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Mark Tunley Custom Built Harrison Rods

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Staff member

Two Custom Built Chimeras From Mark Tunley​

Last season, I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with Bob Gill. As many people know, Bob is THE tackle tart of the Barbel world. He had previously built a pair of Harrison Chimera specialist rods, and I was interested to know more.

At the time, I was using the progressive actioned Insight rods, and when handling Bobs Chimeras, noticed a slight difference in the action. They felt lighter, and more responsive. I remember remarking that they felt as if the would bend forever. Normally this wouldn't be a good feature for a Barbel rod, but rather than being simply a through action, it was very powerful, and despite the flex the blank kept it's shape and didn't feel like it was about to fold up.

With this is mind I contacted a number of rod builders with a view to obtaining a Chimera. One builder who is not particularly well known throughout the Barbel scene is Mark Tunley. Based in the south of the country, Mark like many builders originally catered for the game and carp boys. He has since branched out into the specialist rod scene, and builds on the very successful Harrison blanks. Anyone who has owned a Harrison will appreciate the absolute quality of the blank produced by Dr. Stephen Harrison and his team. I was therefore very happy to commission Mark to build me a rod, based on the Chimera Specialist No.2.

Mark prefers to grade his rods by the action of the blank rather than their test curve. It is one reason why I chose the Chimera Specialist, as despite it being listed as a medium action, it is a very capable Barbel tamer. I have always opted for slightly stiffer butts on Barbel rods, which meant they would be of the progressive variety. The power of the Chimera butt has to be experienced to be believed though, and despite the medium action tag, it out performs any of my previous rods.

I initially requested that Mark should build me one rod, but after it arrived I couldn't help but order another. The first rod was built on the Chimera spec No.2 blank. My personal choice was to have a duplon covered Fuji IPS reel seat, blending into cork. Mark suggested incorporating a duplon grip on the end of the butt, which would then allow a polished stainless steel button to complete the handle design.


Part of the Custom Handle​

The blank was to be of dark grey cloth, and the whippings were to be in black only. (I prefer understated finishings). A mix of Fuji Hardlon rings, all with three legs for strength were carefully chosen and spaced onto the correct side of the blank.

I sought Marks advice regarding all manner of things in relation to the design and build of the rod, and I was extremely pleased that I had done so when the rod arrived a few weeks later. I'm sure I must have driven Mark mad with the constant calls and emails, but he fielded my barrage of questions with the confidence and friendliness of a craftsman who loves his work.

The rod itself is a work of art, and I nearly wept when it became dirty on it's first outing! It is twelve feet in length, with a test curve of 1&3/4lbs and a medium action, which could be described as the difference between a through and a progressive action. It is a marvellous rod to play Barbel on, particularly in close and at the net. With a properly set clutch and 10lb mono, I rarely give line to fish these days as the blank soaks up the lunges and dives of angry Barbel, acting like the spring that it should. I have renewed confidence when playing Barbel these days as a result.

Although the majority of my Barbelling takes place on the Wye and Lower Severn, I like to have a quivertip rod for very low clear conditions and for smaller rivers such as the Teme and Lugg. So it was with complete confidence that I asked mark to build me a quivertip version of the rod he had just completed.

Again he couldn't have been more helpful, and despite not having built one before, and not having a tip version available, he promised it would be done.

A blank was produced at the Harrison workshop incorporating a 3oz quivertip, and Mark begun work on a build based on my first Chimera. I then requested he change the handle design, by asking for the duplon at the reel seat to be shortened and shaped, along with the cork to form a hand grip. Again, despite not having built a handle of this design before, the finished article was even better than I expected. Regardless of my poor attempts to communicate the mental picture I had in my head, Mark had obviously read my mind and deciphered the muddled thoughts residing there! The finish and fittings of the first rod were replicated on the quivertip version, with the exception of the white painted quiver, and the sizing, spacing and quantity of three legged Fuji Hardlon rings to suit the blank.


Both my rods are exceptional examples of craftsmanship. They are touched by the hand of a true professional, who is very approachable, eager to please and completely reliable. I have recommended Mark Tunley to another Barbel angler whom I count as a friend. I had no hesitation in doing so, as I knew he would not be disappointed if he too spent his hard-earned cash on one of Marks rods. He wasn't and is very pleased with his rod and the service he received.

There are very many Barbel rods on the market now, but only a small proportion are hand built by genuine professionals rather than being mass produced, with the inevitable flaws and problems that result. Mark will build you a custom designed rod, which will be completely unique to you for £150, which is considerably less than some mass produced Barbel rods, and a price that is not to be sniffed at, when you consider the absolute quality of service also.

Mark has impressed me, and although I have spent the best part of £300 on his products, he has accepted my invitation for a day's Barbelling on the Wye. I hope I can provide him with a day to remember, and show him exactly how well his rods perform.

For more Information go to www.marktunley.com, or contact Mark on 0790 525 6747 or email: mark@marktunley.com n excellent headlight.

BFW rating:

Custom built Chimera Specialist No.2 rod: 10/10
Custom Build Service: 10/10

Paul Thompson (Tommo)
September 2004
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