Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week

This one you have to see to believe. WARNING: there is some harsh language in it, so watch the volume and where you watch it. But man alive, I simply can't imagine this happening. I think I'd quit fishing.

Things I Would Buy If I Could Afford Them

This Kent Frog is an absolute classic.

A beautiful B.F. Meel & Sons #2 would be a centerpiece of any Kentucky Reel collection.

Pretty much everyone into metal is looking for a G.M. Skinner Turkey Foot spinner.

Hendryx sold millions of reels, but Hendryx boxes like this just don't come up for sale as often as you'd think.

These stop-latch models are some of the neatest of the Victorian reels.

Hawks & Ogilvy was a great old New York tackle shop, and this 1878 letterhead is a very early one.

We've seen the Bronson Invader. The Hawthorne Invader. Now get the J.A. Coxe Invader.

These Colorado Floating Moths always make me think of the late Cliff McDaniel...

There probably hasn't been as nice (or rare) of a reel on eBay of late as this 16/0 Kovalovsky model.

Were it not for the previous model, this Zwarg 2/0 Fly Reel would have been the reel of the week.

While not a high ticket item, finding these Bronson Modern 100 reels with the level wind intact can be a bit of a task.

Sewell N. Dunton worked for Montague City Rod & Reel Company, and when the firm closed its doors, purchased the forms and founded his own company. This Dunton Angler's Choice model is a continuation of the Montague tradition of moderate, useable rods.

Your Heddon of the week is this amazing 700 Musky Minnow.

As always, be good to each other, and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Review of Randy Kadish's The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace With the World

A Review of Randy Kadish's The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace With the World

I don't get much of an opportunity to review fiction, but I was recently sent a novel by outdoor writer Randy Kadish with a fishing history theme, and thus relished the opportunity to review a work that combines three of my favorite things: fishing, history, and fiction.

The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace With the World (Saw Mill River Press, 2007) has one of those unwieldy titles reminiscent of Japanese novels such as Yukio Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Like many Japanese works, at its core, Kadish's ambitious book is about love and loss, with fly fishing being the central thread tying disparate times and places into the narrative.

The protagonist is Ian Mac Bride, the only son of a successful lawyer and stay-at-home mother in turn-of-the-century New York City. Ian's story begins with a crash course on both life and loss; he is introduced by his ailing mother to the New York City lower classes through her charity work with immigrants. In a sense, it is a book about how one man discovers the truth about the world, from the squalid working conditions of the slave wage seamstress to the searing pain of personal loss. As the author writes often on the spirituality and recovery offered by fly fishing, this theme should surprise no one.

From the beginning, Ian finds an outlet in fly casting. Witness to a great fly casting tournament in Central Park in which he first comes across legendary fly fisherman George M.L. La Branche, he is hooked by the casting bug, and under the tutelage of a young Jewish immigrant fly caster learns to handle a fly rod himself. From this point, his journeys bring him into contact with a host of fishing characters, usually during his angling forays on the famed Beaverkill River. Most of the characters such as La Branche help Ian to learn the important life lesson that around every corner is tragedy and loss, but also love and beauty.

The senselessness of World War I (and his mother's teachings) helps turn Ian into a pacifist, which puts him at odds with his own sons during the turbulent 1930s. Struggling to make sense of a world gone awry, Ian uses fly fishing as a way to connect to both the past and the present--it is fly fishing that helps him remember his youth and to connect with his youngest son. But in the end, the question remains: is it enough?

There is much to like about this book. While the prose can at times be stilted, the story does propel the reader along through a myriad of historical places in an engaging and effective manner. The entire novel is told as a long flashback, which from a structural stand point may seem a bit trite but, considering the options, may have been the best choice for this material. Above all, Kadish is ambitious. His enthusiasm for fly casting and fishing comes through on every page, and his belief in the mystical and spiritual qualities of fly fishing comes through more starkly than any writer since Norman Maclean. While no one will mistake Kadish for Maclean, in a sense both authors are "haunted by waters," to borrow a last line from the erstwhile University of Chicago professor.

