Beginner’s Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 2 – History and Buying a Pole

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Beginner’s Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 2 – History and Buying a Pole. Hello all fishing lovers, Today’s post is “Beginner’s Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 2 – History and Buying a Pole”. i hope that this post is helpful for you, all fishing lovers.

Beginner’s Guide To Pole Fishing, Part 2 – History and Buying a Pole

I think it is worthwhile taking a few lines to tell the story of pole fishing. I have covered it in part in my blog on pole memories. But worth repeating here for newcomers.
Some will try and tell you that pole fishing started in the UK after WW2 and was introduced from the continent. That is certainly not true. London anglers were using poles on the Lee & Thames a long time before that. The pole was used around London probably at least 150 years ago. Shorter than today’s carbon monsters they were made of bamboo. Probably no more than five or six metres in length. But at this length still longer than a tree branch or rod. And in case it is forgotten were called roach poles. It is only recently the term “roach” has been dropped as modern materials have allowed the pole to be used for much larger species.

A fine example of a bamboo roach pole
Of course no elastic originally so the line was tied to a thin piece of bamboo at the tip. They would have been take apart and probably each section unmounted to land a fish unless they were fished to hand. Original lines would have been braided silk or hair from a horse’s tail.
The pole then evolved when fibreglass became available at a reasonable price. One major change was that many fibreglass poles were telescopic. The maximum length was still around seven metres. I think the envelope was pushed with some eight metre poles but at that length they were far too flexible and heavy to be worthwhile. Flick tips were still the order of the day and this really limited the size of fish you would target. I have seen tench and chub landed on such poles but playing them was very much squeaky bum time if they were of any size.
Eventually someone had the idea of using a short length of elastic attached to the end of the pole. I have to admit that I am not sure when someone thought of using an internal elastic through a hollow tip section. Whether this pre-dates carbon poles becoming available or not I don’t know.
Then carbon fibre became commercially available and once prices began to fall carbon poles started to replace fibreglass, take apart became standard as manufacturers realised the potential for making longer poles and worked out how to reduce the weight while retaining strength and rigidity.
The one thing that I have to admit did come from the continent was bristle topped pole floats. Until then we pretty much used standard waggler and stick floats all be it in smaller sizes sometimes. I fished with masters of the art of using a stick float, on a pole, in running water but anchored with either heavy shot or a drilled bullet.
 I can still recall walking along the length of an evening match on the river Lee in north London and seeing my first bristle topped pole float in use. Immediately the advantage of such a float was obvious to me. The following weekend I bought my first couple.  These may even have been them, but I doubt it.
Two very old Ivan Marks branded pole floats. 
I guess from the late 70s, early 80s. 
At the base is a twisted wire loop like a long float eye instead of a solid stem,
the line was held to the body by the white float rubber. 
And if anyone wonders, yes I am old enough to have fished with a bamboo pole, fibreglass and now carbon. I was probably one of the first to fish a pole on the Trent in the mid 70s (framed with a catch of roach & small chub). I still have my fibreglass poles as well as all the carbon poles I have owned.  Most of the carbon ones are still used occasionally.
Buying A First Pole
Once you decide to buy a pole you will realise what a wide choice you have. I cannot tell you what to buy, at the end of the day that has to be personal choice based on your style of fishing and budget. I will tell you what not to buy – initially. 

I will try and keep any advice on poles as generic as I can. They are, after all, used on all types of venue – canals, rivers, natural and commercial lakes. And used for all species. Though today I guess the majority are manufactured for, sold for and used for commercial carp fishing.
Do not go out and buy a top of the range “flagship” pole before you have learned how to fish the pole, any pole. Buying the best straight away will not guarantee you instant success and will certainly not guarantee you even like this style of fishing.  I guarantee you will break a section before you master the beast.
And don’t get hung up on thinking you NEED 16 metres of pole to catch fish. Just as many are caught within ten metres of the bank as further out. Fishing closer in for a while will teach you how to control the float, feed, cope with windy days and learn how to ship smoothly and safely. Before the advent of carbon fibre poles I was quite happy catching fish with seven metre fibreglass.
For a good guide on buying a pole have a read of Gaz Malman’s post on
My advice would be to initially buy a comparatively cheap margin or short pole. These are available for between £50 and around £250.
  • Being stronger you are less likely to break a section while learning. More expensive poles will be lighter but more fragile.

