Keith Floyd's Bernard Venables LandingNet
The № 34 Bernard Venables net made in 1996, fitted with a sterling silver panel bearing Keith Floyd's signature.
We were going downstream on the ebb tide to Tuckenhay. There were twelve of us in the canoe and as we neared the ancient village, something caught my eye on the right bank. A fox crept stealthily into to a pool of water left behind a waterlogged tree trunk at the river’s edge. It dipped suddenly out of sight and a moment later, reappeared with a live flounder in its mouth. We watched in silence as it ate its catch. The soft light of autumn, the sea trout that leapt close to the left bank, the turning leaves, the village by the creek that could have been painted by Pieter Breugel the Elder- quietly we paddled to the landing stage by the Maltster’s Arms.
Someone mentioned Keith Floyd, the recently departed former owner.
‘Eddie knows him!’ Tina said. There was an uncomfortable silence, broken by ‘How?’ from a fellow paddler. I told my companions, locals all, that I knew Keith Floyd, had made fishing tackle for him and that sometimes he came to fish in the river by my workshop. ‘Did you get paid?’ someone asked suspiciously. I did, in cash, on the nail, I told them.
I had been, I was assured, very lucky. One way or another, everyone else aboard had been less fortunate. Keith Floyd had left in a hurry and the pub had become known as Floyd’s Folly. He was, by his own admission, not very good with money.
In the 1980s a group of us used to like a cider pub called the Coronation Tap, which was close to BBC Bristol. Sometimes, when we were making our way home, we’d see a well dressed, handsome man having a quiet smoke outside his restaurant. There was clearly something extraordinary about him. The late producer/director David Pritchard, who used to dine in this restaurant, felt the same way. They made their first programme together aboard a channel trawler in 1985. Cooking, and cookery on television, was suddenly interesting and fun. He inspired and encouraged a generation to take up cooking. Thousands of people who now make a good living from cookery on television owe their careers to him.
And Keith Floyd liked to fish. We are honoured to offer for sale his landing net, which is a particularly good example of its kind. It’s in exceptionally fine condition. I’m not always able to maintain my usual air of modesty and diffidence, so you’ll forgive me when I claim that the Bernard Venables landing net is the best ever made. This unique example is a lovely memento for lovers of cooking, good food, wine and fishing.
This net is an exceptional example in every way. Just above the point where one’s hand grips the handle is a hallmarked sterling silver panel, faultless fitted with no ill effects to the bamboo. It is engraved with Keith Floyd’s signature. So perfect is it (see the identical signature in his book A Feast of Floyd) that I wonder if he sat beside his silversmith and engraved it himself. Not so far-fetched, this, because Granny Barder was a silversmith and she once let my brother and me engrave our names on some silver, using a tool rather like a dentist’s drill, and it wasn’t too difficult.
The ash frame is made from really first class timber, the naval bronze Y-shaped block is particularly attractive and the mesh is one of the super early ones that we dyed in Cuprinol (the proper stuff that they stopped making years ago). They never fade or rot. This is as good as hand-made landing nets get, and in fact, it’s better than any net you’ll find today, regardless of how they are made, or from which materials. If you want to land fish successfully while looking stylish and classy, this is the net for you!
Designed and built at the request of the late Bernard Venables, this pear-shaped net has a 6′ circumference, measuring 26″ front-to-back and 21″ side-to-side. All but the largest fish can be landed comfortably in it. I used mine to land a one-time Kennet record barbel of 16 lbs 10 oz, but it was quite a snug fit. For chub, tench, perch and other less colossal fish, this net is the perfect size.
The hand tied knotless (and fully legal) mesh has loops at the top through which the frame passes. There is no seam at the bottom of the mesh, so it expands to accommodate the fish. The 1″ mesh size allows the free passage of water, thus reducing drag.
The best straight-grained American white ash is used for the frame, which has a superb varnish finish and is inscribed in Indian ink The № 34 Bernard Venables Net. E. Barder Rod Co ~ makers MCMXCVI.
The specially cast naval bronze Y-shaped block is secured to the frame with flush-fitting stainless steel screws.
The 6′ detachable handle is made from seasoned, tempered and bored-out Tonkin bamboo. It is straightened, beautifully mottled, and impeccably varnished. There are brass fittings at each end, with a rubber button fitted to the butt. The handle is inscribed The № 34 Venables net. E. Barder Rod Co. ’96. The handle comes in a fitted bag with a hanging loop.
We don’t make nets at the moment and they don’t come up for sale very often. We pioneered the revival of this type of net at Bernard’s suggestion, and with his full cooperation. They remain the original and best. They are practical, beautiful and good for a lifetime’s use.