Sunday, April 15, 2007

Antique Fly Rods and Reels

Today I was given a box of old fly fishing stuff by a good friend. It belonged to her father, a WWII veteran and survivor of Pearl Harbor. He is still living, but moved out of a house filled with a lifetime collection of fishing gear. I was lucky enough to get the fly portion.

Many rods, some complete, some not. Some bamboo, some not. And several reels. I have not started to look any of this stuff up, so if anyone knows anything about anything pictured here, don't hesitate to chime in. This one to the left is my favorite reel of the bunch. On the back it reads 'YALE / NICKEL SILVER.' No other markings.

In the photo at the top of the post, the reel in the middle, front row, has 'Montgomery Ward' stamped on the back along with a number. Probably not a priceless relic I'm guessing. Front row right reads 'SPORTCRAFT, NO. 60, H-ICO. USA.' Back left, the black one, says 'PFLUEGER SAL-TROUT NO. 1554.' The last one has no markings other than 'Japan.'

There were also these other four reels, the top two are 'OREN-O-MATIC,' some sort of automatic reel I haven't figured out yet. Bottom right says 'H-I, Uitca NY' on it, weighs about as much as a brick and might actually be a bell for a kid's bicycle. The reel on the bottom left is also shown here, it came in the box with paperwork dated 1961.

The rods will take some time to sort through. Sections were taped together that don't appear to be from the same rod. Much of these are long beyond repair, I'm guessing, but the man who owned these is someone I admire a lot. And I will try to identify the best of these rods and get it in good enough condition to at least hang on the wall. This one pictured above is probably going to win out, although it has no markings it is in the best condition.

This rod to the right, seven pieces, is very interesting. It seems to be the oldest item in the box, by a wide margin. The sock it came in looks ancient. The rod itself is very heavy, not bamboo. And the butt, which seems to be made of brass, is inscribed with 'C. Farlow, Maker, 191. Strand.'
The guides are interesting as well, they are rings that hinge and fold down. This rod I am most curious to learn more about.

So it's been kind of fun to go through this stuff. It will be interesting to try and learn more about it all. As I said before, if you've seen anything similar and have anything to share, please do.


Tom Chandler said...

The "japan" reel in the upper right hand corner is one of the Japanese copies of the venerable Hardly Lightweight series.

Though not in the same class as the Hardy, it's an eminently fishable reel (I fish several of them all the time).

The Pflueger Sal Trout enjoys a loyal cult following

The ringed-guide Farlow is intriguing; I can't tell from the picture, but could it be a greenheart (wood) rod?

The bamboo rod you might hang on the wall is a pretty cheap one (the sheet cork grip is a giveaway).

If you have any other candidate rods, then shoot pictures of the reel seats and post them.

Could be a sleeper in the bunch.

Ed. said...

The Farlow is wood. Very heavy. And there is one section that is warped badly.

I will take some more pics of the remaining rods. Everything was really filthy and I wanted to clean stuff up at least a little before I photographed them. I don't think there's anything of value, but you're right, there could be a sleeper in there maybe.

Thanks very much for the info! Very helpful.

Zach said...

Ed -

The Farlow would have been custom-made for Farlow's (now Farlow's of Pall Mall) in London, England. The Strand is a major east-west road in London, but Farlow's has been on Pall Mall for over 100 years, so you're talking about an old piece there. Farlow's of Pall Mall is still in existence and they may be able to help you out.

The rod is almost certainly greenheart, cut in French Guiana in South America or thereabouts. Based on age and the brass fittings, I'd guess you're looking at 1870-1890 for the origination date. Maybe a later model in a nostalgia market (like today's bamboo). Looks long and the knockdown guides indicate that it may have predated the modern era of a fly/bait division. I'd also expect this rod was meant for salmon.

I have a nearly identical reel to your Yale; that cutout pattern was common on stamped reels from about 1910 to 1935 in the New York region. Mine were made by Rochester or Union City (competitors of Yale). Yale was a company who manufactured reels in New York around the Catskills if I'm not mistaken - in the day that area had the fly-fishing mystique of, say, Bozeman, Montana, today - they may have been bought out by Union City, another defunct reelmaker. In terms of value, the five reels in the picture are probably worth between $30 and $70 each with the possible exception of the one on the lower right. Given the condition, I'd fish them if I were you. I'd keep the Yale (yours is appropriate for a 4-6 weight line) for a fiberglass or cheaper bamboo rod. Share the others out with other rod lines. One advantage of those "Skeleton" reels is their light weight.

H-I stands for Horrocks-Ibbotson, a company you can find a lot of information about online. The Pflueger Sal-Trout was a 1950s era cheaper version of their Medalist.

The automatic reels are next to valueless but are very interesting display pieces. Very common post-World War II in the first age of PVC fly lines. The one with the S-handle I can't identify; it may be worth looking into.

Now I hate to tell you this, almost, because I have my suspicions but if any of those reels had old lines on them, I hope you saved the line. Old silk line can be worth several hundred dollars because it can often be reconditioned. eBay is a silk line seller's paradise.

In terms of value I didn't see anything that knocked my socks off except the greenheart rod. That might be worth some money and is certainly very interesting. The person to get in touch with is Sante Giuliani, who posts on many boards as FishnBanjo. He's most available on That's where I would go with all this stuff if I were you - take pictures, write down serial #s, and they will id that stuff likety split.

Very cool find, very cool post. I wish I may one day be so lucky.

Zach Matthews

Ed. said...

Wow, Zach, thanks so much for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. Although I suspect you might be simply diverting my attention from that Montgomery Ward reel, hoping to cash in if I put it on eBay!

Very interesting about the greenheart rod, I will take a closer look at that and find out as much as I can. There is one segment that is very warped, that's the one thing that jumps out about the condition.

Some of those reels are indeed very light. I actually hadn't considered using them, but there's no reason not to!

As for the line, a couple of the automatic reels did have line on them but - and I don't actually know what silk line looks and feels like - it appeared to be plastic and rotted at that. I did throw it away so I will stick with that story rather than torture myself by trying to remember if there might have been something different about one of the lines.

The 'S' handle reel you mentioned has the box it came in, when I make a follow-up post on all this stuff I'll put a picture of the box and paperwork that came with it.

Thanks again, I'll let you know what I find out!


Matt said...

I have the identical "Yale Nickel Silver" reel that you have pictured. I know nothing about it as far as how old it is/how much it is worth. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

robert said...

I hav 2 oren-o-matic balanced fly rod reels model c, no 1140. How old are these?

Bob in Edinboro, PA

Anonymous said...

I have the same Bamboo rod. It was my Grandpa's. My Mom, that is 77 now, called it "Dad's Shakespear rod" back in the '70s when Grandpa gave it to me.