Since the beginning of recreational sport fishing, all you needed was a very simple hook and line to land a fish.
At the time, these homemade wooden or metal lures and plugs and hand lining were quite common. Next come chopsticks, in the form of wooden or bamboo sticks. Wooden reels were made by various manufacturers who competed to get their product to people who fished for all species of fish throughout the island. Europeans slowly arrived in the area because word had spread of the large salmon that could be caught around Campbell River.
Before tackle shops opened in the area, fishermen would bring tackle from Europe and sometimes sell tackle to locals. Catalog shopping was quite common and it was a long and tedious process to get any gear here to use fishing. Then tackle shops opened and all salmon and trout gear made fishing easier. Prior to the 1970s, many people would buy from an Eaton or Sears catalog and before Christmas family members would use the catalog as a wish book and place orders from relatives, including sports equipment.
An angler’s bible was the Herter catalog available in Waseca, Minnesota. It was a treasure chest of fishing and hunting supplies that were shipped all over the world. The business no longer exists; they closed the doors forever in the late 70s.
A few years ago, one of my senior students who attended the fly tying sessions at the library died and the family gave me his tying kit with a box of feathers to give to classes. A box of feathers was in a box of cough drops and other feathers were stored in a Woodward’s box and a box of Moirs chocolate. More materials were in a box of Rainbow Women’s Nylons.
It was like finding and opening a time capsule of fly tying history, but the best was yet to come. I found a purchase order that dates back to 1954. Mr. R. M. Bannan of Blairmore, Alberta, had purchased fly tying equipment in Waseca, Minnesota. There were 13 items which included hooks, dental floss, thread and feathers. The total price of goods was $2.75 and postage had an option of 5, 10, or 15 cents.
At the bottom of the order was an important disclaimer: “All Wild Bird Feathers are sold with the understanding that they will be used for fishing purposes only.” If an old-time fisherman is around, I’d ask the question: what else were feathers used for in the 1950s?
Happy New Year to all anglers around the world and stay safe as we mask up and navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.