Thursday, October 16, 2008

Review: Lang's Catalog Fall 2008

Review: Lang's Catalog Fall 2008

I received the latest Lang's Auction Catalog for Fall 2008, and I have to say, it was a surreal experience. As with all of their catalogs since John & Debbie Ganung took over operations, it is a quality piece with clear photography of hundreds of items both rare and common.

But as I sit here trying to describe the feeling I had as I read through page after page, words escape me. Now, I am far from a braggart but I do know a fair bit about the history of fishing tackle. I've seen a lot of tackle in my day, and have had the pleasure of knowing a number of collectors with big collections. But in my over quarter century of collecting, I have only had two similar experiences to the one I felt as I perused this book.

The first was the inaugural Nationals. Others have written about the feeling of hitting the show floor for the first time, the dizzying experience of seeing the displays, the sheer overwhelming ecstasy of being surrounded by just so much fishing tackle. It is a moment not to be forgotten.

The second time I experienced this was reading the Lang's Auction Catalog for the Doc Herr collection. I remember having to put the book down and simply walk away because my mind could not fathom what I was seeing.

This is what I experienced the other night when paging through the latest Lang's Catalog. There have been other auctions with rarer pieces--we won't soon see a rod, for example, as scarce as the Thad Norris model that sold last year. But for me, I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer historical importance of the pieces I saw.

Take for example the fly tying collection of Helen Shaw that occupies the first forty or so pages. For those who don't know, she was one of the most important fly tiers in modern history, a woman whose work influenced two generations of fly fishermen. She was married to the famed Herman Kessler, and just having the absolute privilege to view this material--let alone have an opportunity to own it--is beyond the pale. There was just so much to love about it. The style, the grace, the color, the technique, the absolute flair.

Then, imagine my shock when the next section covered a collection of art owned by Eugene V. Connett. Some of you may not know this name, but like all publishers, I am in awe of the wonderful works of Connett's Derrydale Press. Some of these works--published in runs as low as 25--are among the most coveted sporting related books in America. To see Connett's private artifacts, like his fly chest, was a rare treat.

But I am a reel guy at heart, and for any lover of fly reels, the collection of Jerry Zebrowski will simply blow you away. To see so many incredible reels in one place, beautifully pictured, was almost too much to bear. Three sizes of the Philbrook & Paine? Are you kidding me? From vom Hofe to Talbot to Gayle to Billinghurst, this is truly the finest collection of fly reels we are ever likely to see.

Then there is the Indiana reel collection of Larry Moellman. Lots of great and unappreciated Indiana reels that simply don't come up for auction very often. But maybe my favorite section of the catalog is the Pflueger collection of the late Lou Bacigalupo. Having had the pleasure of corresponding with Lou, and of owning part of his Pflueger research materials, I was reminded of how much he loved Pflueger with every lot of his in the auction.

The last section of the catalog is filled with fishing lures from rare to common, from a late Pflueger Maybug on the card to the incredibly rare Shaffer/Pardee/Pflueger minnow. But by this time, I had surrendered. I gave up.

You see, the realization hit me that I love this stuff. All of it. I love that it was all created with the express purpose of attracting, catching, holding, or memorializing fish and fishing. I love that someone took the time to preserve it. I love that I have a beautiful catalog picturing each and every one of these little slices of fishing history. And I love that somewhere in the world, someone else is looking at this catalog and saying, "I have to have that!"

In these dark and depressing economic days, we all need this sense of wonderment more than we realize. For a couple of hours, The Lang's Catalog helped me to forget about the problems that plague us all, and allowed me to lose myself in the wonder and beauty of the form and function of the angler's tool. I guess I needed this catalog to help remind me of this.

The price of the auction catalog is $45, and it will be money well spent. You can order the catalog directly from Lang's by clicking here.

As always, we'll be following Lang's closely, and also kicking off Lang's week in the days leading up to the auction November 07 and 08.

-- Dr. Todd

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