Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Mystery of Abbey & Imbrie's Jubilee Rod

The Mystery of Abbey & Imbrie's Jubilee Rod

Noted fly rod historian Tom Kerr posted some interesting and important information about a great Abbey & Imbrie presentation rod over on Clark's Classic Fly Rod Forum that is well worth reading, as is all of Tom's research.

The problem is, I don't believe the 1876 A&I Philadelphia Exposition rod referenced was the same one displayed at the 1893 Columbian World's Fair in Chicago. What evidence do I have to support this theory? Well, first hand actually. Emerson Hough, the famed Chicago novelist and dedicated outdoor writer for Forest & Stream wrote many detailed briefs from the heart of expo, and knew intimately all of the men involved. He filed this fascinating brief in Forest & Stream on 25 May 1893, right before the exposition opening:

Mr. G.C. Hemenway, representing the well-known house of Abbey & Imbrie, was the other afternoon looking with interest at the work of installing the Abbey & Imbrie display of fine rods, the queen bee of which is a magnificent production known as the ‘Jubilee Rod.’ The rod is one of five made by Abbey & Imbrie for display in the Queen’s jubilee exposition in London. The other four were sold in London at $2,000 each, and brought the American house $75,000 trade besides. This rod now in Chicago is the equal of the others in all respects. It is a perfectly-made split-bamboo, faultless and ornamental to an unsurpassable degree. Even the ferrule plugs are exquisitely engraved. The precious metals only are used in the trimmings and fittings, the grip being of pure gold, richly and deeply chased. The butt of the rod contains a cut topaz the size of a pigeon egg and worth alone $1,200.

The "Queen's Jubilee" was Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee held 20 and 21 June 1887 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her coronation. Yet Tom Kerr's awesome poster, printed (I believe) in the 1920s to celebrate A&I own centenary, references what certainly sounds like the Queen's Jubilee rod and NOT the 1876 Centennial version. After all, when this brief was published, the Queen's Jubilee was only six year prior, and although memories are short, that is a very short time to forget when a rod you are in charge of was made.

A catalog cut from the 1928 A&I catalog of the rod and reel.

My belief is that the 1893 Chicago World's Fair A&I rod is the same pictured in the poster and erroneously called the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition rod. It is one of five made and if you want one, you have an 80% better chance of finding it in Britain than you do here in America. By the way, a $2000 rod in 1887 is equivalent to a $45,000 rod today. And it may seem like a lot of work to have made up such rods, but the blurb mentions it resulted in $75,000 in trade, or about $1.7 million in today's terms. Not a bad move by A&I!

As for what ever happened to the original 1876 Philadelphia Exposition rod...that is anyone's guess.

-- Dr. Todd

BREAKING NEWS: CCBC's Gordon A. Dills Passes


Dan Basore reports on Joe's Message Board that Gordon A. Dills, former officer of the Creek Chub Bait Company of Garrett, Indiana, died at the age of 85 in Williamsport, Indiana. He was the grandson of CCBC founder Henry Dills and the son of Gordon S. Dills. His obituary is reprinted here:

Gordon A. Dills, 85, of 1405 Mansel Ave. Williamsport died Thursday July 24, 2008 at the Williamsport Hospital.
He was born in Garrett, Indiana on May 10, 1923 the son of Gordon S. and Eleanor Lee Dills. Gordon was a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport.

He was the Administrator of the Williamsport Home for 24 yrs. Gordon was a life long Mason and an avid life long fisherman He was a member of the Wheel Inn in Ralston,Pa. Gordon was a Navy veteran of the Second World War.

His first wife Marilyn J Dills preceded him in death.

He is survived by his second wife the former Eleanor L.(Confer) Knight. He and Eleanor would have celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary this coming September 11, 2008.

He is survived by his children Steven S.(Kathy) Dills of Richmond Virginia, Linda (Joseph) Alverson of West Olive, Michigan, Sally Lewis of Sugarland, Texas. Step sons Michael W. Knight of Montoursville and Matthew W. Knight of Williamsport. Gordon is also survived by 10 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren He is survived by a sister Anita Rouff of Branson, Missouri and a brother Richard S. Dills of Garrett, Indiana.

He was preceded in death by a daughter Susan K. Dills.

A Funeral Mass will be Celebrated in Christ Episcopal Church 426 Mulberry Street in Williamsport on Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Rev. Thomas Reeder will officiate. The burial services will be held at the convenience of the family and memorial contributions may be made to Christ Episcopal Church 426 Mulberry Street Williamsport.

Crouse Funeral home is handling the arrangements.

