has raised my pulse on numerous occasions over the years. I’ve thought about her at nights, and I will admit now that I have stroked her often with affection bordering on adulation. Let the News Of The World make of it what they like: I’m naming names. The Lady in question is called Felton Crosswind.

For anglers who were born too late to see Felton Crosswinds placed seductively in bow-fronted tackle-shop-windows; anglers who, with the passing of years, have forgotten what is to be besotted; and for anglers who would just like to hear again about their youthful flame, I should offer a word or two of explanation. The Felton Crosswind was, and is, a cult-worthy fixed-spool reel, with a unique and brilliant method of line spooling, which ensures that every turn of line is criss-crossed over preceding layers, so that even with the finest of lines, there is absolutely no ‘bedding-in’ of turns. Famous anglers once used and recommended them, and even more importantly, Mr. Crabtree himself was very clearly using a Felton in Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing. There could be no greater accolade then: this was the ultimate seal of approval. Oh!, but it was dreadfully expensive, so too few were sold, and it (but surely ‘she’) finally died before the 1960’s had expired.

But the flame flickered on in the hearts of good men. Many years ago I wrote an impassioned piece about the reel for Specialist Angling World. It’s difficult to love that title, but it was an excellent magazine – sadly long defunct, along with so many other angling magazines. The article was entitled ‘Farewell to a Felton Crosswind,’ and it told the story of my last flirtation with this Allcocks Siren.

A few years later a good friend gave me a precision-made Czechoslovakian reel called the Tlustos: a close cousin of the Felton Crosswind, and I wrote about it in an article entitled ‘Every Now and Again’. Letters arrived from the four corners of Britain, confirming that I was not alone in having a roving eye for such beauties. Fellow enthusiasts wrote to say that they too were completely taken by the charms of Crosswind reels.

Though almost all my fishing is done with a centre-pin, the Crosswind addiction has been a recurring theme in my life. You wouldn’t think there was much more to discover, but another totally extraordinary Tlustos crosswind turned up, unexpectedly. My original Tlustos had a large diameter spool, but the new discovery wasn’t just a bit bigger than that, it was absolutely enormous. The photograph shows just how wide, compared to the standard Tlustos. My investigations suggest that the reel was manufactured about thirty-five years ago, and that it was designed with the huge carp and catfish of Eastern Europe specifically in mind. Like its smaller brother, this magnificent reel is beautifully engineered, with ball-bearing races, a full bale with geared trip, and the same superb cross-wind mechanism. Is it rare? Well I should think my reel is probably the only one of its type in England, so in the rareness stakes it must rank somewhere between blue moons and cold days in hell. Fixed spool collectors may drool at their leisure. Am I going to use it? Well, most of my carping is done at short range, for which a centre-pin is really the nicest tool. But when, for some reason, I need to cast a long way I shall have no hesitation in setting the Big Tlustos to work.

The Tlustos crosswind family proved to be more extended than I’d imagined. I’ve also acquired late model crosswinds from the 1960’s and 1970’s. These modern incarnations have been rather disappointing. Certainly they’re efficient enough, and very robust, but they have little of the delightful aestheticism or engineering precision of the earlier reels. We have to hope that with the return of Czechoslovakia ( now the Czech Republic) to the Western European trading area, we’ll see a return to pre-war standards.

Anyway, with my existing range of crosswinds to call upon, I hardly felt that another one needed to come my way. But you know how it is: no matter how devoted you are, there’s a certain pleasure in that unexpected smile from across the room. Even when there is no intention to kick over the traces, the quiet understanding of compatibles offers a hint of forbidden pleasure. So it was, last week.

Allcocks Felton Crosswind, the box said. And there she was, sitting proudly on top of that brilliant red box. All black and sliver, with a hint of chrome. The spool leaned at a jaunty angle reminiscent of a Portsmouth sailor’s hat. It was brand new. Not just in ‘new condition.’ I’ve been well and truly hoodwinked by that description too many times in the past. No – it was absolutely brand spanking new. How on earth could a reel at least thirty-five years old have escaped use, and managed to stay connected with its original blood-red box?

A hand, not my own, reached from my right, and scooped up this treasure. ‘Ah! A Crosswind,’ he said. ‘I had one just like this years ago. Should never have sold it.’ There followed a long reminiscence of his lost love, and how she had landed this and that fish of blessed memory. And all the time he turned the handle with the understanding of a true lover. Nothing hurried. Nothing forced. I knew he was just like me, but at that moment this brother was my enemy. I affected disinterest, and fiddled with a half-bale Mitchell, that might just as easily have been an upside-down newspaper. ‘How much?’ asked the man.’ A figure was mooted; a figure too low to be believed. I’d lost, she was going to another. But, unbelievably, there was a vast sucking of long teeth, and grampus blowing of air. ‘Way too much,’ he said ‘you’ll have to sharpen your pencil.’ Then with a theatrically disdainful flourish, he put the reel back on its box.

It may have taken me as much as half a second to sweep her up, and to slap my money down on the table. With an alternative suitor to my right, and others arriving at full gallop from twelve counties, to barter would have been ridiculous. ‘I wanted that,’ blurted my rival. ‘We were just talking about the price.’ His words fell on ears deafened by victory’s Roman fanfares, and a newly-disinterested seller who had already folded his ten pound notes with a satisfied smile. Outraged bluster followed, but a done deal’s a done deal. My rival’s posturing bluff has served him badly. This had not been the right occasion to bludgeon-down the price of a bargain.

Devoted as I am, I’m only human. It was love at first sight, and she now sleeps in my home, to be loved when my wife is not looking. The Felton Crosswind is not just a pretty creature, she’s a grafter, and a friend, and a fishing companion for life.

Seen at a distance, known for her perfection, and won in the face of competition. Would that all affairs ended so well.

John Olliff-Cooper