From the standpoint of history, the book is a fairly accurate portrayal of the state of period fly fishing, casting, and rodmaking. There are a few anachronisms; the purchase of a spinning rod in the early 1930s and a reference to Pinky Gillum two decades or so before he started making rods being the most glaring. But the nature of New York City life at the turn of the century, the impact of the era of total war, and above all else the changes to fly fishing are all faithful, or at least as faithful as one can expect from a novel. The one major criticism I have is that a professional editor would have helped to tighten up the prose on this work.

A great writer once told me that a first novel is important for only one reason: to prove to the author (if no one else) that they can sustain a story from start to finish without collapsing somewhere in the middle. Kadish's first novel The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace With the World is a worthwhile read for anyone who has ever picked up a fly rod, and it will certainly be interesting to see what Randy Kadish has in store for the future.

The book is available from Amazon and other merchants.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Voices from the Past: Jim Chapralis (Part II)

This is the second part of the Chapralis article. May he rest in peace.

Steve rowed to open waters, giving me a good opportunity to play the fish. I could hear words of encouragement, but I couldn't distinguish them. I guess when you are playing a fish that you really want you are in a world of your own. I just concentrated on keeping a tight line.

If the fish started swirling on the surface I reeled in very rapidly to prevent his rolling on the frail line. But whenever the line rose sharply I knew a jump was to I come, and I'd ease up on the pressure. The slip-clutch played its part well by giving line only when absolutely necessary, and soon the fish was brought closer and closer. Success was only an oar's length away.

I've landed many muskies with a bait casting outfit, but no matter how many I conquer I'm always nervous. And this nervousness, or muskie fever, was certainly evident, for I could feel my knees wobbling, and I'd swear Steve could hear my heart pounding at the other side of the boat.

The fish was on his back now. He was almost through, but I didn't let up. Muskies usually store enough energy to make one last swirl just as you are about to reach for him in an awkward position.

This fish was no exception. He swirled away from my hand several times, but I finally grabbed him around the gills. After making sure of my grasp, I quickly hoisted him up and tossed him in the boat. Steve applied the coup-de-grace with his rod butt, and thirteen pounds of glistening beauty lay on the green bottom of our boat.

I held him up for a picture, and I couldn't help admiring him—he was the first legal muskie I had landed with spinning tackle. Steve was also admiring the catch, but for different reasons. Steve is famous for his immense appetite, and this was the first opportunity of the trip to have fish for dinner. He offered to fillet and cook the muskie for supper, for he takes great pride in his cookery, and, believe me, he certainly should, as I found out.

By the time we finished our chores around the cabin, the sun had already disappeared behind the contour of white birches. The water had settled down to a glass-smooth finish, and only an occasional puff of wind upset its tranquility by skimmering the surface. It was a night for fishing, alright. I could almost smell the muskies as I rowed back to the island alone, for Steve decided to do some fly fishing from the dock.

By the time I fished halfway around the island there was almost a complete absence of light. It gets dark early during fall in the northlands. I decided to fish just a little more. Then I heard a swirl not far from my craft. Straining my eyes in the dim light I managed to locate its whereabouts, and I immediately maneuvered the boat to that spot.

I made my cast at the approximate area and retrieved the lure as energetically as I could. I made another cast, and then a half-dozen more followed. Could I have imagined the swirl? I cast again.

I could hear my lure chug and gurgle in the stillness of the night, when the unexpected happened. There was a spontaneous explosion just as I was about to lift the lure up for another cast. Did you ever hook a muskie a rod's length from your boat? Believe me, they can do a lot of thrashing!

"Steve! I've hooked another one!" I shouted excitedly into the stillness of the dark. I didn't expect him to hear me--I guess it was just an emotional outburst.

The fish went as he pleased; how could I stop him with a light four-pound line? All I could do is turn the handle of the reel so that the tension on the fish would always remain constant.

It was completely dark by now, and as yet I was unable to determine the size of the fish. As far as I knew I might have been playing a record gamester! Take it easy, Jim. He is a good one. I found I was giving myself a much needed pep talk.

"Do you still have him on?" I recognized the voice. It was Tom, a native boy that lived not far from the island. He had heard me shouting to Steve.

"Yeah, he's still on," I answered.

