As a historian of fish hooks, I can empathize with the work of my friend John Etchieson, who is the premier historian of fishing line in the world. Let's face it. No modern fisherman has ever gone out without fishing line, which is why almost every tackle catalog carried a full spread of fishing lines. It is the one thing above all else that every angler needed on a regular basis.
Yet it is also one of those areas of fishing history of which almost nothing is known. The major line makers--Hall, Gladding, U.S. Line, etc.--are mostly mysteries to us, despite having background in some cases that span nearly two centuries. John Etchieson has dedicated thousands, and this is not an understatement, thousands of hours to rectifying the paucity of information on fishing line and its manufacture, uses, and sales, and in doing so has captured for us a missing piece of the puzzle that is American fishing history.
A Few Lines About Lines is Etchieson's new weekly blog, and already in its fourth installment, promises to be a significant contribution to our knowledge. Early installments include histories of Ashaway (and its often misunderstood Swastika-brand lines that long predated the rise of the Nazi party), the U.S. Line Company, R.J. Hillinger's "Bull Frog" lines, and the man who was Heddon's Chief Dowagiac.
All of these articles are exceptionally well researched and written pieces, complete with numerous illustrations. They are the beginnings of what I promise to be a flood of information, almost none of it ever seen before in print.
The blog is actually a teaser for John's forthcoming book on the history of American fishing lines, a work that promises to be a landmark volume in American fishing history. It is updated every weekend, something I greatly appreciate as after blogging all week I look forward to reading someone else's research over the weekend. Bookmark and check "A Few Lines About Lines" regularly, and if you ever have any questions about fishing line or line spools, drop John a note. If he doesn't have the answer, likely no one else does either. And next time you come across some old fishing line, give it the appreciation it deserves.
-- Dr. Todd