As the sport of fishing became more specialized, so did the reels that were designed for it. I've tried to show a wide variety of reels in these galleries.
(Click on a
thumbnail for a larger view.)
A British reel with a rod-clamping ring. This little
multiplier is typical of the reels exported to the U.S. during the first half of the 19th
century. There were few American makers during that period.
A primitive ball-handle reel probably made
in the 1830s. The frame is fastened together with wire pins, like a few of the very
earliest Kentucky reels. The crank is mounted at 10:00 o'clock on the headcap, and one end
of the crank is flat, rather than being a tapered cylinder. Both features are unusual for
this style of reel.
A beautiful example of a New York-style
reel, made of German silver by Conroy, Bissett & Malleson, ca. 1880. The disk in the
middle of the headcap swivels for oiling. The little pawl screwed to the graceful crank
keeps the crank nut from loosening.
A small trolling reel made of German
silver and hard rubber by Edward vom Hofe, ca. 1900. The reel is equipped with a bridge
for supporting the main gear, a feature Edward's brother, Julius, had patented in 1867.
Another handsome German silver and hard
rubber reel designed by Benjamin Donaldson, another New Yorker, for light salt-water
trolling. The sliding button operates a freespool clutch.
An early model of Peter Malloch's spinning
reel, which he patented in 1884. The spool pivots ninety degrees for casting or retrieving
line. Although neither fixed-spool casting nor the pivoting spool originated with
Malloch, he popularized both in Great Britain. Eventually, legions of reels with pivoting
spools would be made by many manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic.
A ball-handle reel, ca. 1875, with the
crank mounted at 10:00 o'clock, above the spool bearing. The reel can be taken apart and
the headplate rotated so that the crank is mounted at 4:00 o'clock, a very unusual
The perforated, narrow-spool fly reel
patented in 1874 by Charles Orvis. The reel represented a milestone in the evolution of
the fly reel.
Another perforated fly reel invented in
1887 by Albert Pettengill and featuring a protective cup for the spool that was formed
from a single disk of brass.
The first model of the remarkably
successful Pflueger "Supreme," a level-winding casting reel manufactured for
over half a century, starting about 1918. The odd level-wind was invented by Francis Case,
and the reel had an automatic clutch that freed the spool when the crank was turned
backward. Later models had little resemblance to this one.
The "Intrinsic," a reel made for
William Mills & Son, ca. 1930. It contains a clutch that causes the drag pressure to
increase as the reel is cranked faster.
A "Good Luck" reel, made of wood
and equipped with the ball bearings patented in 1897 by August and William Meisselbach.
This and similar, side-mounted wooden reels were extremely popular around the turn of the
This narrow, nicely decorated reel was
invented by a New Yorker in 1903 for bank fishing. Though made of nickel-plated brass, its
skeleton frame decreased its weight and gave it an advantage over the flat wooden reels so
popular for the same purpose around the turn of the century. The reel has an interesting
latch to hold the spool on the post.
A British "Nottingham" reel.
Wood reels such as this were made in various sizes by many manufacturers for over a
century. Some American makers adopted the idea of mounting a spool on a post extending
from an L-shaped bracket.