It might have been only fifteen minutes later, but it certainly seemed like an hour, before I dipped my hand into the water and barely got it around the fish's gills. Tom, who had rowed to my boat, struck a match to aid in this operation, but since the light was very dim we still failed to get a good look at him.

With a powerful lunge I hoisted the fish and threw him into the boat. By this time Steve, who had heard my call, pulled up in another boat.

"Don't tell me you got another one on that spinning line?" He focused the beams of his flashlight on the fish that was vigorously thrashing on the boat's bottom. He was a big one, alright.

"How big do you think he is?" I asked Tom—a good judge of weight.

"Oh, about eighteen. Nineteen at the most. Too bad you already got your limit."

"Limit?" I asked. And then I remembered that Wisconsin's fish laws permit the keeping of only one muskie a day.

I placed the fish in the water; it turned belly up—he was still exhausted. I held the fish right side up for a few minutes until we could see his gills work faster and faster. His fins also began moving and soon he could stabilize his own position. The regal muskie turned around before he swished the mighty tail that sent him streaking out of sight and into the darkness of the still waters.

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Voices from the Past: Jim Chapralis

As noted earlier, Jim Chapralis recently passed away. While many know him for his works on tournament casting or his great autobiography A Passion for Fishing, in his early days Chapralis was a fine outdoor writer. The following is a seminal article on spin fishing for musky that he wrote and that was published in the December 1952 Hunting & Fishing magazine. I think it is a fitting tribute to honor the passing of a very important man in the history of American fishing. Due to this size of the article, Part I will be up today and I will put up the second part tomorrow.

THERE was nothing sensational about the strike. No mighty swirls, no big splashes, no tail whipping the water into foam and bubbles. The lure was merely sucked under with a slurp that was barely audible-it was as though a brown trout had taken a dry fly.

Then the line came toward us slowly; it stopped just below us. There was something peculiar about the whole strike. We had landed about a dozen bass earlier, but each one of them had taken the tiny surface lure with a splash, and the line would streak away first in one direction and then in the other.

Bob remained tensed and ready for action; his arching rod had taken a semi-circular bend at the instant of the strike, and it remained that way. I fumbled with my camera. It was obvious now. Pierre Tuesday, our Indian guide, suddenly became alert and nervously looked about for an open spot to -paddle. With the light tackle he was using, Bob would need all the open water he could get to fight the fish and he too began to glance around.

"Moaskie!" Pierre cried, "Big moaskie."

The line began to move once more; it started off in small circles, and then it began to rise. Bob cranked the handle of his spinning reel so that the line would remain taut. The fish was somewhere near the surface now, but the glaring rays of the sun bouncing off the water blinded us, and at first we could -not locate the fish.

"There he is, and he's a good one, alright!"

Bob's eyes squinted as he searched the water for the fish. Pierre, who had spotted the muskie, was paddling into open water faster than ever. Bob set the hook two or three times to make sure. And this seemed to be the spark for an explosion!

There was a quick motion of tail and fins. There was a spray of water. There was a cavity in the surface. Then there was a fish of enormous proportions "hanging" momentarily in mid-air, threshing and bobbing its head from side to-side in an effort to rid its jaws of those terrible hooks. The fish fell back on the line. The rod lost its semi-circular are and the line no longer remained taut. His gills, tail, weight, or his teeth had cut the line just above the short wire trace. The water calmed down to its original mirror-like finish and the fish disappeared as fast as it had mysteriously appeared.

No one said anything for awhile; I guess there's nothing to say when a big fish has just been lost. Bob merely reeled in the remainder of his line, Pierre paddled onward, and I continued casting.

"How big do you think he ran?" I asked Pierre. "Twenty? Twenty-five?"

"He was a big un, alright." You can never pin Pierre for a definite answer.

That encounter with the muskie remained vividly in my mind for months. I always wondered how it would be to have a muskie upwards of twenty pounds at the end of a delicate four-pound line. In fact, it soon became an obsession with me, and I knew I wouldn't be able to rest until I got a big muskie with my spinning tackle.