Due to Dan's work, Gordon was presented with an Honorary Membership in the NFLCC. Another link to the golden age of tackle is now missing. Sad news indeed.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dr. Todd's Mailbag, 30 July 2008

Dr. Todd's Mailbag

Its been a while since I answered questions, and I've gotten quite a few. Here is this month's edition of the Mailbag.


I have an old bambo fly rod. It is a Noris Kamerad with the number 214 on it. I would like to find out about the history and the worth of this rod. Everything I find on the computer is about Thaddeus Norris. Could you please give me information about how I can track down info on my rod. (Note: The rod name is spelled with one "r" in Noris and Thaddeus Norris' name is with 2 "rs".

Jerry K.

After some digging around, and with the help of the folks over at Clark's, it appears that Noris was a German company (the "Kamerad" should have been a bit of a dead give away). Noris was in fact purchased by Shakespeare in 1965 and used as its European branch for retailing tackle. I own a couple of snelled hook packets with the Shakespeare/Noris branding on them. Apparently the rods are solidly built but don't bring high prices in America. More information can be found in the Clark's board thread by clicking here.


Dear Dr. Larson,

I'm wondering if you can assist me in identifying the approx. production date of a South Bend No.29 . The rod was my late father in law rod which was hung on the wall in his wood shop.

It is a 2/1 , 7 1/2', w  D  or HCH markings. It has the comficient handle w/ grooves, however, the reel seat was some type of plastic which shriveled. Unfortunately the finish  was heavily alligatored; however, the  ferrules are in excellent condition--still has the nice pop which taken apart. All of the labels are intact, the main label is oval(yellow/red) w/ the name South Bend Bait Co., quality tackle. The rod was recently restored w/ all of the labeling intact. It's a  very nice rod.

Any information would be appreciated.


F. Chin

Dear Mr. Chin,

You own a very cool rod. The Model 29 appears in the 1940 South Bend catalog, as well as the 1941 Trade Catalog. It was a single built rod of 7 1/2 feet, with welted and serrated ferrules and an attractive orange and black jasper silk wraps. Definitely a nice rod and well worth the restoration. Here is a pic from the 1941 catalog:


No subject inspires more questions to my mailbox than that of G.M. Skinner. Here are three recent ones:

Dr. Todd,

My name is Dave B____ and I have recently acquired a small collection of early Skinner baits. One in particular has a stamp of 1874 on it and is in fantastic condition. The blade is similar to the Abbey and Imbry, though it appears to be early "buck tail". I do not believe it to have been used very much, but that is besides the point. I am having trouble finding history of the lure as well as adequate values for the lures. I can find no information on Skinner before 1881. Can you help please?

Dr. Todd:  My nephew has a lure in mint condition that is a #7 pat. in U.S. and Canada.  It looks like the picture of the one in the catalogue with the black and white speckled feathers.  It is a GM Skinner and has the year 1874 stamped on it also.  Could you please tell me more info on it?  I read the story you had in your May posting about GM Skinner and how a book is in the making on him.  I would really like to find out about this lure but am having a hard time contacting the right people.

Dear Dr. Todd Larson,

I have recently found an old spinner in my collection. The spinner blade is marked "G.M. Skinner" with "Clayton. N.Y." underneath it. On the other side of the blade reads "Pat. U.S. & Canada 1874." The Spinner is a size 4 (with a small "4" in the middle of the blade). The Skirt is a turkey pattern, with one treble hook.
Enclosed is a picture of the lure. Any information surrounding this lure would be greatly appreciated!

Thank You,


Dear Skinner Owners,

Ah yes, the famed Gardiner Mills Skinner fluted bait! No other lure has sent more collectors, pickers, and dealers' hearts into a flutter than the Skinner Spoon Hook, as it was popularly known. This is because nearly every blade ever stamped (and there were probably twenty million sold over the years) carries the same marking:

On the left side of the blade is stamped the words "G.M. Skinner, Clayton, NY" and on the right side of the blade is "Pat. U.S. & Canada, 1874." This, of course, leads many to (understandably) believe they are holding a very old and very rare piscatorial piece.

The truth, however, is that even into the 1970s, G.M. Skinner blades were stamped exactly the same as they had been 90 years before. Combined with the fact that the Skinner Spoon Hook might very well be the most popular American fishing lure ever made, it means that the standard nickel-plated blade with these stampings is very, very common and not worth very much ($5-$10 in good shape).

Based on Skinner's 1874 patent for "flutes" that would reflect light in a better way, it spawned a mania and was (and is) one of the most effective lures ever made. For this reason every tackle box had to have a handful, and nearly all of them were nickel plated models.

