Did you know the manufacture of your fishing rod provides a lifeline to one of the oldest industries in the world?
That’s because if, like many fly fishermen, you go for the tried and tested feel of an old-school cork handle, not only are you keeping an age old tradition alive you’re also safeguarding the cork oak forests of Southern Europe and North Africa.
Think we’re over exaggerating? The cork business really needs your help…
The wonderful world of cork
The cork oak forests of Portugal, Spain, Italy and North Africa are one of the most ecologically diverse habitats on the planet. And the cork industry which harvests the bark, is highly sustainable, in fact it’s argued that ongoing stewardship of the forests is a vital part of the maintenance of the ecosystem. Cork bark is harvested by hand using short handled axes, and as long as it’s done correctly, the trees can be harvested every nine or ten years and will still live to be over 200 years old.
Cork is an incredible product. As any self respecting fisherman will know, one of the advantages of a cork handled fishing rod is that it repels water. It’s a rot resistant material that is not only elastic, and therefore comfortable to use, it also stays dry and therefore light, an important consideration in maintaining the balance of the rod. The magic ingredient is a substance called Suberin; it’s what gives cork its waxy rubbery feel and its natural function in the cork tree is to prevent moisture loss in the hot dry climates in which it grows.
Screwing up the cork trade
Wine has been stoppered with corks as far back as anyone can remember, even the wine ampules uncovered at Pompeii were sealed with cork bungs. But modern manufacturing now threatens an end to the age old tradition; we’re talking plastic corks and screw cap wine bottles. To put it bluntly, they’re screwing the cork trade.
Until plastic and metal corks and caps entered the market, the New York Times reports that around 75% of the world’s cork went for wine bottle corks, but in the last decade experts estimate the cork industry has lost a fifth of its market share to screw caps. That shortfall in orders is a hard blow for an industry that supports rural communities in some of the poorest parts of Europe, and in the cork forests, all is not well.
As farmers begin to neglect the cork trees, there’s a knock-on effect that goes beyond economic to threaten rare habitats. That’s why it’s so important for anglers to continue to support the trade through their choice of fishing rod, and tipple.
It’s not just your fishing rod and wine…
Why stop at an elegant champagne cork handle for your rod? Cork is a highly versatile product that’s used for everything from notice boards, to parts of the heat shield of space shuttles. Naturally fire retardant, it makes a fantastic flooring alternative to lino or laminates that’s hard wearing, a natural sound insulator, easy to clean and looks fantastic.
And for fly fishing enthusiasts, what better excuse for shelling out on that lovely new fly rod than protecting the planet? Tempted? here are a few of ours favourites.