The legendary Hardy CC de France rod
The most famous of all the split bamboo rods built by Hardy Bros. must be the CC de France – half the fascination lying in its oddball name, although even if it had a more conventional moniker it would have to rank as one of the all time classic production bamboo rods.
The CC de France was marketed in seven and eight foot lengths for half a century between 1911 and 1961 and proved to be very popular, but nowadays few owners realise that the rod was built for and named after a competition whose vice chairman was none other than Louis Bouglé. The casting club was started by Prince Pierre Arenberg, who organised a spinning competition in the Bois de Boulogne in the spring of 1909 which was well attended by fishermen from all over Europe.
From the organisers’ point of view, the competition was a tremendous success, apart from the fact that the English won most of the events. So the committee met again to investigate the possibility of turning their idea into a regular competition and the result was the Casting Club de France, which was constituted on 14th January 1910. The board consisted of the Prince, Louise Bouglé and Paul Caillard as vice presidents and a glittering array of French casting talent – the first major win by the committee being to gain recognition as the sole authority for casting records in France. The organization gave away medals like the one above and even printed a year book, so all of the records established have been preserved.
The club very rapidly attracted a tremendous following, with the fly casting tournament proving just as popular as the spinning event and it wasn’t long before anglers like A.P. Decantelle and J.J Hardy became regular competitors, Hardy winning his section of the 1910 competition with a 25 yard cast using a 7 foot CC de France rod built which had been built specially for the accuracy event. Some idea of the technical problems involved in winning this challenge can be judged from the fact that the hoops into which the fly had to be cast had been carefully sited under overhanging branches on a stream, hence the need for a short, but very accurate and stiff rod. The example that J.J used - shown on the left - has been preserved in the Hardy museum at Alnwick and it weighs barely three ounces.
The club carried on hosting events for many years, with Bouglé being offered the chairmanship on the premature death of the Prince, although he did not take it up. Born in Orleans in 1864, Bouglé spent a great deal of time in Britain and the US and wrote several articles for English language magazines. His major passion was cycling, but fishing ran it a close second and he had contributed a huge deal to French fishing by the time he passed away in 1924. He is probably best remembered as the man who brought American style spin casting with a multiplying reel and a single handed rod to France, which had a dramatic effect on the distances which could be achieved. The British competitors responded to the new technique by using threadline Illingworth type reels and a battle royal ensued over the years on the bait casting side, with the competitions running for many years after Bouglé’s death and members of the Hardy team regularly winning events right up until the eve of the Second World War.
Astonishing though it is to relate, a century after it first went into production, Hardy still make the Casting Club de France, so it is possible to own a little piece of history. Hardy USA have even revived a casting championship with bamboo rods, so who knows? One day you might be able to test your skills against the legendary J.J. and that extraordinary 25 yard cast.
If you want to learn more about the amazing Hardy Brothers, read Jim Hardy's book, The House the Hardy Brothers Built, which is available from the Medlar Press.