  • You will not be tempted to try and fish at 16 metres at your first attempt

  • When you do buy THE pole you will have the margin pole for that very purpose – fishing the margins (if you fish commercial lakes) or just as a spare

  • If you decide pole fishing is not for you then you have not wasted hundreds or thousands of pounds

  • As you take time to improve your pole fishing skills then you will have had time to learn what poles are out there and which will suit you and your fishing

  • Any short pole will be useable for fishing any type of venue and any type or size of fish. The size of elastic and matching lines will adapt the pole to various uses. And while you can successfully fish light lines and elastics in a strong pole the reverse is not a good idea.
Margin poles tend to be no more than 10 – 11 metres. Once you are comfortable handling this length of pole you will be ready to try something longer.

I might suggest you get along to a tackle shop where they have poles made up in a “pole alley”, but as a novice you really won’t know what you are looking for or feeling when trying poles out.

The best advice I think I can give is to buy a margin or short pole bearing one of the recognised brand names. They are unlikely to be selling something that is totally unusable. For myself I have a Maver Abyss X Margin pole, £50 and 9.5 metres. Bought purely on instinct that with the Maver name it would be OK. Was it? Well, a few months after buying it I bought a second so I had a complete set of spares and/or a spare, strong pole to lend to anyone who wanted to try pole fishing plus another couple of topkits.  A great piece of kit for the money. Pole fishing does not have to cost the earth.

Spend what you are comfortable spending on a branch of the sport you may not enjoy. Remember to keep some cash back for the fittings needed. To rig out three topkits and a cupping kit you will need in the region of £30. And a perfectly good pole roller can be had for around £20, one is enough for a short pole.  Then there are pole floats, float tubing, winders, anchors line and hooks, possibly small shot (8-13).  Easily another £30-50.  So I guess you need to budget another £100 more or less on top of the cost of the pole.

I would suggest that as a minimum you want three topkits plus a cupping kit. Known as the spares package, the number of topkits will influence the price a fair bit. If haggling over the price it should be one of the things you ask for, either extra kits or a cupping kit, even the cups thrown in.  Any fewer topkits and you will have a day when you regret not being able to switch rigs quickly.
Personally I would always buy new but there are plenty of people who have picked up second hand bargains from sites like eBay. My advice would be to ask the opinion of an experienced pole angler before bidding on a second hand pole. 
When you do decide to go for a longer, more expensive pole then you will have more idea what you are looking for. I would also highly recommend joining an angling forum such as and asking the advice of experienced members. But remember that this is one subject where one man’s meat is another’s poison. People do have their favourite brands, but can they tell you why? Read people’s opinions of poles but look at the overall responses, take note of an individual’s response but don’t base your decision on one review.
A question worth asking is whether the manufacturer makes spare sections after the pole itself has been replaced with a new model. Some companies stop production of spares immediately, others carry on for up to five years.  Though with a thriving second hand market it may be possible to pick up spare sections, or even a complete pole if necessary at a fraction of new costs.  Even if you don’t need them immediately they can be put away for that day when – crack!

In the glossary, that I hope you have read, I list a number of pole accessories.  Most, if not all are not essential.  The one that comes closest to being essential is a roller.  All accessories should make using a pole easier, if not then they are useless.  I can still recall the first time I used a roller.  Previously I had just used my rod bag to slide the pole (10 metres at that time) backwards.  The difference was a revelation.  It makes everything easier, smoother and quicker, even at lengths less than ten metres.

Rollers can cost from around £20 to over £100.  I have three, none of which cost more than £20.  At times when fishing a pole at 14.5 metres I have been known to use all three.  But I will explain the circumstances in a later post when I will talk about the correct positioning of your roller(s).

Pole socks, tulip rests, over & under rests all have their uses but are not essential to get fishing with a pole.  These are things to add as you get more experience, develop your own style and methods and realise that you need the particular piece of kit.  Or convince yourself that you do.


Pole Bought, What Now?
Next time – elastication (split over two parts as the subject can be complex) 

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