In the first of a new series focused on small fly fishing gear and tackle producers, we chat to hybrid Saffer-Pom, Chris Clemes, the owner of the eponymous UK-based split cane rod brand.
Who are you, Zoolander?
My name is Chris Clemes and I have a split cane rod company called Chris Clemes Fly Rods in London. I’m a South African. I don’t tell my British clients that when they bring up rugby, but we did bring out a rod called the Springbok. I was born and bred in Cape Town and I grew up fishing the streams of the Western Cape throughout school and university, but I have lived in London for the last 13 years. When I moved to the UK, I worked for Orvis for two years before deciding to do my own thing. I mainly fish chalk streams like the Wiltshire Avon, the Kennet and the Lambourne for brown trout. My family also does an annual trip to the Zambezi, which is as good a place as any to test our rods.
What do you specialise in?
Our rods are handmade in England according to age-old traditions, but with modern varnishes, threads etc. There’s a vast amount of combined experience in our operation with one of our guys having built split-cane rods for over 40 years. Each rod takes approximately two to three months from order to delivery. While we specialise in split-cane rods, we also make carbon rods right into the saltwater sizes and we recently did that one-off glass Springbok rod in anticipation of our World Cup win. (So sue me! I’m patriotic at times). We are the only rod company I know of that allows customers to test the rods at each of our stockists, before making a purchase. Usually, it’s me meeting each and every client. It makes a huge difference to be able to talk clients through the various rod uses, actions, styles and finishes. We also sell silk fly lines, which are the perfect match with our split-cane rods. They are also very versatile and can be used in the salt and with carbon rods as well.
What should we look out for?
If you are interested in an all-in-one split-cane outfit, check out our custom made ‘The Gentleman’s Kit.’ It includes a rod and reel plus wooden rod case, reel case, rod tube of your choice, engraved dedication etc. It, or at least a voucher allowing the recipient to pimp his own present, is a very popular gift for the guy who has everything. Other things to watch out for include the Harmony 1 tip two piece, the Symphony 2 tip two piece and the Maestro fly reel which will be re-released soon. Developed with the boulder streams of the Western Cape in mind, the Springbok glass rod was originally a one-off for myself, but there’s been a lot of interest so we might put it into production.
Grab the rest of issue 19 below.