Other then having featured them occasionally on the Friday Funhouse, I will admit to not having known a tremendous amount about Ari'T Hart, the Dutch fishing reel designer and manufacturer. That changed very quickly with the arrival last week of the new book A Reel Life: Ari'T Hart Design written by German collector Klaus Geschwinder (Roterstift, 2009 -- €19.99). It is as comprehensive of a study of Hart reels as will likely ever come to market.
Geschwinder has a world class collection of Hart reels which form the basis of this attractive full color 8" x 8" square book. It profiles over 100 various models created by Hart as well as a number of other fishing inventions. From the beginning, one thing becomes clear as you delve into these pages -- there is something unique and very aesthetic about these reels. They rarely remind you of another firm's products, in the way a Pflueger might resemble a Shakespeare or a Daiwa a Shimano. No, you won't soon mistake an Ari'T Hart reel after reading this book.
While many collectors and anglers will gravitate towards the more spectacular Hart models like the Traun or Rio Orbigo fly reels, my favorite reel in the book is the Hart I -- a simple model (by Hart standards) but functional and striking as well. It pretty much sums up for me the appeal of Ari'T Hart reels.
Like the reels, the book has a unique flavor as well. It is written in three languages (German/Dutch/English) at the same time -- a peculiar (and laudable) German tradition well known to anyone who's ever bought a book from Taschen. The color photography is superb and the layout reflects an author who is a designer himself. The models are explained in brevity with technical specifications.
An easy to overlook but fun part of the book is the section on other tackle inventions/items made by Hart. ATH made a fly tying vise that is absolutely a work of art. I would love to track one of these down one day.
What is missing are two things. First, a detailed history of the Ari'T Hart firm, from which I can surmise underwent some major changes, is largely missing. A few pages spent outlining the development of the company would certainly have been very helpful. Second, these reels beg to be taken apart. A few pages of internal photographs of the reels would definitely have been a great addition to the book. I guess I'll have to buy one and crack it open myself.
The beauty and importance of ATH reels can not be denied and the book as a whole is an excellent example of how to chronicle and display the work of a maker of this importance. With its reasonable cost A Reel Life should be a part of every reel collector or fishing historian's library. The softcover is limited to just 999 copies and with a price of €19.99 (approximately $29.95 in US Dollars) and a reasonable shipping cost, it will definitely sell out in the immediate future. With copies already selling for $300+ on eBay, you might want to get yours now.
The book is available directly from the author's web site.
-- Dr. Todd