Fishing and using fishing tackle is not only a hobby. Anyone who is a fisherman will tell you not only of the relaxation, but also of the excitement when there is a catch. Whether sitting on a river bank or in a boat, with a thermos by his side. In addition, watching one’s line and the thrill when one feels the tug on it as a fish swallows the bait.
Origins of fishing tackle
There is evidence of angling in China as long ago as 3000 BC. Egyptologist Percy Newberg discovered an early tomb painting dated around 2000 BC in the Nile Valley in 1893. The painting showed a young boy with a stick and line attached in the act of catching a fish. Dame Juliana Berners completed her illustrated ‘Treatise of Fysshynge with an Angle’ in 1496. Izaak Walton wrote perhaps the most famous book on old fishing tackle, ‘The Compleat Angler’ which appeared in 1653.
In it he describes angling as ‘my recreation, calm and quiet’. His fishing tackle was almost identical to that of the Egyptian angler described above. In other words, fishing has existed for thousands of years. The British fihing tackle industry was at its most inventive from the mid nineteenth century to the 1930s.
Later fishing rods
Some of the split-cane fishing rods, strong but flexible, are still to be found in antique shops and markets. They are beautiful articles in themselves. Easy to dismantle into sections, they can be kept in cloth carriers together with other equipment On the whole, rods bearing the maker’s name, such as Hardy Bros. of England, are the most desirable. There are also dozens of other models of fishing rods in demand, many dating in fact from the 1930s.
You may also like: Inkwells and the art of writing.
Fishing reels and old fishing tackle
Reels are also beautiful objects to the eye of the collector, and equally sought after. Mahogany and brass reels in particular, but also of simple brass. In addition, reels with their own leather cases; brass and ebonite; walnut; rosewood and brass; to name but a few. Earlier models from the nineteenth century such a brass reel with an ivory handle, can cost over $3,000. Apart from fly reels, nowadays there are all kinds of reel available. Such as salt water reels, casting reels and spinning reels, big game reels. Nearly all made of some kind of metal and having many different shapes.
In the first century AD the Greeks used to twist the hair from a horse’s tail to make a line. Some horses must have had rather bare tails… Horsehair lines were still in use in the nineteenth century. By varying the number of hairs used, the angler could control the strength of the line. By the end of the eighteenth century silk was used instead of horsehair. Its only drawback was that it cost more. Being strong and much cheaper, cotton lines were becoming popular for freshwater fishing. Whereas flax lines were used for saltwater fishing. In the 1930s nylon lines began to be advertised, known as ‘synthetical’. They eventually replaced silk and cotton lines altogether.
You may also like: Sorrento ware, travelling souvenirs
Fishing flies and lures
Some of the flies are veritable works of art, made laboriously by hand of feathers, silk and fur. They were then tied to the hook. Many were carefully kept in folding leather pouches or in aluminium pocket fly boxes. There were, of course, a great many other types of artificial bait, depending on the type of fish to be caught. In particular, fish-shaped lures complete with hooks.
The keen fisherman also possessed many accessories, such as a ‘creel’ or fishing basket. Then a gaff with hooked end used to stab a large fish and lift it into the boat. Plus a landing net, and cudgels with lead weights at the tip to ‘brain’ the fish. In addition, they had simple tins to hold bait such as live worms. Particularly in the UK, a large fisherman’s umbrella might be needed. The list is endless. There was also a tradition of having spectacular catches embalmed and displayed in glass cases.
Needless to say, there are many books and magazines on old fishing tackle. A lot date from the early twentieth century and more are still being written today. First editions of books are much sought after. Paintings, snuff boxes bearing fishing scenes and other fishing memorabilia are much in demand.
Prices of old fishing tackle
Prices for rare lures can reach sky-high prices. One fish-shaped lure, the only one in existence, was sold at auction for $100,000. Many reels in good condition can reach an asking price of over $800. While a three tier fly tin complete with sea trout flies could cost $250. A King George V carved wood and painted model of a salmon dated 1929 is estimated at $7,000. The item is accompanied by a photograph of the fisherman.
You may also like: Umbrellas, Ancient Greek loved them
Other techniques of using tackle
Fishermen in Guilin in southern China are trying to keep a 1000 year old fishing tackle tradition alive. They are equipped only with a reed raft, a kerosene lamp and a net. They catch fish by training cormorants to dive into the water and bring a fish back to the raft. The fish is usually a large carp, while the birds feed on smaller fish. They are trained while still a chick and can become almost like a pet.
Apart from the piece on China, here we have concentrated mostly on fishing and tackle in the UK. Many other countries have their own types of fishing tackle, such as that used for deep sea fishing. Indeed, many different types of tackle exist, including that used for catching tuna and other large fish. Hopefully the pursuit of whales, an endangered species, will soon come to an end.