Caught by the River

The Lost World of Mr Hardy

28th April 2009

The Lost World of Mr Hardy (trailer) from Trufflepig Films on Vimeo.

a film by Andy Heathcote & Heike Bachelier

review by Jon Berry

When I first saw the publicity for The Lost World of Mr. Hardy, at last year’s CLA Game Fair, I dismissed it as one for the collectors; an hour-and-a-half of grown men salivating over a 1912 Perfect or a ‘thirties Fortuna, and very little about fishing. Not for me. I quickly moved on to the next marquee to bother John Wilson.

Sure, I like using and being surrounded by old fishing tackle, and have more than a passing interest in the development of it, but I’m no collector. I don’t live in that rarefied world where small mortgages are exchanged for obscure Salmon reels by men who haven’t got their waders wet since Macmillan was in power, and my old gear is for practical use only. No glass cabinets, no auctions, and none of that ‘don’t touch it, don’t even look at it’ Nigel Tufnell preciousness either.

The DVD arrived last week – a review copy, with a photograph of a man actually fishing on the front. It looked a bit like A River Runs Through It, all smoky dawn mist and silhouetted fly casting, and there were no references to collecting in the blurb either. It looked promising, and I was glad to give it a second chance.

The Lost World of Mr. Hardy is a film for the angler as well as the anorak. It’s essentially the work of two men – Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier of Trufflepig Films – and tells two stories. The first is a thorough account of the rise and (relative) fall of Hardy’s as a fishing tackle manufacturer. The second, running alongside it, is a broader account of the demise of bespoke craftsmanship and emergence of far-eastern mass production.

The film uses extensive archive footage of the three brothers who founded the company and of the curmudgeonly L R Hardy who continued its ascendancy, as well as interviews with Jim Hardy and numerous long-serving employees. The older material is especially evocative, and the footage of pre-war salmon fishing outstanding. The filmmakers also interviewed modern bespoke tackle manufacturers, stepping outside the Hardy story to consider the impact of the firm upon men like Edward Barder and Chris Lythe. We get glimpses of both – the finest rod and reel makers of our age – at work.

There is unashamed nostalgia throughout – we are left in little doubt that the advent of glass and carbon and far-Eastern economies of scale have robbed the sport of some of its poetry, and that the loss of traditional skills like dressing salmon flies is evidence that the world has gone, at least partially, to the dogs. Former employees speak affectionately of the old workshop, its archaic production methods and their ‘lardy posh’ bosses, and of deliberate efforts to sabotage glass fibre to protect the reputation of split cane. Anecdotes and humour abound, lightening what could otherwise have been a depressing glimpse of a forgotten England.

The Lost World of Mr. Hardy pays little attention to the company’s early role in coarse tackle – we learn nothing of F W K Wallis’s consultancy in the inter-war years, for example – but there is much here to please the angler, collector or social historian. At a time when angling on screen is all too often trite, predictable and set to an off-the-peg heavy metal-lite soundtrack, this offering from a small independent company is very welcome, and even a little inspiring – so much so that I shall be on the look out for a sensibly-priced LRH2 in the coming weeks.

I may even go to an auction.

buy the DVD here.