There are, however, variations of the Skinner spoon hook that are worth more. For example, the blade was made in Sizes 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 1/2, 4 3/4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (and 9 and 12 in Willow Leaf pattern). The smallest Size 0 can bring $50 or more, as it is much harder to find, and the #1 and #2 bring more than the middle sizes. #7 and #8 blades are still purchased by smart musky and northern anglers, and thus are usually worth a bit more as well.

Additionally, the spinner was made in a number of metals: nickel plated, brass, copper, gold plate, and enamel. All Skinners that are NOT nickel plated are usually worth 2-3X more than their common cousins. The rarest are the German Silver models, which we will get to in due time.

Most Skinner spinners are found without packaging, but if you happen to find one on an original card or in an envelope, it certainly increases value by as much as 10x. The vast majority of Skinner Spoon Hooks were sold on the common wire form body, but some (pre-1940) were sold on wire and gut leaders. These, too, command higher prices.

The rarest Skinner spinners come from the 19th century. Originally produced in Canada, if you find a spinner which on the left side reads "Gananonque, Ontario" you have a really, really rare bait and one that is now pushing $500-$750 if you can find one. These are the earliest baits and date from the mid-1870s. Not long after the patent was issued in 1874, Gardiner Mills Skinner moved across the river to Clayton, New York, and the blades began to reflect this move almost immediately.

The earliest Skinner blades marked "Clayton, NY" are relatively easy to spot, if you know what to look for. The size marking number (i.e. 7) on most blades is always found in the middle of the spinner. When you find a Skinner with the number stamped at THE TOP of the blade, you have a pre-1895 G.M. Skinner spinner. Additionally, for a time the firm produced blades in German Silver, which can be spotted by its unique tarnish and patina. These early Skinner blades are valued from $75-$100.

But even these pale in comparison to the rarest of the G.M. Skinner fluted spinners. If you find a Skinner Spoon Hook with a patent date of 1891 on it, you have a real gem. This date represents the moveable clevis that Skinner patented that year in an effort to keep a monopoly on his fluted spinner patent (which expired that year). It didn't work AT ALL and was quickly pulled from the market. These 1891 patent blades are worth $300-$400 if you can find one, but in some senses these are badly underpriced. They are 30 times rarer than an equivalent Turkey Foot or Turkey Wing (two of Skinner's variants, one shaped like a kidney blade with flutes and the other with a design resembling a turkey foot) that sell for twice as much.

The very latest blades can be found with a clevis connector, instead of a soldered one. Believe it or not, these are pretty scarce and I would say valued twice what a normal blade is worth.

The Skinner Spoon Hook is my all-time favorite lure. I have nearly 600 of them, including three full sets of nickel plated blades and I am desperately working toward full sets of copper and brass (if anyone has a Size 0 in either drop me a note!). G.M. Skinner made other lures--the coveted Turkey Wing, Turkey Foot, and others--but it is the Spoon Hook that is his lasting contribution to the world of fishing. Long live the Fluted Spinner!

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UPDATE: Elmer "Doll" Thomspon

Elmer "Doll" Thompson Update

A quick update on Elmer "Doll" Thompson, inventor of the Doll Fly, Top Secret, and other popular fishing lures, who passed away two weeks ago. I was contacted by one of his grandsons, John Petrone, who sent along a photo of Doll and a request. Here it the text of his email:

Vintage photograph of Elmer "Doll" Thompson, courtesy John Petrone

I hope this email finds you well. My name is John Petrone and I am Doll Thompson's grandson. I recently found your blog entry on Google. It is very kind and informative. It makes me very proud to learn more about my grandfather.

I would also like to ask a favor. My family and I have been trying to find some of Doll's flies and lures. As my grandfather got older, he either sold or gave away almost all his remaining fishing products. I would be thankful if you could add a line or two on the entry to see if anybody has any of the old flies/lures laying around that they could spare. I would be more than happy to pay for shipping. Thank you so much for your consideration.

John Petrone

Thanks to John we can now put a photo to the name Doll Thompson. John's email is jspetrone AT gmail DOT com. Someone out there has to have a doll fly or two lying around they don't need anymore.

-- Dr. Todd

Voices from the Past: The Things Fish Eat

Found this article in The New York Herald Sunday Magazine for 30 December 1906 and thought it was interesting. The strangest thing I've ever found in a fish is a clam.

ONE day in 1903 A.E. Levy, of No. 529 Broadway, New York, felt the piscatorial fever surging through his system, so took a day off and went out to the fishing banks to try his luck. As he was dressing his catch that same evening he discovered in the stomach of a cod a ten dollar gold piece, with two diamonds set on one side and the initials P.C.E. on the other. Levy was so amazed that he sent the story to the papers, and it was copied throughout the country.