It was last fall that I got another chance to fish for muskies. Steve, my fishing partner, and I decided to fish the waters of the famous Hayward region of Wisconsin. We spent the first three days making a twelve mile float trip down the Chippewa since we had been told that the current would carry us downstream, and both of us would be able to fish simultaneously.

I was using a light six-foot spinning rod, a conventional spinning reel, a four pound monofilament line, and a tiny surface lure with propeller at one end. We were promised action—and we got it. I landed more than a half-dozen muskies in the stream—but there wasn't a legal fish in the bunch.

I had plenty of opportunity to hook bigger muskies, but the number of fish I landed in proportion to the number of strikes was small. On one float trip alone I had at least fifteen strikes, and I didn't even land a twenty-incher. Of course, it must be said that in many cases the fish had no intention of taking the plug; they merely surged forward, swirled, but never touched the lure-a typical muskie trick.

On some of the strikes I'm sure the lure had been mouthed, and some of the jaws that had temporarily engulfed the plug belonged to big fish! Did you ever have a muskie swim to you, open his mouth, and spit the lure practically in your face as though yawning with boredom? When that happens a half-dozen times in one day, well you begin to wonder what the matter is.

"Look, Jim, I realize that spinning has advantages, but it also has limitations. How do you expect to set a hook with that light rod you're using? Here let me show you," Steve advised.

Steve wrapped the spinning line around his hand above the lure, and urged me to strike as hard as I could. I did—Steve's arm hardly budged.

"You see, I can hardly feel any pull. You need a he-man rod to set a hook in those bony palates. You need a bait casting rod."

There was no denying it. Steve was right-at least partially. The rod was too soft. After all, it was made for light bass fishing, and for that purpose it was excellent. But I still maintained that big muskies could be landed successfully with spinning gear. Luckily, I had with me a stiffer spinning rod that was about twice as powerful. Yet it handled the light plugs satisfactorily. I switched rods for my last day of the trip.

We decided to spend the final day fishing on our home lake. There is a large island that dots the center of it, which is reputed to shelter several muskies. But during the summer months it isn't worth two cents. It seems that every fisherman on the lake visits this island, and I'm sure the muskies are well acquainted with all the color patterns of jointed-pikies, spoons, wobblers, and bucktails.

But come fall and all this is changed. The majority of the fishermen have gone home, and cooler weather no doubt increases the appetite of muskies. Besides, I was using a small surface lure, and since it was different from the general array of lures perhaps I would do business. I was confident of success as we rowed to the island.

I didn't have to wait very long to prove that my intuition was right, for I had, scarcely made a half-dozen casts when the water erupted and the lure disappeared from sight.

"Hit 'em hard," Steve cried. "This may be the one you want!"

But Steve was late; I already had struck three times before he finished his sentence. I had learned the importance of striking quickly before a muskie has a chance to lock his jaws around the lure from my trips down the Chippewa.

The fish swam slowly towards our boat for an investigation; no doubt he was puzzled at the almost invisible line that was practically towing him. But as soon as he realized his danger he shot under the boat and appeared on the other side. I passed the rod around the stem just in time to watch him shower us as he surfaced not far from the boat.

Not satisfied with this side either, the fish pulled his way back under the boat, and I again found it necessary to pass the rod around the stern. He jumped once more, and this time I got a chance to -estimate his size. He was not big as muskies go, but well over the ten-pound mark.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, November 26, 2007

News of the Week, 26 November 2007

A presidential fishing rod comes home...a snapper that's not red...a library that loans tackle...the Kiwi joy known as the Hapuku...a monster striper on vintage gear?...the daughter of a former speaker of the house is enthralled with snapper fishing...a 75 year old man gets maced during a robbery but still refuses to give up his fishing must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: President Benjamin Harrison's fishing rod has been purchased by the Harrison Home.

My home town Duluth News Tribune offers up fishing tackle as an appropriate holiday gift.

The Louisville Courier informs us that cold weather equates to big smallies.

Well, maybe they meant medium sized smallies...

Are you ready for a snapper that's not red? Neither was I...

From the That's Snazzy File: The Ann Arbor Public Library loans out fishing rods and tackle.

The Daily Inter Lake (Montana) profiles Snappy Sport Senter for its 60th Anniversary.

