Friday, September 9, 2016

I Will Miss You, Mom

After a short but ferocious battle with cancer, my mother Taeko Arai Larson peacefully passed away today, surrounded by family. She was an angler in her younger days and put up with a crazy fishing family of boys for over six decades. I can't remember ever having cross words with her. I will miss you every day, mama-san.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fishing Lures I Have Known, Vol. II: Riding the Devil's Horse: Smithwick's Legendary Lure

Today we launch the second edition of the new series Fishing Lures I Have Known, and it is available to read, download, and distribute for free! Rather than let vultures copy-and-paste the text from the blog, I've made this is a static .PDF file which everyone should be able to open and read or save right from their browser.

This edition is entitled Riding the Devil's Horse: Smithwick's Legendary Lure and it details the history of one of the great topwater fishing lures of all time. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share via Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. But please don't add/delete anything from the file if you do. You can also send people directly to this page so they can download it directly from the server, too. Whatever works for you!

Read about (or save to your device by right clicking) the Smithwick Devil's Horse by CLICKING HERE.

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, June 24, 2016

Voices from the Past: The Death of Ed. K. Tryon Jr. (1894)

The following obituary for Edward K. Tryon, Jr. comes from the September 29, 1904 issue of Iron Age magazine. It gives a brief overview of one of the most important men in fishing tackle history. It was under Ed. K. Tryon Jr.'s watch that the firm that carried his name became the largest fishing tackle wholesaler in the nation. His impact on the tackle trade cannot be overestimated; Tryon is a major reason so many tackle firms succeeded, from Hendryx to Penn. At their peak the Tryon tackle catalog was 400+ pages. It's an amazing legacy, and he appears to have been a decent human being, too.


EDWARD K. TRYON, JR., senior partner of the firm of Edward K. Tryon, Jr., & Co. of Philadelphia, died suddenly at his home at two o'clock on Monday, September 19, from appoplexy. Mr. Tryon had been ill for about two weeks, but had shown such marked improvement that his physicians had given every assurance of his speedy recovery.

Mr. Tryon was in his sixty-first year, having been born in Philadelphia April 14, 1844. He received his education in Friends schools and the Germantown Academy, but at a very early age he entered the employ of the Tryon firm, then composed of his father, Edward K. Tryon, and brother, George W. Tryon, Jr., who were established in business at 625 Market street, and also at 220 North Second street, the site of the original establishment, which was founded in 1811 (The Sign of the Golden Buffalo). In 1863 his copartnership was dissolved, the senior Tryon retiring. Edward K. Tryon, Jr.. and his brother forming a partnership under the name of Tryon Brothers, which partnership continued in existence until 1868, when George W. Tryon, Jr.. retired. The firm then changed to Edward K. Tryon, Jr., & Co., which name the copartnership retains at the present date, Edward K. Tryon, Jr., having remained the senior partner until the time of his death, the firm now occupying the premises at 10 and 12 North Sixth street and 611 Market street.

While Mr. Tryon was still a boy the family moved to his father's country place. Pittville, near Germantown. where Mr. Tryon spent his boyhood days, which property has been purchased by the United States Government and is now one of the national cemeteries. Mr. Tryon had been in active business all his life, but about ten years ago relinquished part of his business affairs, determining to devote the time thus gained to charitable and philanthropic work. At the time of his death he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Home Missionary Society of Philadelphia, a director of the Evening Home and Library Association for Boys, of which institution he was one of the founders and for a number of years its president; a member of the Board of Directors of the Women's Medical College and Hospital, a director of the Trades League of Philadelphia, a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, a member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and a trustee of the "First Unitarian Society of Philadelphia."