He hardly expected ever to hear from it, but a few weeks later was surprised to receive a letter from Patrick C. Evans, residing in Kansas, who claimed the piece as his own and presented sufficient evidence of this to satisfy Levy, who accordingly turned it over to him. It seems that Evans was in New York earlier in the year and spent a day blackfishing in the lower bay, and as he was hauling in a fish the chain to which the coin was attached got caught in the rigging of the sloop, which just then rolled, the chain snapped, and away went the coin, never to be recovered, as he then supposed.

Odd Place for a Wedding Ring
One of the saddest finds recorded was that of a St. Johns, Newfoundland, fisherman, who discovered a wedding ring in the entrails of a cod in 1871. It was eventually proved to have belonged to Pauline Burnam, an Englishwoman who was lost in the steamship Anglo-Saxon, wrecked off Chance Cove, Newfoundland, in 1861. The lucky fisherman received a present of fifty pounds for restoring the
highly prized memento to the woman's son.

A Havre fisherman's wife, drying codfish caught by her husband on the coast of France in 1904, noticed that one fish had a hard substance inside. On investigation she found in the fish a golden bracelet. How the ornament came into its strange receptacle is, of course, not known; but it is conjectured that it must have slipped from the wrist of some fair passenger leaning over the bulwarks of a transatlantic liner, and been seized by the cod.

Last year the greater part of the male, and part of the female, population of the village of Portishead, at the mouth of the Avon, in England, turned anglers for awhile. Fishing tackle and bait boomed for sometime, and all because one of the local anglers shortly before had landed a good sized fish; and when it came to be dissected on the domestic table it was found to include a diamond ring declared to be worth one hundred and fifty dollars.

This Fish Absorbed a Knife
WHILE discharging a fare of codfish from the schooner Vinnie M. Getchell at Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1886, Captain John M. Getchell, master of the vessel, found imbedded in the thick flesh of a large cod a knife of curious workmanship. The fish was caught on the northeast part George's Bank, in seventy five fathoms of water, and was apparently healthy. The knife was not found sometime after the fish had been cured. When found, the knife blade was closed, and the small, or posterior end, of the handle was nearest the tail of the fish, the flesh at this place being about two and a half inches thick. The knife, when closed, was three and five eighths inches long.

In 1884 Captain McEachern ofthe Gloucester schooner A. F. Gilford found a knife—one of the kind known to fishermen as a haddock ripper—in the stomach of a forty-five pound cod which had been caught on the Le Have Bank.

Lars Petersen, an able seamen of the steamship Hypathia, which arrived in New York in 1903 from St. Lucia, made a curious find on the voyage. After the vessel left St. Lucia a large gray shark was seen following it. For two days it continued in the wake of the ship when Petersen resolved to get it. Procuring a large hook, he baited it with salt pork, and after some difficulty landed the monster, which measured almost twelve feet from tip to tip Upon opening its stomach Petersen discovered there a ring with the initials L.H.B. engraved on the inside.

Cod as Junk Gatherers
OWING to the fact that cod seek their food on the bottom and are voracious feeders, their stomachs, when opened, frequently present a curious and sometimes amusing collection of odds and ends. Bits of leather, marlin-pikes. iron bolts, a ball of twine, leaden sounding plummets, hoofs of deer, scissors, brass, oil cans, potato parings, com cobs, the head of a rubber doll, stones, and big shells have been found in them. A codfish caught at Vineyard Haven was found to have in its stomach two full grown ducks. When taken out they were quite fresh, having most of their feathers on.

Because the heel of a rubber boot, and fragments of a rubber coat, together with a knife, were found in the stomach of a cod one day, a Gloucester wag reported, and the story was taken seriously for a time, that the fish had eaten the fisherman to whom they had belonged, and that these were the undigested fragments.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, July 28, 2008

News of the Week: 28 July 2008

A Missouri town celebrates a bit of Talbot reel history...a press release on grading fishing lures...testing the limits of light tackle on sharks...a traveling tackle salesman stiffs NHL great Gordie Howe for 50 years...a fish story comes in at 160,000 to 1...Hannah Montana fishing tackle has the 'tweens running for the tackle shop...a dying mother's last angling must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: Nevada, MO celebrates its Talbot reel history with a neat retrospective piece. Thanks to Jim Jordan for the tip.

Riverfest 2008 is attracting visitors to its antique lure displays.

Harsh news: Pete Harsh won the Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year award on the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour.

Taiwan accuses Chinese fishermen of poaching on their coral reefs.

A press release on grading fishing lures and a history of South Bend to boot?

