Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Voices from the Past: William C. Harris' Missing Rods

Voices from the Past: William C. Harris' Missing Rods

What was the tackle closet like of some of the great Victorian anglers like Seth Green, Reuben Wood, or Fred Mather? This question has crossed my mind on occasion but, unless a collection from one of these titans came to auction and was inventoried, we are not likely to know the kind (and of what make) of rods, reels, and lures owned by men who made it their business of knowing.

That is, with one exception: William Harris, publisher of the esteemed organ The American Angler, whose misfortune is to our benefit in the 21st century. Writing in 1889, Harris sadly described the theft of his retinue of fishing rods:

A Good Haul

A few nights ago sneak thieves broke into the office of The American Angler and stole the greater portion of the editor's outfit of rods, consisting of:

1 Abbey & Imbrie's "best" split bamboo fly-rod, 10 oz.
1 Leonard split bamboo fly-rod, 7 oz.
1 Divine split bamboo fly-rod, 6 oz.
1 Divine split bamboo fly-rod, 7 1/2 oz.
1 Nicholl's black bass bait-rod, 8 1/2 oz.
2 Horton's steel rods, bait and fly.
1 Chubb tarpon rod.
1 Natural bamboo striped bass rod.

As the thieves appropriated nothing but the rods, it is to be hoped that they will put them to a legitimate use, and that the spirit of contemplation, born of a day on the stream, will lay bare the evil of their ways and bring the rods straight back to No. 10 Warren Street. In the meantime oh! reprobates, handle the split bamboos with tenderness!

While this may not have been all of Harris' personal rods, they were sufficiently missed to be able to sense the pain in the words he penned. For a man who could have owned any rod in the world, his personal choices are telling: an A&I (Landman?) fly rod, a Leonard/Mills fly rod, a B.F. Nicholls bass rod, a Thos. Chubb Tarpon rod, an unnamed striper rod, and a pair of Horton steel rods. Interestingly, the only maker that Harris owned and used two fly rods from was Fred Divine--a nice anecdote for anyone who might deride Divine as a lesser light.

It is unknown whether Harris' rods were returned, but it is unlikely. But at least we got a nice glimpse into the personal fishing kit of a master angler!

-- Dr. Todd

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