At the time of the battle of Antietam, when President Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 men, Mr. Tryon enlisted and served a short time with the Pennsylvania Volunteers. He Is survived by a widow and two children, and his surviving copartners in the firearms firm are Edward B. Mears, Jr., Evan G. Chandlee and Charles Z. Tryon. In the death of Edward K. Tryon, Jr., the community loses a clean man, one whose voice was always for right methods in business, and whose integrity, fidelity and honesty endeared him to his many friends, who profoundly mourn his loss.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Ben Wright Memorial Spinning Reel Report for May 2016

As many of you know, our dear friend Ben Wright passed away two weeks ago. I have no doubt he was hard at work on the Spinning Reel Report up until the very end. I've hosted his Reports here on the blog -- with the exception of about ten months -- for almost a decade. It's like an old friend. When I wasn't posting anything else I would always post Ben's column.

Seems a shame not to have it, so I put one together myself. If anyone out there wants to take over/help with the Ben Wright Memorial Spinning Reel Report, please drop me a line. 

We miss you Ben, but we won't ever forget you.


Cardinal 3 Black IB 135.50
Cardinal 44 First model IB 117.00 Seems like a good buyer’s price?
Zebco Cardinal 4 Ex 99.00
Cardinal 854 Level Drag Ex 79.50


Fin-Nor #3 in Ex $279.00 Seems like these are gaining in price of late.


Mitchell 440 Auto IB 229.50
Mitchell 300 Pro Series IB 173.00
Mitchell 308 IB 172.00
Mitchell 408 IB 163.00
Mitchell 308 UL  IB 160.00
Mitchell 308Z IB 151.80
Mitchell 909 Lefty Ex 140.50
MItchell 4896 HS IB 114.48
Mitchell 302 NM 109.50
Mitchell 306 Cut-Away Display 104.73 Hard to tell if this was original or done in home shop.
Mitchell 308 NM 90.89


Dam Quick 330 IB 119.00
Dam Quick 1202 IB 110.00 This was a pretty reel.
Dam Quick 1000 IB 88.00


Cargem 44/M in Exc  $266.00 That’s a solid price for this!
Holiday 30 239.00
Alcedo Mark IV Ex 175
Orvis 50A 144.49
Orvis 350 UL VG+ 124.23
Orvis 75A Ex 150.00 A high price on this one.
Orvis 51A VG 89.06
Zangi V3 VG+ 130.00
Linea Tubertini NM 100.00
Cargem Mignon Ex 106.99
Alcedo Micron IB 102.50


Marine Record IB 120.00
Record Spinning IB 98.87
RU Recordette IB 95.00


Ilingworth No. 3 Ca. 1914 175.00


Luxor 1st Mod. Ex 99.99
Centaure Pacific 5 VG- 100.75
Centaure 600 IB 99.99


Airex Apache IB 86.00 A very good price for this
Penn 706 Spinfisher Green Ex 160.00
Penn 706 Spinfisher Green Ex- 160.00
Penn 7500SS High Speed 99.99
Penn 9500SS High Speed Ex 125.00
Penn Spinfisher 716 UL IB 114.48
Luxor A2 Half Bail Ex 125.00
Pflueger Pelican IB 95.00
Can City 350 IB 94.00


Shimano Baitrunner 6500B Ex 98.88
Shimano Sustain 6000FB Ex 124.88
Daiwa Gold GS-9 IB 120.00
Browning Mitchell 908 UL Ex 113.50

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fishing Lures I Have Known, Vol. I: The Palsa -- The Unoriginal Finnish Minnow

Today we are excited to launch a new regular series on Fishing for History. I am calling it Fishing Lures I Have Known, and it is available to read, download, and distribute for free! Rather than let vultures copy-and-paste the text from the blog, I've made this is a static .PDF file which everyone should be able to read, open, and save right from their browser.

This edition is entitled The Palsa -- The Unoriginal Finnish Minnow and it covers the history of one of my favorite obscure imported fishing lures. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share via Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. But please don't add/delete anything from the file if you do. You can also send people directly to this page so they can download it directly from the server, too. Whatever works for you!

Read about (or save to your device by right clicking) the Palsa Minnow by CLICKING HERE.

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lang's ORCA Reel Auction Catalog is Now Live!

Cool news for you reel hounds out there! Lang's is running a special time auction of 57 lots of nothing but reels, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit ORCA! How cool is that? We get a shot at some killer reels and ORCA gets some sheckels thrown in for good measure. Damn fine idea, if you ask me!

