I’ve been after a decent stalking rod for some time now. Actually, a number of years come to think of it. For a long time I’d been hoping to get one made from the same Sportex blank as my 12ft 2lb TC rods, but the blank in question was pretty scarce ten years ago, and now they are like proverbial rocking horse doings!
At the time I was session-fishing in the main, so when I did go stalking I’d simply use one of my 12ft Sportex rods, but in the last year or so nearly all of my fishing has consisted of short stalking sessions, and I’ve really felt the need for a proper stalking rod to allow me to crawl through bushes, get underneath overhanging trees and so on. I toyed with the idea of making one myself, but my ‘fishy’ time either at home or on the bank seems to get less and less with every passing moment so I eventually decided against it.
I started looking at those available from various manufacturers a couple of months ago, but the problem with a rod is that it’s a very personal thing and most shops did not hold any in stock to have a play with, so I was reduced to searching out those which friends had that I could have a look at on the bank. I wanted something quite versatile but with enough poke to handle big fish at close quarters. This kind of fishing has been my mainstay of late and requires something quite special to handle an upper-twenty pound carp hooked inches from the bank and going berserk in two feet of water - power is not the word!
A few months ago a friend showed me a Wychwood Extricator that he’d recently purchased and although relatively cheap it looked just the job. The six foot rod had a tiny blank in terms of thickness but looked to have the poke required with a test curve of 2.25lb. I knew Wychwood also did a 9ft version called the Jungle which had a thicker blank and a 2.75lb test curve but I was not sure which would be best suited to my needs. As such I decided to give them a call to try and get a bit more information about the rods before deciding which one to get. To get their phone number at all was a big enough job, but after a few forum regulars helped me track down a number for Leeda (who own Wychwood) I was eventually able to make contact. Unfortunately my request for help fell on deaf ears. I found the right contact but the person never got back to me despite several phone calls and messages left, and eventually, after getting a curt rebuff from a lady on the switchboard I decided to give it up as a bad job - pretty poor customer service I thought so I decided to take my money elsewhere. Must do better Leeda!
After trying various other rods, I eventually got my hands on a Greys 7ft Stalker and was immediately impressed. It just oozed quality and with an unconditional lifetime guarantee there was nothing to worry about on the durability front. Having previously been undecided between a 6ft or 9ft rod, this 7ft rod seemed perfect for my needs - longer than a 6ft rod to give me that extra little casting ability, yet shorter than a 9ft rod to allow me to get into any awkward positions. With all avenues seemingly covered I went ahead and purchased one.
The Grays 7ft Stalker
I was over the moon when the rod arrived; it was everything I had hoped for and certainly looked the part; anti-flash matt grey carbon finish, Fuji reel seats, hook keeper, premium-grade cork handle and SIC rings. Of course the true test of any rod is when there is a decent fish attached to the other end, and as such, I couldn’t wait to use it during our week on Birch Grove which was just a few days away.
Twinned with a small Baitrunner and 12lb line, the rod felt really light and easy to use, and it was not long before I was off looking for opportunities with a tub of worms! It was a couple of days in when I finally got my chance. I’d been feeding a few spots and watching a few fish around the top end but they all seemed to be passing over water too deep and they had no appetite for surface baits. I eventually came across a nice common though it was difficult to gauge its size as most of it was obscured between huge lily pads.
The cork handle gives a nice ‘traditional’ feel
The plan was simple, to try and flick a free lined worm just over the pad, then draw it up to the top right in front of the carp’s head. The rod is so easy to use, it’s like an extension of your arm and judging the weight to put behind underarm flicks or casts is a breeze, and having had a few prior attempts earlier in the day to familiarise my self with the rod, I managed to get the flick bang on the money first time. The two worms pulled around the shank of the hook just plopped over the edge and dangled temptingly in front of the fish. Not wanting to make it look too unnatural I eased the bait just up to the edge of the leaf and waited.
The fish took an eternity to take the bait. It was a very cool customer and moved below, forwards and back again, gently wafting it’s fins to manoeuvre around and inspect the bait, but as is the case on so many occasions, the simplicity of the worm eventually proved its downfall and it moved up to the pad softly taking in the bait. It then ever so slowly moved off to its left and as soon as the line began to move off the pad leaf I lifted in to the fish.
The perfect length to get under trees and through bushes!
I fully expected all hell to break loose at that very second, but it was as if the fish could not quite comprehend that it had been hooked. It just sat there looking at me for a moment, and had I been of a quicker mind, I could have scooped it up right there and then! A good deal of its confusion was no doubt do the location in which it had been hooked - a spot I doubt many anglers had even considered but due to the agility and short length of the rod I was able to present a bait with consummate ease with no risk whatsoever to fish or tackle.
Once the fish woke to the undeniable fact it was well and truly hooked, all hell did indeed break loose. Now, finally, I would be able to see if the rod lived up to expectations. Happily I can report that it did - and then some! The fish took me all over the shop. Its initial run took me through some pads and then it dived down into deeper water. On a longer rod I would have had to apply serious side strain to try and slow its run but with the 7ft Stalker it was a breeze. Greys describe it as “the bully-boy for close-quarter big fish hunting. Total stopping power but without that stiffness that results in pulled hooks” and that’s certainly a sentiment I would wholeheartedly agree with. I found that I only had to apply moderate strain to the rod to get the fish to behave in the way I wanted it to, even though by normal standards it was going mental beneath me. It kept lunging and diving deep, yet each time I was able to slow its run almost immediately and in a ‘yo-yo’ fashion, pull it straight back up to the top again. The rod itself looked beautiful during the fight with a complete through action putting a fantastic curve right along the blank, but at no time did I feel I was reaching it’s limits, or that things were about to get a bit hairy - just the opposite in fact - I was surprised at just how little ‘beef’ I had to give it, even though, as I say, the fish was far from amiable throughout.
With such an agile rod able to apply so much power yet in a smooth delivery, I felt supremely confident throughout. There was only ever going to be one victor, and so it was. After a hearty battle I was able to slip my stalking net under a very long and lean common which had done all it could to evade capture. On the scales the fish tipped past the twenty pound mark, and although the final weight was somewhat insignificant, the bronzed lump of perfection seemed ample reward for my first attempt with the rod.
Result! My first fish on the Greys Stalker
There’s nothing better, and no thrill more exhilarating, than hooking a big fish at close quarters - the battles are amongst the fiercest you will ever experience and the memories will last forever. As such, it’s essential you are equipped with the right equipment. I just wish I’d have got one of these rods years ago when I first started thinking about it - I could have saved myself a lot of time, and looking back, could doubtless have put a few more fish on the bank! Needless to say I’m already planning its use on a few other target waters where standard rods have prevented me placing a bait in certain areas - I’ll keep you posted!
The Greys 7ft Stalker comes as a two piece rod and retails at £59.99. You can also get a two piece 9ft version at £79.99 or a 9ft with a 3ft extension (12ft in total) for when that extra length is needed, which comes in four pieces at £99.99.
For more details visit: www.greysfishing.com