Across the pond, Gordon Mack profiles the Glasgow Angling Centre, the Bass Pro Shops of the Highlands.

This week in Know Your New Zealand Fish: the Hapuku.

From The Roanoke Times comes another story of a phys ed fishing program that works

The Oklahoma Aquarium--home to the Karl & Beverly White Collection of Antique Fishing Tackle--is expanding

The UK's Fish & Fly details Project Healing Waters.

The Erie Times-News runs the original headline "Hooked on Fishing." Fortunately, the Trite Phrase committee gives them a pass, as the article is on students involved in a fishing program

Cheap rod + cheap reel = good crappie fishing.

What can you get for $500? A new PlayStation3 for your kids, a dinner for two at Pigall's in Downtown Cincinnati, or a world record Thresher shark

The Mail Tribune profiles a 14-year old casting champion.

75-year old man gets maced by thug but still refuses to give up his fishing rod.

Canada's Times Colonist reports on Iron Matrons who fly fish.

Virginia angler lands monster striper on vintage gear.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman--daughter of the former Speaker of the House, history professor, and professional blowhard Newt Gingrich--opines on how to catch redfish and live life more fully

Finishing with a Flourish: The Marianas Variety from Micronesia reports that the University of Guam is sponsoring a 4-H program to teach children to fish.

Have a good week!

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, November 23, 2007

(Black) Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse

In honor of the day known as Black Friday, the Friday Funhouse this week comes to you in all its tryptophan glory from snowy Cincinnati, Ohio!

Video of the Week

In this week's video we have Part II of Lee Wulff's Salar the Leaper.

Things I Would Buy If I Could Afford Them

Here is a beautiful Ed. vom Hofe 621 2/0 Tarpon reel with case.

And here's the vom Hofe rod that would go swimmingly with it.

Meisselbach reels don't come much better that this saltwater model in the box.

Most of the Arrowhead spinners that come to market are by J.T. Buel; this John McHarg model is a scarce model.

Usually high-end J.A. Coxe reels are saltwater models; this German silver Kentucky style reel is an exception.

The Heddon of the Week is this gorgeous Heddon Dowagiac Light Six Pack.

One of the neatest spinning reels to come to market recently is this Van Stal model.

Here is a great trade minnow from Wm. Frankfurth Hardware Co. in Milwaukee.

Finally, we have a great River Runt Spook in Red-and-White Water Wave (Everlast) color. And it's new in the box!

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, November 22, 2007

7 Things to be Thankful For Today

As many of you know, I have a great deal to be thankful for this year. It got me thinking that some of our blessings are shared things, even if we don't always recognize it. So in the spirit of the holiday season, here is a list of seven things we should all be thankful for, in no particular order.

1) The Woods and Waters. I don't think we acknowledge the work done by so many early conservation and environmental organizations--almost all of them founded by outdoorsmen and women--who worked tirelessly to educate Americans about the importance of preserving their natural heritage. That you even have fish and game today is a testament to their largely anonymous work.

2) Joe Yates. Let me issue a disclaimer: I have never met Joe Yates. I interviewed him once (briefly) for an article several years ago in The NFLCC Gazette, but other than an occasional friendly email (usually when I use a word that is on the official banned list) we have almost no contact. So I can say I write this with the balance and impartiality of an outside observer: Joe's web site is not just one of the most important things to happen in the history of collecting, it is an important cog in the history of fishing itself. So much information not just on collecting but on general fishing history passes through the message board every week that it is astounding. All of it starts and ends with the man whose name is emblazoned on the masthead.

3) Perspective. We've all done it--you lose an eBay auction at the last minute, someone nabs a bait off a chat board, or you just miss out in room trading or a show. Frustration, bitterness, and anger set in. That bait or reel should be yours and not someone else who won't appreciate it. At this point, you should be thankful that (eventually) you can put it all into perspective. It isn't the end of the world. The one piece of advice I can offer is that in my 20+ years of collecting, I can truly say another one will come down the pike, and if it doesn't, the sun will still come up tomorrow. Seriously. Other people are battling cancer or grieving over the loss of a loved one, and you want the world to believe you have the right to be upset because you didn't get a chance to buy ANOTHER fishing lure? Perspective, perspective, perpective.