You can check out the auction (and learned what a timed auction is) by CLICKING HERE.

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Short History of the Rubber Worm

While doing some research on a project dealing with Texas history, I ran across this really great article on Nick Creme, inventor of the modern plastic worm, which had the accompanying video below. It's an easy read and a reminder that even something we don't consider very collectible -- rubber worms -- have a great history behind them.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Mystery of Toledo's Buddy Reel Company

Researching tackle companies is tricky under the best of circumstances. Mostly, it’s an exercise in futility. This is especially true when one considers a company like the Buddy Reel Company of Toledo, Ohio, whose existence (as far as I can tell) comes down to a single advertisement run in a single month.

The ad in question, pictured below, can be found in two slightly different styles. The top one is from the August 1922 issue of Popular Mechanics and the bottom one is from the August 1922 Elks Magazine.

These ads were run in a variety of different magazines, including (but not limited to) Hunter-Trader-Trapper and American Legion Weekly, among others.

What’s interesting, and strange, about this advertising campaign is that it was run mostly in large circulation national magazines not specifically aimed at anglers. It was a very ambitious plan that put the Buddy Reel Company in front of millions of potential buyers.

The reel itself is a mystery. It certainly looks like a simple nickle-over-brass Montague or Shakespeare trade reel, and the price of $2.65 was right in line with that style of trade reel.

The ad raises many, many questions. Were these reels marked “Buddy” or “Buddy Reel Company”? Who made them? Why did the firm disappear so quickly, as the only known ads were run in August 1922, when the fishing season was mostly over? Who was behind the Buddy Reel Company? It’s slightly depressing we may never have answers to these questions.

There are hundreds if not thousands of companies like the Buddy Reel Company. We may be able to find information on 10% of them, but that doesn’t keep us from trying to find information on them.

So who has information on the Buddy Reel Company?

— Dr. Todd

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ben Wright's Spinning Reel Report for April 2016

APRIL 2016


Featured Reels:
Abu Garcia (444) pearl blue e+wb @ 158.05

Cargem 44/M majestic gold color slight wear @ 518.85

Centaure Pacific 5-500 nib @ 226.50

Dam-Quick 330 E+WB @ 115.00

Heddon spin pal 240 mpu nib @ 199.50

J C Higgins 306-39990 by Bretton nib @ 77.49

Mitchell rare first version paint wear @1495.00 NOTE "RNM"

 more mitchell:
300DL slight wear w/box @ 1594.00
508 combo both exc+ box top missing @ 555.37
510 special ewb @ 577.76

Penn 716 slight wear w/box @ 235.00

Aimsa slight wear @ 256.00
Sagarra blue color some wear @ 466.00
Viper paint wear @ 490.00

Esquire ewb @ 274.06
Record recordette 21 aqua nib @ 288.00

A few reel deals:
Crack 300 mpu exc @ 18.00
Quick Hobby exc @ 12.00
shakespeare 2065 nib @ 17.50
606 w/black side plate exc @ 9.95
707 slight wear @ 6.76

More Reels:
222 first version some wear @ 188.88
505 scf nib @ 38.60
suveran s4000m exc+ @ 271.18

Apache exc @ 31.75
vic green some wear on cup @66.00

Arjon sweden all cf
500 nib @ 48.66
555 e+wb @ 81.83
600 nib @ 31.33
666 exc @ 33.18

Dam Quick:
2011 minor wear w/box @ 89.00

English Hardy altex no 1 mk V slight wear @200.00

Crack 100 fb nib @ 70.50
300 mpu some wear w/box @ 104.00
Dopper exc @ 305.06
Fraser saumon mer slight wear @ 120.00

German Atlantis nib @ 82.31

Heddon 190 cf spin cast nib @ 54.88

Alcedo micron curved leg nib @ 126.49
    "           "       Deluxe ewb @ 220.50
    "      2001 nib @ 226.50
Cargem 66 sea megnum gray needs cleaning @ 500.00
 Holliday 40 slight wear @ 202.50
      "         60 exct but small chip in foot @ 227.50