Doug Bucha and his collection gets written up in the South Bend Tribune.

The Louisville Courier-Journal writes of bruins, browns, and brookies.

The Mitchell Republic opines on casting for muskies.

Sharks are testing the limits of light tackle.

Something fishy is going on off of Anna Maria Island.

A traveling fishing tackle salesman pays back a $10 debt to NHL Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe...after 50 years.

The art of fly fishing is about...well, art and fly fishing.

A new state record Lake Tennessee???

Secret fishing spot yields 55 pound striper.

A longshot fish story comes in at 160,000 to 1.

From The Kuwait Times scientists seek the elusive Giant Freshwater Stingray.

An ICAST review reveals that the big buzz was about the launch of the new Hannah Montana line of fishing tackle...

Eight year old much better angler than you, catches 46 pound dolphin fish while, ironically, himself weighing only 46 pounds.

Outfishing your angling partner? Sweet. When he's your doctor brother? Doubly sweet. Having to watch your doctor brother borrow cash to pay the DMV lady? Priceless.

One surf angler has invented a new angle on beach fishing.

These ladies are reeling in some monster fish.

Finishing with a Flourish: A touching tale of one man's gift to his dying anger mother.

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week

Joe Yates sends us a video that has to be seen to believed. Unreal....

Things I Would Buy If I Could Afford Them

A nice CCBC Jointed Deep Dive Pikie in Tiger Stripe is a nifty find.

A really classic lure is the Miller's Reversible. To find it in the box? Wow.

This CCBC Tarpon Pikie in the box (with messed lettering) has attracted a ton of interest.

A nice Heddon 150 seems so old school compared to the plastic lures that have attracted so much interest of late...

A Paw Paw Crippled Minnow is a beautiful, intricate lure.

Another tough Heddon 740 Punkinseed in Goldfish Scale.

Jaleoxe? Jaloxe? Jeloze? No, its a Bronson J.A. Coxe Invader 26 and people are going crazy for it, under any name.

Green Reel. Green Box. Green exploded drawing. Add the word "Ambassadeur" and you've got the makings of a great reel.

The Hurd Super Caster is a very, very popular rod-and-reel combo.

Hey Heddon Hi-Tail collectors, this Bud's for you.

Simple, elegant and effective, the Jim Donaly Redfin is a classic topwater bait.

A classic Heddon 200 Surface Expert is a good start to an early lure collection.

A W&M Granger Victory 8' fly rod is a great fishing tool and a nice collectable.

A really neat A.G. Spalding celluloid split shot tin dates from the late 1920s.

A Heddon Midget River Runt in Blue Shore Minnow is a rare bait.

A Meisselbach Okeh 630 in the box is a really hard combo to find.

Is there a prettier lure--old or new--than the Little Sac Niangua???

Although the photo finish series River Runt Spooks are a relatively late bait, they are rarer than hen's teeth.

This Shur Strike Surf Oreno in Green Frog/Orange Belly is a very cool lure.

Rinehart Musky Jinxes (in the box) are a nice testament to a great luremaker.

A nice Hiram Leonard Bangor, ME rod with the name F.H. Patten, Bath ME engraved on the butt. Doesn't get much better than this!

I always love inscribed vintage rods. I think the more we can discern from the few inscribed rods that exist the more we can tell about the rodmaker's clientele. In this case, F.H. Patten of Bath, Maine.

I did a little digging and it seems Frederick H. Patten (1838-1889) was the son of James Fulton Patten, one of three brothers (George and Charles were the other two) who formed a very prosperous shipbuilding enterprise in Bath and who were in business with the famous steamboat man James Fulton (maybe related per his father's middle name). F.H. was the founder of the Bath Water Supply Company in Bath and went to New York to conduct a shipping business, but returned in 1883 when his father died and left him a massive estate. He promptly retired and spent the remainder of his time managing his wealth, and clearly, doing some fishing too. His days, unfortunately, were to be all too short--he died only six years later at the young age of 51. The History of Bath and Environs called him "A quiet, unassuming gentleman, of striking personal appearance and genial manners."

Pretty much exactly the kind of guy you'd think would buy (or be gifted) a Leonard rod.

Finally, you can own Joe David Brown's A&F custom made passport rod. If you don't know who J.D. Brown is, he only wrote the novel Addie Pray--which was turned into the great Academy Award winning movie Paper Moon.

Have a great weekend and be nice to each other, and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Review: ORCA Reel News May & July

Today we get a double dose of reviews of ORCA's outstanding Reel News.

