Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sporting Collectibles -- Vintage Fisher Fly Rod

Back in 1983, I was in Seattle on a business trip.  I lodged at a downtown hotel, so after an early dinner I went for a walk and happened on to a Eddie Bauer store.

I had been looking for a travel fly rod for some time and Eddie Bauer had the perfect rod for my needs.  It's a 4 piece, 8', 6 weight fiber glass rod in a 24" aluminum case.

As luck would have it I only had an opportunity to use it one time, so it has been in storage for more than thirty years.

A few years back I gave all my fly fishing gear to my daughter, but overlooked the Bauer rod.  When I discovered it - I considered selling it on Ebay.  I did some research, and learned it was made by premier California fly rod maker J. kennedy Fisher.

The writing on these two rods leaves no doubt about who the maker is.

After learning its collector value I decided to hang on to it just in case I might want to do some fly fishing at some future date.

This has been a long hard winter for several reasons, so I'm planning on doing a little fly fishing on the upper Owens River when trout season opens.

I even bought the perfect reel to match up with my old Fisher made Bauer rod.  It's a 3 1/2", 6 weight, Hardy Brothers Princess from the late 1960s.

See you on the river.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sporting Collectibles -- Paw Paw Baits

This "leaping bass" Moonlight box was used for all its lures during the late 1920s

For my money some of the most interesting fishing lure boxes were crafted by the Paw Paw Bait Company which started out as the Moonlight Bait Company about 1909.

In 1923, the Moonlight Bait Company acquired another fishing lure maker, the Silver Creek Novelty Works, and by 1927 the Moonlight Bait Company became the Paw Paw Bait Company.  The Paw Paw Bait Company was ultimately sold to Shakespeare fishing tackle in 1970.

Orange Paw Paw boxes are the company's earliest -- dating around 1929 -- and often contain leftover lures from the previous Moonlight line.

The next-oldest of Paw Paw boxes are the yellow "photo cover" boxes.  These boxes and lures date from the late 1920s into the 1930s.

The Blue Lucky Lures box was Paw Paw's last two-piece cardboard box.  After this one their lures came in the cardboard bottoms with clear plastic tops.

Above Western Auto Game Getter Lures by Paw Paw

Paw Paw Baits did very little direct marketing to fisherman.  Most of their lures sold wholesale through retailers like Sear & Roebuck, Montgomery Wards, Western Auto, and catalog merchants such as Gateway.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sporting Classics -- Bristol Rods Gals

Circa 1900 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods poster

One of the things I admire most about the Horton Mfg. Co. and their early 20th century "Bristol Steel Fishing Rods" marketing efforts was their inclusion of ladies in their calendars, catalogs, postcards and posters.

Here are a few of my favorites...

1905 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art -- "The Start"

1907 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods catalog art -- "A Lucky Strike"

1909 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods postcard art by Oliver Kemp

1911 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art by Oliver Kemp

1913 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art by Oliver Kemp

1916 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art "Lucky Catch" by Philip R. Goodwin

1917 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art "Waiting Out the Storm" by Philip R. Goodwin

1918 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art "Fishing at the Rapids" by Philip R. Goodwin

1918 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods calendar art "Fish On" by Philip R. Goodwin

In today's fishing tackle collectibles marketplace these advertising pieces fetch big money, but the good news is that some of the illustrations have been reproduced over the years.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

British Legacy -- Woolwich Arsenal Retirement 1917

Stephen John Head and Susannah (Avery) Head about 1910

Stephen John Head, my great grandfather, was forced to retire from the Royal Carriage Department, Woolwich Arsenal following injuries sustained during a WWI German Zeppelin raid over Plumstead.

See more:

Stephen had been employed in the Carriage Department at the Royal Woolwich Arsenal for 42 years when he retired.  He was the assistant foreman of the department at the time of his departure.

The Kentish Independent Newspaper published an account of Stephen John Head's retirement from the Royal Arsenal as follows:



On Saturday last Messrs. L. M. Lang, E. Edwards, and G. F. Ball, representing the managers and foremen of the Royal Carriage Department, Woolwich Arsenal, met at the residence of Mr, S. J. Head to present a testimonial to him on his retirement after 42 years service.