4) The NFLCC. The National Fishing Lure Collector's Club is a flawed organization. Its attitude on certain issues is often difficult to fathom. The list of people with grievances--legitimate and otherwise--against the organization grows every year. But for all its flaws, we should all be grateful for the NFLCC and all of the work it has done to promote collecting and fishing history. It has the best fishing history publication in the world--The NFLCC Magazine. The largely volunteer efforts of hundreds of people are required to make the various shows, auctions, etc. work. Is the NFLCC flawed? Yes. Is it still the most important organization in the world for promoting collecting? Yes. And for that, and for all the work it does, we should be thankful.

5) eBay. Even more than the NFLCC, eBay is a lightning rod for controversy. Everyone has an opinion on eBay, and it seems most of them are negative. Are the fees too high? Yes. Are their too many fraudulent listings? Certainly. Is eBay Live basically a joke? Affirmative. Is it responsible for driving down prices on some tackle? Guilty. Yet, from the perspective of the average collector, eBay is a blessing. For many collectors who live too far from shows, or who can't make them for any number of reasons, their only chance to acquire various items for their collection comes via internet auction. It gives a general idea at any given time what fishing tackle is worth. In addition, we have the ability to watch and view items we would never have had the opportunity to see in our lives, which helps both educate and promote the hobby. For good and bad, without eBay there could be no long-term growth for the hobby.

6 ) Friends and Family. A no-brainer. When in doubt, remember what is truly important to you: loved ones. Reach out to them in this holiday season. Bury old grudges, strike up dying friendships, reach out to lost companions of yore. Be thankful for every minute you get to spend with the people most important to you.

7) Fishing. Behind every Leonard fly rod, Haskell Minnow, or Kentucky Reel there is a dream of fishing. All of the tackle we covet so greatly was purchased with the thought that it might bring a fish to the table. How often do we forget this? Why are we constantly lamenting the fact that our Pagen Scale Bass Oreno has a hook drag, or that the Vom Hofe we got in the mail shows brassing from wear? Fishing tackle was meant to be used. No one ever bought a Talbot reel with the thought that it might be worth more to some stranger 100 years in the future if he didn't take it bass fishing in the rain. Now, I'm not here to tell you that a mint lure or reel is not a beautiful thing--it is. But we can get so condition-crazy sometimes that we miss the point of the whole thing. Maybe if we all fished more often we might better appreciate what we have, and find a little beauty in blemishes.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Voices from the Past: A Bull on a Fly Rod (1895)

The following account, from The New York Sun and dating from 1895, gives an interesting glimpse at California fishing at the end of the nineteenth century, through a unique fishing experience. It has to be the only time a fisherman has ever played a bull before.

A Bull on a Fly Rod:
Lively Episode of a Day's Fishing in California

There was an experience more exciting than fishing to come before the day was ended. At noon the ladies of our party came by wagon to join us at luncheon, and they accompanied us in the afternoon's fishing. Toward night, when we had worked well up toward the mountains, some cattle came down to the stream to drink, and without apparent provocation a lively young bull began to paw the ground and bellow unpleasantly and followed these demonstrations up by charging upon our party. Looking up from my fishing at this juncture; I saw that it was the red plaid shawl of one of the ladies that had excited the animal's hostility. Calling to her to throw down the shawl and for them all to run, I threw stones at the bull to divert his attention, while the other gentleman of the party helped them up the steep bank, where the bull could not follow. Tho bull stopped at tho shawl, tossed it about in an ugly manner, and then, turning his attention to me, gave me a sharp run across the sands to the bank. I got there all right, carrying my rod, with tho line and leader flying behind, but just as I struck the top of the bank I felt a sudden jerk of the rod's tip, and turning saw that one of my fly hooks had caught the bull in the nostril.