The first issue is the May 2008 (Vol. XVIII, No. 3) number. There are many really fine articles in this particular issue, which is led off by the always anticipated writings of Steven K. Vernon, who in his "A Ball Handle Proposal" seeks to make some serious research headway on these ever-popular Victorian reels. Tim Bahr offers up Part 2 of his continuing series on Indiana-style reels with "The AA Reel," or the Double A as it was called. This is a very informative series and I hope Tim continues to contribute regularly. My own contribution was a detailed history of a little known Chicago trade house. "Bicycles, Bullseyes and Baitcasters: The John Wilkinson Co. of Chicago" covers the interesting history of this forgotten titan of fishing tackle. Additionally, my review of Ted Bingham's excellent Vom Hofe book was reprinted from the blog. Terry McBurney makes a neat follow-up to his earlier work on Ranger Reel Company with "A Little Known Company: Pioneer Bait & Tackle." It covers the last years of the Ranger reel guys as they transitioned and were eventually put out of business by a tragic fire. The President Jim Schottenham offers up the always-interesting "Auction Report," and Bob Miller gives us the "1969: A Supreme Year" in his anticipated "Pflueger Pfacts" column. Ben Wright penned "The Elusive 1st Version Zebco Cardinal 4" for his spinning reel column, and Stu Lawson offered up "Another Ugly Reel Throwing Contest," a tribute to one of the more anticipated events of the ORCA Nationals. Finally, Col. Milton gives us "The Reel Fix" on how to clean an automatic reel. Sound advice for anyone who's ever cracked one of these babies open and ended up with a pile of coiled metal.

The newest issue is the July 2008 (Vol. XVIII, No. 4) issue. Excellent news begins this issue from El Presidente: my old friend Bob Miller has been made the latest Honorary Member of ORCA! Congratulations to Bob, who has just finished an outstanding manuscript on the History of the Pflueger Akron & Summit reels. He is truly one of the great gentlemen and knowledgeable collectors around. Much of this issue was designed to specifically make me jealous, as I was unable to attend the ORCA nationals in Colorado. Stu Lawson gave a wonderful description of Colorado angling in "ORCA's 2008 Fishing Contest" which, being held on Colorado rivers, made me green with envy. Espen Sjaastad penned one of my all-time favorite pieces on Shakespeare (the Bard) and fishing entitled "Perchance to Fish"--a true classic. Articles like these are what make ORCA so special. A photo essay of Nationals entitled "Rocky Mountain High with ORCA" made me especially sad I could not attend. My personal contribution to this issue, in addition to the tear stains on the cover, was "Von Lengerke & Antoine Trade Reels" which is a detailed look at the reels of VL&A, and the first of a three-part series on VL&A, VL&D, and A&F. Jim Wiegner gives us "A Place in the Park: Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club" which details this very important organization in the history of casting. With the 2008 ACA National Championships about to be held in early August--the 100th anniversary tournament--this was welcome reading. Newly anointed grand pubah Bob Miller gives us "Major Dilemma? Par for the Course" on the overlooked saltwater reel the Pflueger Par. El Presidente Jim Schottenham offers up his always anticipated auction report--which only goes to show to me how many reels are sold I covet but can't afford. Sigh. Tim Bahr gives us Part III on Indiana Reels, on the "The B&H Reel." It seems Indiana reel makers likes to use initials...Finally, Col. Milton gives us a "The Reel Fix: Those Wonderdful Penn Reels."

All in all, these issues should illustrate to you why ORCA is one of the premier organizations of its kind in the nation. If you are already an ORCA member, well, the cut of your jib tells us you are a scholar and a gentleman/lady. If you're not an ORCA member, you can be a Smart Stanley and join by clicking here. That's all I can say. The Reel News is ably edited by Richard K. Lodge.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Elmer "Doll" Thompson Passes Away

Elmer "Doll" Thompson dies

Wayne Mullins passes along news that Elmer "Doll" Thompson, one of the more colorful tackle makers of the twentieth century, passed away last Wednesday, July 16 after a long illness. He was the founder of Thompson Fishing Tackle Company of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Tennessee native Thompson was the inventor of some enduring lures, especially the Doll Fly, a jig that local outdoor writer Bob Hodge notes became the cornerstone of a company that was "at one time, believed to make more artificial baits a day than any other bait manufacturer. Unless you fished by yourself with only hooks and a worm, you knew what a Doll Fly was." Apparently at its height the firm made 75,000 lures per day--a staggering 27.5 million per year.

The ever-popular Doll Fly on a point-of-purchase display card.

Thompson T-Series Zing Fly from 1969 Victoria Advocate advertisement.