Mr. Ball, in making the presentation, said he had worked with Mr. Head for over 40 years, and could speak in very high terms of his valuable service. Forty years ago there were only 12 employed in the shop, and at the present time there were 209, and he was sure no shop in the whole of the department had improved more in both quality and quantity of work produced. This was in no small degree due to Mr. Head, particularly when marker-out. He asked him to accept a little token of their regard a cheque and gold watch. The latter was inscribed: Presented to Mr. S. J. Head on his retirement from the Royal Carriage Department after 42 years service from the managers and foremen of the above department as a token of esteem and regard. November, 1917.

In presenting Mrs. Head with a gold brooch Mr. Ball said he was very pleased they had decided to share the testimonial, as woman's devotion was a great feature in the success of men, and he hoped Mr. and Mrs. Head would jog along for many years to come.

Mr. L. M. Lang, in supporting, remarked that he had known Mr. Head for 38 years, and could remember the time when as "Steve Head" he was called upon to do the most particular work in copper, and how as a boy he would stand and admire his work. He always found him ever ready to help anyone in trouble, and he agreed with Mr. Ball that rapid strides had been made in sheet metal work. He congratulated Mr. Head in having such a capable partner, who must have helped him considerably during his life, and he hoped they would live for many years to come.

Mr. Edwards, who followed, said although he had not known Mr. Head as long as the two previous speakers, he could speak with pleasure of his connection with him for 18 years, and he thought after such valuable service for so many years it was tragedy to retire owing to ill-health, and he hoped the time was not far distant when he would be completely restored to health.

Mr. Head thanked the gentlemen for their very kind words, particularly regarding his wife, who was worthy of all good things said of her. He would like to have stayed at work a little longer for the good of his King and Country, but it was not to be. He hoped the gentlemen would convey to all subscribers their sincere thanks for their valuable presents, which they would always look at with pride.

Stephen's watch is now in the procession of his 2x great grandson in the USA.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cowboy Wisdom -- Canoe Rowing vs Paddling

My 14' Old Town Hunter Canoe with an Essex wooden rowing rig

Did you ever think about rowing your canoe?

I'll be 74 this year, and because I'm retired I can't always find a fishing partner that can get off work for a fishing trip.  Consequently I do a lot of solo canoeing.

I've been canoeing for well over fifty years, and among my most cherished memories are canoe trips to the Boundary Waters, Algonquin Park, and Missouri River in Montana where I soloed 150 miles.

My son Adam with two gorgeous Brown Trout on Lewis Lake in Yellowstone

A few years back I took my son Adam on a fishing trip, and because he had very little canoeing experience I thought I'd better learn how to do a self rescue, so I could instruct him if he got in to trouble. 

I decided to swamp my Old Town Pack Canoe in a warm swimming pool to see how long it would take to empty, right, and climb back in.

Long story short -- a swamped Old Town Pack Canoe cannot be emptied by a 70+ year-old solo paddler while in the water -- and if you do manage to get back inside it sinks to the bottom of your feet.

That was a real eye-opener for me, so I decided I'd buy some air bags, and a canoe stabilizer for my solo trips, and for Adam's first canoeing experience.

While researching stabilizer floats I learned about Spring Creek's rowing rig.  I purchased one and have since discovered I can row my canoe nearly three times faster than I could paddle.  Better yet I can fish on windy lakes, and have full control of my canoe.

I am so happy I purchased the rowing rig and stabilizer floats.  I figure they may extend my fishing years, and might even save my life on some far away windy lake.

However, there are still those quiet mornings when nothing is more enjoyable than a peaceful outing where the stealth of the paddle takes you to those silent places, and reveals the secrets they hold…

Happy canoeing

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1920 Bristol Steel Fishing Rods Catalog on CD

I was really thrilled when I found this catalog because I am a collector of all things made by the Horton Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Connecticut.

I've decided share this marvelous catalog by creating a pdf copy of all 42 pages and with a digitally enhanced cover.

They are being offered for $11.95 each -- including S&H -- at

Just use the Buy Now button at the bottom of the link.

The CD has 176.6 MB of PDF files for Bristol Steel Fishing Rods, Meek and Blue Grass Reels and Kingfisher Silk Fishing Lines.

Horton Mfg. Co. makers of Bristol Steel Rods

The Horton Manufacturing Company, of Bristol, CT was a successful manufacturer and dealer of quality fishing tackle from the late 1880s to the 1950s.

The business was started in 1887, when Everett Horton, a Bristol mechanic, patented a fishing rod of telescoping steel tubes.  The rod was lightweight and compact, and the steel tubes protected the line from tangling and snagging on branches while hiking to a favorite fishing hole.