Aqua-spin x15 nib @ 25.00
Satelite x17 nib @ 25.00

Mitchell, garcia
300 6th version exc w/leather case @ 178.28
304 s/n 1163470 minor wear @ 99.99
304 cut-a-way exc @ 157.50
306 cut-a-way exc @ 104.72
508 combo both exc @350.00
510 combo both exc @ 241.50

Pflueger 1000 nib @ 40.00

705 second version slight wear w/box @ 150.00
710 green ewb @ 85.00
712 ewb @ 88.00
720 second version nib @ 75.00

Shakespeare sigma 2400-034 exc+ w/rough box @ 81.00

record 600 cf nib @ 80.00
700 scf e+wb @ 52.07

55 cf ewb @53.80
1970 ewb @ 225.00
cardinal 3 second version ewb @ 143.50

LAST--- A SEAMASTER with some scratches sold @ 2850.00
Note there was also one listed at Crossroads Angling Auction 4/24
with some wear on the foot.
email them to find out if it sold and for how much

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review of Victor R. Johnson's Fiberglass Fly Rods, 20th Anniversary Edition

Last week I received a copy of a highly anticipated book in the mail from my friend Vic Johnson, the fiberglass fly rod guru. It was his 20th Anniversary edition of Fiberglass Fly Rods: The Evolution of the Modern Fly Rod from Bamboo to Graphite (EP Press, 2016: 8.5” x 11” Black-and-White illustrations, 105 Pages, $29.95).

The original edition was coauthored with his father, Vic Johnson Sr., and was an absolute revelation. As someone who grew up with fiberglass, it spurred me to start seeking out some of the great makers and to start collecting glass fly rods. His book coincided with (and helped spur) a resurgence in glass fly rods, a movement that is still going strong today.

This isn’t a rewrite as much as it is a supplement, or a companion volume, to the original (which is also available from the author). Much new information is contained in its pages; this includes profiles of many modern makers of glass fly rods from Tycoon Tackle to Larry Kenney, as well as profiles of some great names in the field including Gadabout Gaddis and Dr. Arthur Howald.

As someone who has his own glass fly rod book in the works, I appreciate all of Vic’s attention to detail. Vic has done the collecting world a great service in updating his book, and this volume will take its place alongside the original as “must haves” for anyone interested in fly fishing, fly rods, of fishing history. It’s really a fantastic book and well worth adding to your library.

The book can be ordered directly from the author by emailing him at

You can visit his web site by Clicking Here.

— Dr. Todd

Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: West Coast Vintage Salmon Lures, Volume 3 by Russell Christianson

NFLCC member and fishing and tackle historian Russell R. Christianson is back at it again, this time with the third and final volume in his excellent three-volume set on West Coast Salmon lures. West Coast Vintage Salmon Lures, Volume 3: Post-WWII Plugs, Bait Holders, and Coho Flies (8.5” x 11”, 240 pages, softcover: $24.95 list price) is a fitting culmination to a decades-long research project.

As with all of Russell’s books, this one does not disappoint. It is filled with details you just can’t find anywhere else. This volume includes sections on such collectible lures as Mac's Squid, Carr's, Schroeder's, Zimmy, Krilich Killer, Spin-in Herry, Spin-in Minny, Salmon King, Witch Doctor, Aron and many others. Over 30 companies including Les Davis, Pop Geer, Zak, Tradewinds, Al Lundemo, Art Ullis, Big Al's, Vandes, Graham, Boyle's and Bentz are covered.

The aforementioned tackle makers are illustrated well by the more than 500 photos (a couple even in color!) and biographical details where possible. One of the things about his books I like so much is running across complete surprises; for me in this volume, that was the section on West Coast polar bear streamer flies popularly known as Coho flies. I’ve always been interested in their history, and it’s detailed very nicely in this chapter. Someone should write a book on West Coast commercial fly tiers (maybe Russell will embark on that project next!).

