Simon Barnes is a bespoke fishing rod maker based in Strathearn, near Crieff. You will find him in his workshop making rods or, if it’s the trout season, he’ll be out on a loch somewhere in the Scottish hills with his two black Labs, developing and testing his products.

Without a doubt, fishing is Simon’s default setting. He was first introduced to it at the age of seven by his grandmother. She taught him how to guddle trout and then upstream worming in the burns in the Borders and Northumberland. A retired Naval Commander and close family friend, taught him to fish and imprinted the importance of being organised and stealthy, and also to be aware of the environment and enjoy the wildlife surrounding the lochs and rivers. The Commander’s friend, John Miller, showed him how to tie flies resulting in Simon catching his first trout on his own fly.

Growing up, Simon distanced himself from following in his father’s footsteps to become a GP; instead, his love of trout, angling and the countryside led him into trout farming. He farmed trout in Scotland for over 30 years and introduced hundreds of beginners to the sport. During the summer holidays, a 17-year old Ewan MacGregor worked for Simon at the trout farm and fishery in Comrie before he went off to Drama school. Simon said, ‘he was a nice lad back then and still is today as he’ll always stop for a chat if he sees me.’ The Fishery was a popular spot for anglers and won numerous awards with Simon at the helm.

In 2014, Simon created Simba rods. Given his lifelong involvement with trout fishing, rod making was a natural progression for him. As an angler, he felt limited by rod choices and disappointed at the lack of customer service from manufacturers. The market for fishing rods is a busy place with companies around the world producing rods of all combinations. He spoke to other anglers and found many felt the same. He said, “with the increase in mass-made fishing rods, I felt that I would like to make rods, both for myself and others, and to take the time to make them as individual pieces that will give years of service and pleasure.”

“The care, passion and enthusiasm that took me through years of trout farming and dealing with fisheries and anglers will, I believe, serve me well in creating fly rods of quality.” Simon credits his mother for instilling in him a love of well-made things, “as the quality always shines through.”

One of Simba’s best sellers is the ‘wee loch rod’. A highly versatile rod and popular with anglers as far away as New Zealand. It’s ideal for the hill lochs and can be tucked into a rucksack as you head off into the hills with a map and a compass. Early April, John Dix, a Simba customer was fishing a small loch on Jura when he caught a10lb trout on the ‘wee loch rod’. Simon said. “It took a small black pennell and, at least ten minutes for him to feel he had some sort of control over it. He couldn't believe such a big fish on such a small fly and, according to his wife, he didn’t stop grinning for weeks!”

Simon has fished all over for trout and salmon, from tiny hill lochs in the Highlands to the large Irish Lough Corrib. “I love the Scourie Hotel in Sutherland; it is a traditional fishing hotel with no televisions, open fires, great beers and fabby food. There is a board system with a Boardmaster, and I was boardmaster for fifteen years.”

The Boardmaster is a hotel guest who has a good knowledge of all the hotel fishing and able to offer advice to new guests and allocate the fishing. “It is a great place to meet up with the friends each year and my ‘wee loch rod’ was conceived with Scourie in mind. One of my favourite places to fish is the Char loch. I love it because it takes three hours to walk in round Ben Arkle and Foineaven. It's a stunning location, and so beautiful it's almost a spiritual place. The water is so so clear, and the trout are simply beautiful, well, that’s if you can catch one! If I'm sitting in the dentist's chair, this is where I go.”

Simon’s constant fishing companions are his two Labradors.“The dogs always come with me. They love the walk and will spot fish rising and inspect any catch. If I am having a snooze in the heather, which is just the best, the dogs soon let me know if fish rise or anyone approaches.”

Simba offers a custom-made range of trout, salmon and saltwater rods. All the rods are handmade by Simon and are personalised to suit the angler’s requirements with an option of being sign-written with your name or a message. “As an angler, I wanted to make rods for other anglers that are productive and look good, and they retain their Scottish birth rights.”

The rods are fitted with traditional cork handles and, unique Scottish-themed ferrule stoppers, and supplied in handmade rod bags and Harris Tweed covered rod tubes. All rods are covered by a two-year warranty and take approximately two to three weeks to turnaround and are delivered worldwide.

Simon also does his bit to support the Pink Ribbon Foundation and offers a pink threaded rod and donates £20 for each one sold.

Simba rods are all custom-made to order and are not on sale in angling outlets. Simon is expanding his products and adding fishing bags to his range.

If you would like to see the range of bespoke rods you can find Simon on the Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Stand at the Scottish Game Fair, Scone, on June 30, July 1-2 and on his own stand at Moy Field Sports Fair, August 4-5.