It was one of the queerest catches I imagine that ever a fisherman made, and I literally played that bull with a fly rod for a quarter of an hour. I owed him no good will, and besides I wanted to save my tackle. The nostril of a bull, as you probably know, is exquisitely sensitive to pain, and with my strong, flexible split bamboo rod, duplicating reel and stout gut loader at the end of a hundred feet of braided silk I managed to hold the big creature under control. He couldn't seem to make out what had got him by tho nose, but he knew that it hurt him worse whenever he tried to break away, and to increase the mystery there was all the time dangling and switching before his eyes a big, bright red bass fly that I had left on my leader as an experiment in trout fishing. He would strike at it with his horns, and his rage at finding he couldn't hit it, and that it came back at him every time, was comical to witness-—from a place of safety, of course.

From time to time the bull would charge upon the shawl and toss that about, and then I had to work the reel and tip for all they were worth to save all my tackle from going by the board. At last, in one of those furious charges, as he lifted the shawl on his horns I felt something give away, and at the same moment the shawl went up into the air. The hook had torn loose from his nostril, and two of the hooks on the leader were fast in the shawl. I dropped the rod and pulled line and shawl in, hand over hand, like a Cape Cod fisherman hauling pollock. Tho bull didn't tumble to the situation until I had got the shawl nearly to the bank, and then he came for it, but it was too late. I whipped the shawl up to where we were standing just as his head butted the perpendicular bank with a thud that brought down a shower of earth.

The shawl carried a good deal of sand and had some holes in it, but there was no disposition to complain on the part of its owner. We thought we had enough fishing for one day, and leaving our enemy down in the river bed pawing sand and bellowing his anger we took our wagon thankfully for the hotel.

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A One of a Kind Fishing Tackle Kit

A One of a Kind Fishing Kit

by Dr. Todd E.A. Larson

If renowned tackle historian Steven K. Vernon is noted for his interest in strange reels, I guess that means I am one step removed: I seem to attract articles and information on oddball fishing artifacts. One of my favorite folders of information is labeled simply “Piscatorial Oddities,” filled with clippings, photocopies, anecdotes and advertisements on the eclectic, strange, and downright bizarre. The following fits all three adjectives.

A 1903 article in The Chicago Tribune entitled “Unique Fishing Rod and Oufit,” gave a description of what is without doubt one of the most interesting, and truly unique, fishing kits every produced. It was gifted to Evanston, Illinois native John B. Wiggins by his friend George B. Knapp, a noted curio collector during an era when curio collecting was in vogue. Curio collecting, by the way, was an eclectic form of accumulating scraps of cloth, wood, metal, and other materials associated with famous people, places, and things. The collecting of such odd pieces as a scrap from the first observation balloon used in the American Civil War gave rise to the great legacy of curio collecting: the curio cabinet, many of which now house fishing reels and other angling items.

What makes the fishing kit described in this article so interesting is that the “finest fishing outfit ever possessed by a disciple of Ike Walton” contained tackle items of which “every inch of wood is of historic value and all the mountings are of solid silver.” The kit contained three three-piece casting rods, five feet in length, the most elaborate of which was manufactured from a spoke from one of the wheels of the Columbian liberty bell carriage and inlaid with a small fish “made from a piece of black walnut rail split by Lincoln” with the fish’s eye made from a splinter of a tree grown on Washington’s grave and mouth made from a cutting off the famed Grant and Pemberton oak tree. Further inlays on this rod included a square from the old Charter Oak of Connecticut, a diamond constructed from the Elm Tree of Boston Common, and a circle made from a piece of the U.S.S. Constitution—Old Ironsides as it was known.

The first section of another rod was made from a piece of the cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born, with the other two sections constructed from rare Cuban and South American woods. The Fishing Priest was made from a hand spike used in constructing the first water tank in Chicago history, while the gaff hook was generated from pieces of the old Ogden house in Chicago. The handle of the fish knife, landing net, and the screwdriver were also made of historic woods.

All of the items were housed in a four foot long by sixteen inch wide by three inch high case covered in fine trunk leather and buttoned into a waterproof case. Every item, from the hook disgorger to the silver scale to a solid silver with cut glass whisky flask to the “fine silver reels,” had its own custom made compartment. Of particular interest was the fisherman’s “huzzy” filled with numerous small items of use to the angler.

The article concluded, “Altogether it is complete in every particular, even to a small silver plate with the name of the owner and donor surrounded by exquisitely engraved fishing scene. Mr. Wiggins is envied by his friends, who insist that the fortunate fish caught by these historic casting rods will taste better than those landed with a bamboo pole.” One wonders if the kit was ever actually used for fishing.