This volume, as well as the first two volumes in the set, is available from Amazon, the author’s eBay store or by visiting his Salmon Fishing History web site.

If you don't have this three volume set, you are really missing out. You won’t be disappointed.

—Dr. Todd

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Alonzo Fowler Mechanical Spring Snap Hook

I get a lot of emails about old tackle, but usually it’s neat stuff handed down by a father to a son or daughter, and isn’t particularly rare (although it is priceless to the owner, as it should be). Occasionally, though, I’ll get something sent to me that stops my heart.

The A.H. Fowler Mechanical Spring Snap Hook (a name I have given it) pictured below is one of them.

I’ve written extensively about Dr. Alonzo H. Fowler of Ithaca, New York — here is a two part article that is excerpted from a chapter I did on him in my book Forgotten Fly Rods. Part One is here and Part Two is here.

So imagine my shock when a collector sent in the following photographs of a lure they discovered at an auction. They thought it was marked “A.H. Foster” but it is certainly marked “A.H. Fowler.” I knew I had seen it somewhere before, so I went back through my files, and sure enough — there it was!

Of course, the photos came from Joe Stagnitti (who else?). Honestly, I don’t know anyone who has helped out more collectors, both beginning and advanced, then Stag has. He’s been just the best and I, like so many of his friends and admirers, are incredibly happy for him for his engagement and the new direction his life is taking him.

Stag sent me the following pictures in October 2008. Yes, nearly a decade ago. He noted he’s seen the Kidney blade before (so have I) but never the mechanical bait (neither have I, until this email came in).

Note that the one sent in has three hooks and wings on the head, as opposed to the two hook variation of Stag’s bait. This would mean that Fowler was either working to perfect the bait, or more likely, was offering the bait in two styles. The 3-Hook Fowler Mechanical Spring Snap Hook in the picture sent to me is approximately 4” long.

The Fowler Mechanical Spring Snap Hook is a really great example of a very inventive time in American tackle history, the 1870s. I think this lure pre-dates Fowler’s partnership with Samuel Tisdel, which dated from 1878. The likely range for its production is 1873-1878 which makes it a very, very early lure indeed.

I have not located a patent for this lure, although there may be one (the late Tim Mierzwa had chronicled hundreds of unfound mechanical hook patents and I’ve not had the chance to look through his files for this model). I do know it is a beautiful example of the lure maker’s art, and the owner(s) of this bait should consider themselves very lucky indeed.

So you never know what the morning email is going to bring; it might even bring a Fowler Mechanical Spring Snap Hook!

— Dr. Todd

P.S. If you haven’t already thanked Joe Stagnitti for everything he’s done for us as a hobby, and as individuals, put that at the top of your To Do list.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ben Wright's Spinning Reel Report for March 2016

MARCH 2016



  Royal plus 4 some wear w/box @250.00
  Cardinal 55 salesman sample clear plastic side plate with turnable 
display stand exc+ @704.50

Bronson /TT uni-spin 63 rod/reel combo exc+w/case @ 177.50

Daiwa GS-1 nib @ 116.47

Dam Quick 550 nib @ 112.51

Holliday 30 first version zangi nib @ 282.96

Martin 27 ewb @ 91.00

Mitchell 498 nib @ 225.00

Orvis 100SS nib @ 350.00

Penn 716 slight wear w/box @ 162.50

Pflueger Pelican 1020 nib @ 115.63

Sea Martin (AU) mk11 nib @ 248.50

Zebco cardinal 3 second version nib @ 237.50

More Reels-----------
abu matic 170 cf nib @ 96.00
222 first version wear on cup/leg/foot @ 188.88
 33 s/n 760200 exc @ 228.50
33CDL original nib @ 454.00

GS-o mini-mite slight wear @ 98.05

J W Young Ambidex six nib @ 58.00

  no 3 exc+w/vinyl case @226.98
  no 3   " w/box @ 228.48

Lasso exc @ 95.86
Mepps super meca copper color slight wear @ 152.50

Alcedo Micron curved leg e+wb @ 140.00
Cargem Lancer 23 some wear @ 129.50
  Holliday 40 first version exc @ 125.50
  Atom gold wear @ 95.00

