When a friend of mine asked if I fancied a trip up to Redditch I obviously wondered why, but he soon let on that he had to drop a couple of reels in for servicing and I might find it interesting to tag along to where he was heading.
No names here, as he likes to keep under the radar, but I've known and fished with him for a dozen years or more, as like me he's a keen angler, and has fished in the Lea Valley area for much of his life.
I mention this as, now in his mid-sixties, he's notched up a PB list of specimen fish that would be the envy of most of us, and which he is still adding too by the way, as yet another 8lb+ chub from the Lea recently goes to proves!
But still wanting to give himself some new challenges in his angling he has over the last few years been leaving his carbon rods behind in favour of the more traditional split cane and centrepin set up. And this visit was to take a couple of these 'pins' back to a man that quite literally knows them inside out.
We were heading for Studley in Warwickshire, just a few miles South of Redditch itself, and to a workshop that produces nearly all the components for the Youngs pins we see in the shops today. They're now sold through Masterline, who aquired J W Youngs (Fishing Reels) Ltd in 2001.
On a pleasant drive up the M40 with plenty of banter, and the occasional red kite soaring overhead, we finally arrived at a small industrial area and the premises of The Mill Tackle Company.
Entering the cramped workshop, (especially at this present time as they're having a new milling machine installed), we're quickly spotted and the call goes out for the boss, a certain Garry Mills.
As we're ushered into a small office pleasantries are exchanged and I'm introduced to Garry at last. With cups of tea soon in our hands the talk about rods, reels, and fishing soon begins.
I start to get an idea of just how much knowledge this man has on the subject of traditional, or what some might call vintage tackle, as first he takes a couple of calls from clients on the phone, then helps a local who's popped in with a carrier bag containing an old centrepin and a more conventional fixed spool reel that must date back to the 1940s or 50s!
Garry is soon telling the clients about manufacturing dates, part numbers, etc, all off the top of his head, and only refers to catalogues to confirm what he already knows.
With the tea drunk my mate slips away to sort his reels out and leaves me to chat with Garry, who is soon giving me a little bit of personal history regarding his relationship with J W Young & Sons, a name synonymous with some of the great centrepin reels.
This would probably make an article on its own, which I'll leave for another time, but just to say that he was the assembly manager for J W Young & Sons before starting The Mill Tackle Co. in 2001, and which now provides a repair and restoration service for reels generally, but specialising in Allcocks and J W Young centrepins.
Garry ushers me back into the workshop and I'm given a quick run down amidst the lathes and milling machines on how a circular lump of solid aluminium (a billet) gets turned into one of these beautiful precision built pieces of engineering.
I mentioned how in the last few years there seemed to be a bit of a renaissance for the use of traditional tackle with anglers enjoying some 'old school' fishing, and getting back to basics with just a rod, reel, and some bait... no barrows, bivvies, or alarms! Garry agrees saying his order books for the coming year are up on last... which is great to hear.
My pal returns and after thanking Garry for the tour we head off towards a nearby outbuilding and meet up with Ryan Burton, who just so happens to be a builder of split cane rods!
Another interesting chat and I'm shown how what seems like a long, thick length of bamboo is expertly turned into some stunning cane rods.
From heating the cane to remove excess moisture, cutting the thin strips for each rod, heating again to straighten any kinks in the strips, then hand planing the strips to the set sizes (down to a tenth of a millimetre!), glueing the six strips together, more rubbing down, then the handle and fittings are whipped on, before the final varnishing!
It's been a great outing and my thanks go to Garry and Ryan for spending so much of their time with us, and I urge anyone who loves fishing, especially with a pin and cane, to pop in and have a chat. I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome.
For more information on The Mill Tackle Company go to www.milltackle.co.uk