So valuable was the outfit that its maker George Knapp turned down $1000 for it, the equivalent of $20,760 in 2003 terms. It would be fascinating to know if the outfit survived the ravages of time, but like so many other of the items in the “Piscatorial Oddities” file, it seems unlikely. But who knows? Maybe in a musty garage of a great-grandson of John B. Wiggins there is a black case that contains the rarest fishing kit in history.

-- © Dr. Todd Larson 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

News of the Week, 19 November 2007

Radar from M*A*S*H is a fishing tackle genius...a Pakistani billfishing tournament...NASCAR's Rick Hendrick gets his fishing freak on...a 10 year old who can kick your butt on the water...a best selling author who'd rather be fly fishing for the must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: The NFLCC's Robbie Pavey reports that Gary Burghoff--Radar O'Reilly on M*A*S*H--invented and patented an improved rod butt handle and a chumming device for baitfish. Oh, he also has a son who is a professional bass fisherman . registration may be required.

The Charlotte Observer describes the Catawba River interactive river exhibit.

ESPN reports that NASCAR’s Rick Hendrick is a “freaking serious fisherman.”

The 11th annual Pakistani Billfish Tournament starts on Sunday, November 25th.

The Miami Herald anoints a new star on the fishing TV scene: the Redfish. Next week: Bluefish, followed by One Fish, and Two Fish.

Fly Rod makers Scott and Sage hope new technological rods entice bass fishermen to try fly fishing.

10-Year old Drew Camp is already a better fishermen than you are.

The Park Rapids Enterprise gives its seal of approval to Ice Fishing.

Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey through the Heart of Alaska wins a 2007 National Outdoor Book Award.

This Week in Know Your New Zealand Fish: the Gurnard.

From the Should Have Bought Low Files: Shimano's stock up 61% this year.

This Week's SAY WHAT? Shakespeare children's fishing rod may cause cancer and birth defects. Doesn’t say if it’ll catch fish…

20,000 Anglers have taken the Angler's Legacy pledge. Have you?

Canada now has its own pro bass circuit: The WFN Championships?

Tragedy strikes when a murderous felon cuts short the life of Chris Caris, an aspiring bass pro.

Chris Caris, Rest in Peace.

The Chicago Daily Herald declares the walleye the king of freshwater fishes.

Babe Winkelman opines on the incredible, edible jig.

The Sioux City Journal tells us how to catch a muskie; doesn't tell how to get two weeks off work in order to find one.

The Chattanoogan relates a story called "I hate that %$#@ Fish." We've all been there, brother.

Best-selling suspense novel author John Lescroart likes fly fishing for steelhead. And no, I haven’t heard of him either.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on the "Monster Musky of Birch Lake.".

The Virginia Pilot reports on a fisherman who is hooked on hand-lining.

Is your casting up to snuff? Try the Sage Casting Analyzer and find out.

Hollywood screen legend and all-around fisherwomen Frances Langford now has a reef named in her honor.

The Chinese still love the FLW.

Finishing with a Flourish: Oklahoma City is hosting a "Field, Forest & Stream: History of Oklahomans and the Outdoors" exhibit and needs your help locating Oklahoma-based fishing tackle.

Be good to each other, and yourself, this week!

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week

Here is a great video that was posted on Joe's a bit back, featuring Lee Wulff and some leaping salmon. It's entitled "Salar the Leaper."

Things I Would Buy If I Could Afford Them

This is a nice 3-hook Detroit Glass Minnow Tube.

The Chamberlain Cartridge & Target Co. reels don't often come to market. Pity about the terrible pictures.

What to get the Shakespeare collector who has everything? The
1972 Shakespeare Salesman's Conference Parker Pen.

Here is a nice early Swedish Record reel.

This is a nice later Bristol product:
the Electromatic Casting Reel

One of the all time greatest lures ever made: The Pflueger May Bug.

A nice Heddon is this Spin Diver in a box.

But the Heddon of the Week is this Jim Heddon Rod & Reel Kit.

-- Dr. Todd