South Bend 750A nib @ 34.99
Crown Deluxe mitchell 300 copy fb nib @ 29.99

by Martin Capital 200 ewb @ 78.00

Ocean city 310 blue/chrome cup exc @ 28.85

420 Deluxe blue cf nib @ 129.00
700 early w/green crank some wear @ 69.00
750SS ewb @ 75.00

kinda rare Schulz w/odd bail slight wear @ 99.99

Swedish Victory 400 slight wear @ 377.78

cardinal 3 first version wear on cup @ 142.50
     "        "    second version some wear w/box @ 154.50
large sterling 7050 slight wear @ 31.00

more and more parts listed what a pain !!!
spring is just about here !!!!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The One That Got Away: The Heddon River Runt Spook in Grey Mouse

First of all, my plan going forward is to blog occasionally (once a week or so) and then slowly move up from there. For those who didn’t know, I stopped blogging when I found two (!) people had been stealing content and selling it to aggregation sites, making a huge chunk of change on the backs and labor of me and my friends. Combined with some personal issues, I just didn’t have the heart to do it any more.

Anyway, I will try and post something when I can and when I feel like it.

Today, I am going to write about a heart breaking episode in my collecting history: the one that got away. I ran across the emails from this incident recently (I used to copy emails off telnet and Eudora to text files, which is where I found these).

The story begins in the fall of 1999. I was on fellowship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working with the great minds at NCSA (the legendary National Center for Supercomputing Applications) by day, and spending my nights digging through the stacks at the UIUC library hunting down ads for fishing tackle companies.

The internet was in its infancy, just on the cusp of exploding. I decided to try out a new web site I’d heard about, where people were auctioning off fishing lures in real time. The site was called eBay, and it had gone public one year before, and by now was just starting to grow.

My first purchases on eBay came in early fall of 1999. My brother had started collecting River Runt Spooks back in the early 1990s (Tom Jacomet and Seth Winger were the only other two collecting them that we knew about for years). This was back when eBay was much more open; you could watch who else was bidding on auctions, for example, and you could contact sellers directly.

I listed some duplicate River Runt Spooks on eBay — the first things I ever sold on the site — and at the end of it I put an ad that read “If you have any River Runt spooks you would like identified or evaluated please email me at” This was my university address.

I received a couple of emails from, as it turns out, from NFLCC members. I even ended up buying a really, really tough River Runt Spook Sinker in Green Crackleback from a great guy in Texas as a result of these leads.

And then on October 5, 1999 I got an email from a guy named Mike.

Color me intrigued! Especially after I saw the attached images he sent, in all their low resolution glory.

Holy schnikeys! That’s an honest-to-God River Runt Spook Floater in grey mouse!
Unbelievable. At the time, I had never seen one before but wasn’t overly excited. So here is my reply email:

Anxiously, I checked my email via dial-in internet (14.4 modem) until I got this response:

I was super excited and penned an email asking how much he wanted, and then waited.

And waited. And waited some more.

After about three days, I emailed him again, asking if he got my earlier note. No answer. I waited a few more days and sent another email. Radio silence.

Then, I probably made the worst mistake. I sent a panicked email and offered him $75. This was more than I'd paid for any River Runt Spook before (the Green Crackleback sinker cost me $50 just a month before and that was the most expensive one at that time).

No response. What would you do? The emails didn’t bounce back, so I assume he saw them.

Interestingly, it’s only after a couple more years, when I inquired at every show, that I began to realize just how rare this bait was. In fact, in 25 years of collecting River Runt Spooks it’s still the only one I’ve ever seen.

An interesting sidebar is that about every six months for the next five or so years, I sent an email to this poor guy’s address. I never once got a response. One day, the email came back as undeliverable mail, and the lure was gone forever.

I still think of this as the one that got away.

Anyone ever seen another one? And what is the one that got away for you???

— Dr. Todd