Readers of these pages will be aware that I have handled the sale of quite a few very fine and rare MK IV carp rods. I’ve also handled or restored most of the MK IVs made by Richard Walker himself. I’m not involved in the distribution of lesser MK IVs, of which there are a great many.
Therefore, when I tell you that this MK IV is, even by my usual standards, exceptional, you will know that it’s a rod to savour for its rarity, fishing qualities and pedigree.
As you may know, Richard Walker signed a small number of B. James & Son MK IVs because the inscriptions done by them weren’t to his liking. He advised them to have transfers made. While waiting for these, B. James & Son had some rods inscribed by Walker, as above, then reverted to inscribing some themselves (some entirely, some with a mixture of hand inscription and one or two of the old gold transfers) and finally they had their new transfers and used them thereafter. This sounds like a lengthy saga. In fact, it all took place in the latter half of 1952 and was almost certainly resolved by 1953.
Other early features of B. James & Son MK IVs are agate lined nickel silver butt and tip rings of at least two distinct patterns, nickel plated high carbon steel bridge rings on very early examples, particular whipping silks and their application, silk sealants and ferrule types. There are other details, but by now you’re probably quite bored and I’m not intending to write a monograph for the aid of insomniacs.
This rod is in exceptional and wholly original condition. It has had one coat of yacht varnish over its original finish in order to seal in the goodness. It has the patina of age (it’s about seventy years old) but no real wear and tear. The split cane sections are as straight and resilient as the day they were made and the rings, handle fittings and ferrules are all in fine fettle.
The agate lined butt and tip rings, jade green silks with their layout typical of the in-house style (they were later done by outworkers), ferrules without extra spigots, and the handle shape all point to this rod being from the first batch with the new transfers applied.
The original ferrule stopper is in place and the rod is in its very tidy original bag.
This rod has the familiar and distinctive feel common to all of these early MK IVs. It’s so light in the hand, lissom yet steely, just as Walker intended.
The execution of the whippings and other details, such as the quality of the cork handle, are especially fine, even by the high standards of the other early MK IVs we’ve dealt with. I think this might be the best, although I’m not supposed to have favourites.
The blank, made for B, James & Son by Bob Southwell of Croydon, is unusually light in colour. This is a very attractive feature of the rod. A long time ago, I was told by Ted Oliver, who was apprenticed to Southwell’s firm, that well seasoned and aged bamboo required less flame treatment to drive out the sap, and therefore took on less colour. After more than thirty years of flaming bamboo, some of it very old, I can confirm this. I like to think that this rod was made from some fine vintage bamboo. Certainly, it feels very lively and young for its age.
These early MK IVs are probably the most desirable and interesting split cane rods in the UK. No other rod has focused the thoughts of connoisseurs to the same extent. This is a MK IV not to be missed.