Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Voices from the Past: Fishing Rods from 1898

The following commentary I thought described the "fishing bug" that many of us catch perfectly. The fact that it was first published in The New York Sun in January 1898 goes to show you that things have not changed much in the past 110 years.


The Varied Assortment That the Devoted Angler May Accumulate

A man devoted to angling might have from 20 to 40 fishing rods. There are many men that own as many as 40, for fresh water fishing only, which is here alone considered. At the outset of his fishing career a man accumulates rods with experience. Here is what might happen in the case of a beginner, to whom the cost of rods was not a matter of importance.

He would start, say, with black bass, and buy a split bamboo rod weighing seven ounces and 10 feet in length. Out fishing he would meet a man using a six ounce rod, which seemed to answer tbe purpose just as well, and very soon he buys a six ounce rod himself. After awhile he buys a bass minnow casting rod, with light tackle, a rod weighing four or five ounces and measuring 7 feet in length. He looks forward to the day when he can attach a live minnow to his hook and cast it 100 or 125 feet and not kill the minnow in the cast. Before he has reached this degree of proficiency, however, he is likely to begin on trout fly rods. And of these, before very long, he will accumulate eight or ten, ranging in weight from three to eight ounces.

He will have rods for different kinds of fishing, for fishing from the bank and for fishing whiile wading, and rods adapted to the character of the waters fished, as to width of stream and strength of current and so on, and rods adapted to special regions and the fishes found in them. Then the angler begins buying salmon rods. He is likely to buy first a rod 17 feet in length and weighing 30 to 32 ounces. He finds that too heavy and buys a rod 15 1/2 feet long and weighing 24 ounces. Later still he buy a salmon rod 14 1/2 feet in length and weighing 19 ounces.

All the rods the angler has bought so far are of split bamboo. Now he goes in for a collection. He had begun to be especially interested in rods when he was buying trout rods, and now he is more interested than ever. He goes in for novelties. He buys, for instance, a green heart salmon rod. Betore the introduction of the split bamboo rod, which is now for fresh water fishing displacing all tbe rods of wood, including bethabarra and lancewood, the green heart was the ideal salmon rod, and it is still used. Green heart rods were originally turned out, as they are still, by local makers in Scotland and Ireland. The most celebrated of green heart rods, one of Scotch and the other of Irish make, are known to all salmon fishermen. The angler buys, it may be, two green heart rods of different lengths, one of 15 1/4 feet and one of 17 feet. He may prefer to use his more modern spilt bamboo rods, but he loves the green heart.

Then the angler provides himself with grilse rods of two lengths, 17 and 13 1/2 feet, weighing 15 and 16 1/2 ounces. By this time he has perhaps 15 or 20 rods, may be more, and gradually he adds to his collection. Most anglers buy new rods every two or three seasons; some buy two or three rode in a season. The constant tendency of anglers as they become more expert is toward light rods.

There are men who are lovers of fine fishing rods and buy them though they may never use them. They may be noted anglers who are prevented by circumstances from fishing, but, on seeing fine rods buy them just because they like them. They may be men who never fish. There is, for instance, a man in this city who never fishes, though he belongs to a fishing club and has 30 fishing rods of the finest description, a perfect outfit. He never shoots, but be has a fine colllection of guns. He buys these things because they are beautiful and perfect and because they are of interest to friends who come to see him.

Of rods used in fresh water angling, bass and trout fly rods of split bamboo cost $1 to $75 each. The rod for $75 would owe its cost not to expensive mountings, but to the material and workmanship, which would be of the best. There are rods with costly mountings that are sold at far higher prices, but these are made usually for presentation. Salmon rods of split bamboo sell at $30 to $55 and grilse rods for less than salmon rods.

-- Dr. Todd

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