Bespoke Scottish Fly Rods, Hand-built by Simba Rods
There is a joy to owning and cherishing any product made specifically for oneself and a bespoke fly rod from Simba Rods is no exception
Review by Michael Prime
The London Fly Fishing Fair returns to the Business Design Centre on March 23rd. This two day event highlights pretty much everything and anything involved in the art of fly fishing – from equipment manufacturers through to specialist travel companies. Exhibiting for the first time this year are Simba Rods.
Simba Rods was established by Simon Barnes in 2014. Simon has had a lifelong passion for fly fishing being introduced to the sport by his grandmother. At the tender age of seven Simon could be found guddling trout (the rare skill of catching trout by hand) in the burns and rivers in the Scottish Boarders. His formal instruction in serious fly fishing came from the fabulously named Commander Charles Winton Kitcat RN, who taught him the many disciplines needed for a successful life fly fishing.
To the beginner these can at first seem daunting; the entomology, fly tying, casting and river craft… but after a while they soon become second nature. Simon’s passion for fishing meant that far from following in his Father’s footsteps and becoming a GP he opted to open his own trout farm. Simon ran the farm in Comrie for over 30 years, “how could I not enjoy rearing these beautiful fish and releasing them for anglers to catch.“ He also established a beginners trout fishery that allowed youngsters to (usually) catch their first trout, indeed it was here that my own son William caught – or wrestled – his first trout to the bank side.
The farm’s other claim to fame is that Ewan MacGreggor worked there as a 17 year old before a rather more high profile vocation took his fancy.
In 2014, partly due to his frustration at the lack of individual service and the general sameness of the products he had encountered with the larger tackle manufacturers Simon started Simba Rods. Speaking with fellow anglers he swiftly realised that many felt the same way. Simon added that “with the increase in mass-made fishing rods, I felt that I would like to make rods, both for myself and others, and to take the time to make them as individual pieces that will give years of service and pleasure.”
He was quickly commissioned to produce a rod for one of his friends and the dies as now cast for his new venture. His range now includes seven trout rods of varying sizes, from 8’ to 11’ along with the Wee Loch Rod a 7 piece 9’ travel rod designed for use when exploring hill lochs and lochans. There are also five salmon rods, a saltwater and a lightweight range. Each rod is handmade by Simon in his workshop in Crieff in Perthshire.
I was kindly lent one of the Wee Loch Rods for appraisal – it comes beautifully ensconced in a Harris Tweed covered travel tube which is both sturdy and well designed to protect its contents. The seven piece rod is complemented with thistle shaped stoppers. Quite often travel or smuggler rods tend to have a rather stiff action due primarily to the amount of joints in the blank, however Simon’s creation is wonderfully smooth feeling like a traditional two or three section rod. It cast easily and would suit both experienced and novice anglers.
As the rod is made entirely to order it is possible to specify pretty much anything required – you name/initials, colour of whipping, shape of handle and so forth. There is a joy to owning and cherishing any product made specifically for oneself and a Simba rod is no exception. I can guarantee that every time the rod is used this feeling will continue.
Not wishing to rest on his rod building laurels Simon has now included a range of bags, reel cases and fly wallets all again made from Harris tweed and trimmed in leather. Both stylish, practical and well-priced.
The London Fly Fishing Fair is on the 23/24th March / https://thelondonflyfishingfair.co.uk/