Within a short time frame The Horton Manufacturing Company located in Bristol, CT and began producing a complete line of steel fishing rods.  They offered everything from delicate fly rods to hefty deep sea rods.

Horton Mfg. and Meek Reels

On Monday, August 14, 1916, the Bristol Press newspaper reported on page one:

"General Manager Charles R. Riley and Secretary Towndsend G. Treadway of the Horton Manufacturing Company returned this noon from Louisville, Kentucky from a business trip which is very important to this city.  While at that place on Saturday, the purchase of the B. F. Meek Company, manufacturers of fishing reels, by the Horton Manufacturing Company was completed."

So, in 1916, the Horton Mfg. Co. went from having no fishing reels in their catalog to being the manufacturer of the most famous fishing reels in America.

E. J. Martin's Sons and Kingfisher Fishing Lines

In 1920, the Horton Mfg. Co. acquired the E. J. Martin's Sons firm, of Kingfisher Brand Silk Fishing Line fame.

Horton Mfg. Co. Marketing and Advertising

Some of the most beautifully illustrated postcards, calendars, and catalogs offered by any fishing tackle company were created by the Horton Manufacturing Co, for their Bristol Steel Rods.

In the early 20th century three of America's finest sporting illustrators -- N. C. Wyeth, Oliver Kemp and Philip R. Goodwin -- were commissioned to do paintings for their calendars, catalogs and other marketing materials.

I have been fortunate enough to obtain a c1920 Bristol Catalog with a cover illustration by Philip R. Goodwin.  The best part of the catalog is that it was late enough to include not only Bristol Steel Rods, but also Meek Blue Grass Reels, and Kingfisher Silk Fishing Lines.

These rare, early catalogs are extremely collectible, offer a vast amount of information, and fetch fairly high prices in the collector market.

My Bristol Steel Fishing Rods Catalog dates c1920

I've scanned the entire catalog and converted the pages to pdf files then burned them to a CD:

My catalog is undated, however the Horton Mfg. Co. acquired Kingfisher Silk Fishing Lines in 1920, and Philip R. Goodwin painted the cover image in 1920.

The original catalog is 9 7/8" w x 7 1/4" h, and has 41 numbered pages along with 3 cover pages.

I have carefully restored the Cover and its Philip R. Goodwin image.

This catalog is a great find because it has all the Bristol Steels Fishing Rods available at the time, and also includes Meek and Blue Grass Reels, as well as the newly acquired Kingfisher Fishing Lines.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sporting Classics -- Fly-rod Lures

In the 1960s -- while still in college -- I took up fly fishing.  Somehow I though it was a more intellectual approach to fishing.  Maybe it is, but over the years I've discovered my personal favorite way to fish is trolling lures from a canoe.  

A few years back I gave my daughter most my fly fishing gear.  Now, I need to tell her just valuable all that stuff is.  She has my old Hardy Bros. rod and reel as well as hundreds of small accouterments and flies I collected over a thirty-five year span.

This week I was cleaning out some old tackle boxes that belonged to my dad and me when I came across a bunch of old fly-rod baits and lures that I never got around to giving to my daughter.  I began looking up some of these on Ebay, and I learned that they are every bit as collectible as other lures.

Many small bass plugs in the one to two inch range where made by Heddon, South Bend, Creek Chub, Paw Paw and other manufacturers.  If you're lucky enough to have some in the original boxes you'll find they are worth a small fortune.

I've always been a big fan of Fred Arbogast's Hula Poppers, so it was no surprise that these two fly-rod lures have been in my tackle box for the past 50 years.

I've never been a big fan of Helin flatfish lures.  Over the years I've probably spent more time untangling 'em than fishing with 'em, but here are a few that I've been dragging along since the 1960s.

When it gets right down to fly-rod baits that work best for trout you can't beat hair and feathered sculpins, frogs, mice and other baitfish imitations.  I've caught some dandy German Browns on the Owens River by dapping these in the grass along a cut-bank.

I've also had a fair amount of success with streamers, especially on a sinking fly line trolled behind a canoe.

Also for trolling "old timers" often added spinners and other attractor blades to work with flies and streamers.

All of these fly-rod baits have been popular with angler's since the nineteenth century when Julius Vom Hofe was making his #4 Trout Reel.

Size matters!  

Especially when it come to fishing collectibles.  Small is better because it's always easier to display small collectibles as they require less space in a showcase or on a wall.

Happy Hunting!!!