Thompson Fishing Tackle was founded in 1952 and became an immediate success. He would eventually add numerous other lures to the line, including the ever-popular Doll Top Secret in 1968, a Heddon Punkinseed knockoff that was popular enough that it was kept in production for almost fifteen years. Hodge noted it was "modeled after a balsa wood plug that had been popular in East Tennessee for more than a decade."

Original Thompson Top Secret ca. 1968

Later Zebco post-1972 Top Secret

A Zebco modified Super Secret with deep dive lip

Other lures would follow. The Doll Fish was a popular lure first introduced in 1972. Outdoor writer Don Carpenter declared of it in The Annapolis Evening Capital: "Something new in plugs for fishing is the 'Doll Fish' made by Thompson Fishing Tackle Co., Knoxville, Tenn. It is a sinking, fast-vibrating brilliant colored minnow with real-to-life scales that make it look like the McCoy. It emits a 'clickity chek' sound while moving, is made in three sizes, 1/4-ounce, 3/8-ounce, and 5/8-ounce--colors ranging from light to dark."

A Thompson Doll Fish in the box

In 1972, after two decades at the helm, Doll Thompson sold his company to Brunswick Corporation, venerable pool table makers who had acquired Zebco corporation in 1961. Having made a name for themselves in the fishing reel market, the Brunswick-owned Zebco found a nice match in Doll Thompson, who served on the Board of Directors of the firm until 1975. Zebco continued making most of Thompson's line into the 1980s.

A later Doll Ditch Digger deep diving crank bait

Thompson's lasting legacy will no doubt be the Doll Fly, which was so popular that before long any lead and hair jigs were called Doll Flies, whether they were made by Thompson or not. Interestingly, Thompson Doll Flies were made with Polar Bear hair, and apparently Elmer had pretty nearly cornered the market on their skins.

Today, by far the most popular of the Thompson baits are the Top Secret, both the original and later Zebco models (some painted by Heddon). But it is his Doll Fly that is Elmer Thompson's lasting legacy. So the next time you cast a jig, remember the man who was partly responsible for popularizing it and who manufactured as many (or more) than any other company for two decades.

Bob Hodge penned a nice memorial to Elmer "Doll" Thompson and his accomplishments that is well worth reading.

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Voices from the Past: Manufacturing Fishing Rods in Britain, ca. 1858

Manufacturing Fishing Rods in Britain, ca. 1858

I ran across the following piece on the manufacture of British fishing rods and found it of interest, particularly as it concerns the selection of wood used in their manufacture. Note that bamboo was one of the materials mentioned as imported specifically for the use of rods. While this is no great revelation, it is important to recognize that the British were making cane rods before they were popular in America. This particular clipping comes from The Mechanics Magazine (Vol LXVII, 1858), a British trade journal.

FISHING TACKLE. OUR notice of improvements in angling apparatus last week has elicited several communications upon the subject, which are of a character more adapted to the pages of a sporting journal than of one exclusively devoted to the facts and novelties of science. We find, however, that the trade of a fishing tackle maker is one of greater importance, and possesses a wider range of commercial interest than we had previously supposed.

The supply of wood for fishing-rods, it would seem, is in the hands of merchants who devote a good deal of their attention to the importation of large billets of hickory, bamboo canes, etc., for the express purpose of supplying the makers of fishing-rods with the necessary material. These woods are chosen with as much care and the exercise of as much judgment, and have to undergo the same amount of seasoning, as are devoted by the caterers of mahogany, walnut, and other woods for the pianos of a Stodart or a Broadwood, and the value of a fishing-rod may be thus enhanced tenfold.

We are informed that Mr. Wright, one of the merchants alluded to, who has recently opened a retail establishment in the Strand, possesses blocks of hickory for this especial object which have been purposely kept in dock for efficient seasoning for the last nine years. The quantity of wood thus consumed in this country cannot be ascertained, but it is considerable, as the English, Scotch, and Irish rods have acquired a fame throughout the world which secures nearly the whole of their fabrication to London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.

Our inquiries into these statistical facts have been the occasion of making us acquainted with an invention of Mr. Wright, which, we believe, is but little known. It is called the Bayonet-jointed Ferruled rod, and is adapted to salmon and trout fishing. The object is to obtain a secure fastening at the joints, which are usually additionally secured by thread or silk attached to a catch upon either part at the place of juncture. The bayonet-joint, on the contrary, affords greater security, with the smallest possible amount of trouble. With regard to its practical value, however, practised anglers will be more capable than ourselves of ascertaining its merits.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, July 21, 2008

UPDATE: The Passing of Dr. Loren Hill (1940-2008)

Bernie Schultz passes on some sad news as Dr. Loren Hill, a former University of Oklahoma zoology professor, passed away late last week in Norman at the young age of 68. Hill was the inventor of the Color-C-Lector, a device that was introduced in 1984 and originally manufactured by Lake Systems Divisions of Mt. Vernon, Missouri. They were written up (rather glowingly) in the 15th anniversary issue of The In-Fisherman in May 1985.

