Amaz­ing spi­der rod re­vealed

Spi­der-web rod and WW1 fish­ing hero re­vealed on hit BBC show A

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME - MARK PECK Se­nior re­porter

ROD built by an an­gler whose fish­ing skills saved his life in the First World War has ap­peared on the BBC tele­vi­sion se­ries the An­tiques Road­show.

The 17ft ‘spi­der-web rod’, which uses me­chan­ics sim­i­lar to those of a crane to sup­port the ex­tra length that rev­o­lu­tionised fish­ing at longer dis­tances, was built be­fore the First World War by John Henry Hirst. It was val­ued at £3,000 dur­ing the lat­est episode of the BBC1 se­ries.

But the spi­der-web rod was just one part of the in­cred­i­ble story of a man who was so good at fish­ing that he was pulled out of the trenches in 1915 to help feed his com­rades.

The York­shire­man, who died in 1963 aged 75, kept a highly de­tailed fish­ing di­ary be­tween 1901 and 1948 that tells the in­cred­i­ble tale of how he took fish­ing tackle to the Western Front and braved ma­chine gun fire to fish the rivers, canals and ponds of the Somme and around Ypres in Bel­gium in or­der to col­lect food.

The rod was pre­sented to ex­perts on the show by cur­rent owner Vic­tor Bonutto, who has has been col­lect­ing and valu­ing vin­tage tackle for nearly 30 years and de­cided to buy it af­ter hear­ing about it from Hirst’s daugh­ter.

He told An­gling Times: “John was an in­cred­i­bly brave man and a fan­tas­tic an­gler, hence the rea­son he was charged with catch­ing fish to feed the troops.

“I had no idea the rod ex­isted un­til Hirst’s daugh­ter

“Hirst was so good he would give his fel­low com­peti­tors a head start at the be­gin­ning of a match”

ap­proached me at an an­gling fair and told me the whole story, and it just blew me away. He patented its de­sign and won count­less events on his re­turn. fom the war”

Hirst also ran a suc­cess­ful lo­cal news­pa­per and wrote an­gling re­ports, while his glit­ter­ing match an­gling ca­reer saw him cap­tain the fa­mous Brad­ford team in the 1930s and win medals fish­ing in the All Eng­land Na­tion­als.

He was even quoted as say­ing that he was so good he would let his fel­low com­peti­tors have a head start at the be­gin­ning of matches.

The rod, that was par­tially made from bam­boo, had been sit­ting in his daugh­ter’s at­tic for 60 years un­til Vic­tor and the fam­ily made con­tact.

The Welsh­man then set to work on restor­ing it: “The rod was in re­ally poor con­di­tion but it was well made,” he said.

“It wasn’t just an or­di­nary rod with bits stuck on it, was ac­tu­ally de­signed and made from scratch – it’s an amaz­ing piece of equip­ment, which I be­lieve John wanted to com­mer­cialise for mass pro­duc­tion, hence the rea­son for the patent he took out on the de­sign.”

An­tiques Road­show’s Adam Schoon, who val­ued both the rod and two stuffed carp which John caught dur­ing the war, was equally amazed at the story. Dur­ing the broad­cast he said: “It’s not just the unique­ness and age of the items that make them in­cred­i­ble, it is the story be­hind it that’s so fas­ci­nat­ing.”

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