Dr. Hill was the former Director of the Zoology Department and Biological Research Center at the University of Oklahoma. He developed the Color-C-Lector after nine years of research. As the current ad for the C-Lector says:

[Dr. Hill] established a range of 26 colors that were best visible to the eyes of a fish. Through careful observation and patience, Dr. Hill was able to train the fish to differentiate 26 color positions under optimum conditions. He then altered those conditions to stimulate various times of day and varying degrees of water clarity. With each change, the correct responses were carefully measured and recorded. The Color-C-Lector is the result of those experiments and reflects the responses of fish to color under all conditions that anglers will encounter.

The original Color-C-Lector was intended to be used with the accompanying PH Guide. You dropped the gauge into the water, and the hands moved to the appropriate color recommended for use during the measured water conditions. While the C-Lector had its share of detractors, it also has its adherents, and many of them are die-hards. The original unit is still sought after today and many of them are purchased by anglers who have worn out one or two previous models.

Companies such as Bill Lewis, who once offered Rat-L-Trap lures in colors suggested by the C-Lector, and Ditto Lure Company, who made plastic worms in the C-Lector color scheme, offered products that helped C-Lector users easier use their units.

The unit's popularity is such that it is still available today, in a digital model made by Spike-It of Linwood, Michigan since 2004. Dr. Hill's legacy will certainly be as a pioneer in the effort to meld laboratory science and sportfishing--something so common today it is an afterthought. When the history of fishing in the later part of the 20th century is chronicled, Dr. Loren Hill will play a significant role. Loren's son Kenyon is a very succesful professional bass angler who dedicated his May 04 victory to his ailing father.

Dr. Hill also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that professors can actually catch fish--and not just professor's children, as one gentleman so helpfully pointed out at the recent NFLCC Nationals in Peoria. Thanks to Bernie--who travels with Kenyon Hill on the pro circuit--for sending along the sad news of his passing.

-- Dr. Todd

News of the Week: 21 July 2008

Marilyn Monroe gets inducted into a fishing hall-of-fame...Gibbs makes the news again...Jim Baird, tackle collector, gets profiled...get turned on by crank baits...16 year old much better angler than you, breaks world record for blacktip shark...beat the gas crisis: fish closer to home...tackle shops a-plenty...Idaho has urban anglers?...The Miami Beach Rod & Reel Club forced to sell its ancestral home...drowning man saved by fisherman...a new Rangeley museum...the 10 most important tackle developments of the past 75 must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!!!

The Big Lead: Marilyn Monroe becomes a hall-of-famer for her contributions to...Fishing Tackle?

More news on Gibbs/Nortac, who have had a nice run of press of late.

The Kingston Whig-Standard profiles Jim Baird and his tackle collection.

Apparently, hot lures produce in summer. No word on luke warms one, though.

One writer has fallen in love with a one-piece 7-foot Falcon rod.

This Winnipeg Sun writer gets turned on by crank baits.

16-year MUCH, MUCH better fisherman than you; breaks world record for blacktip shark.

Here's a novel idea for beating the gas crunch: fish closer to home.

A Mystic, CT company wins top prize for fishing lures at ICAST.

The Durham News reports on a fishing tackle shop surviving in this tough economy.

Another tackle shop, like the Phoenix of old, rises from the ashes.

A third bait shop makes the news in Staten Island.

There can be no fooling when it comes to monster fish.

Perch like dead maggots. People? Not so much..

Urban anglers are all the Idaho?

An Ambler man lands a 300-pound Thresher shark.

One Wisconsin woman has declared war on the invasive Zebra mussel.

From the Sign of the Times Files: The Miami Beach Rod & Reel Club is forced to sell its ancestral home because taxes are too burdensome.

10-Year Old better angler than you, lands 54.5 pound Dolphin fish.

This Conservation officer takes fifth graders fishing.

UPDATE: 13 pound, 4 ounce Golden Rainbow Trout disallowed as Indiana state record.

MSNBC reports on a fisherman who hooks a drowning man with a fishing lure and hauls him in to safety. Fishing there anything they can't do?

A new one-million dollar Rangeley, Maine museum will be home to Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby, Carrie Stevens, and other luminaries of local fishing history.

Finishing with a Flourish: The American Sportfishing Association gives us its 10 most important historical fishing products of the last 75 years. Controversial? Yes. Let's hear your choices!

-- Dr. Todd