Reflecting on a bygone era

Fishing and all the piscatorial paraphernalia that goes along with it have always held a certain fascination to me

Fishing and all the piscatorial paraphernalia that goes along with it have always held a certain fascination to me.

Even as a kid, I enjoyed going through my father’s tackle box and looking at all the wooden lures and the little boxes they came in – especially the boxes. To me, both the lures and the images on the boxes were true works of art. But gone are the days of hand-painted wooden lures and plugs with their glass eyes. Gone too are lures with names like Chubb Creek Minnow or flies like the Lady Amhurst and Silver Doctor. Now we have Killer Crank Baits, Buzz Bombs and Hawg-busters.

Sometimes it almost seems when an angler goes fishing, they are at war with nature itself.

Electronic fish finders and GPS’s (Global Positioning Systems) have made the sport of fishing into serious business rather than a pleasant pastime. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be very much of the old romantic tradition left in fishing. I mean, catching a bright shiny rainbow trout on a pressed-out piece of fluorescent plastic with a name like Trout Killer stamped on the side of it, well, it’s just not the same.

I look back with fondness to those long-ago summer days when I stood downstream from my father and watched him cast those wooden plugs. I can still hear the plop on the water when they landed on the surface. How it didn’t scare the fish away, I do not know. I can also still see him casting his Orvis Battenkill cane fly rod. I can see the amber glint of the sun on the rod as he cast it back and forth.

At the same time, I do have to admit that I really enjoy using modern graphite rods. They are so much lighter and easier to cast than the old Fiberglas or cane rods. Today’s fluorocarbon lines and leaders are thinner, stronger and almost invisible to fish in the water. And then there’s all the new fly tying materials that give an almost life-like quality to so many of today’s creative fly patterns.

Perhaps that is why I am able to derive a sense of satisfaction from collecting the old stuff while preferring to use the new high-tech stuff.

I’ve been collecting antique fishing gear for well over 50 years – including all the lures that I pilfered as a kid from my father’s tackle box. I’ve managed to put together a fair collection of old lures, as well as dozens of steel and cane rods, not to mention reels of every size, purpose and description. I like to think that by collecting such artifacts, I am, in a way, helping to preserve the history of sport fishing in both our province and Canada as a whole.

Fishing was a part of my growing up. It is a part of who I am. Maybe that’s why it annoys me so much when I see ads in the back of Canadian fishing magazines from some big fishing outfit down in Virginia or South Carolina wanting to buy old fishing gear. I just don’t think we should be selling off our history to some other country.

Sometimes, when I’m going through and looking at all of the ol’ piscatory paraphernalia I’ve collected over the years, I cannot help but admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail on some of those old lures and plugs. I am amazed at the creative lengths to which some earlier anglers went to in order to catch a fish – it is truly amazing sometimes what did catch fish.

It has been many a year since I have cast a line with a wooden plug tied to the end of it. Those days are gone forever. But some day, when my tired old legs are too weary to get me into some of the lakes and streams that I have so enjoyed fishing, I will look back and be able to say that I was part of an era. Not one of plastic, but rather one of craftsmanship and glass eyes and most of all, sport fishing history.

Like I said, I’ve spent more than half a century collecting all this vintage fishing gear. I have probably spent a fair amount of money in the process as well. And when all is said and done, I will gladly part with all of it if the B.C. government were to build a sport fishing museum in our province. I can think of no better place to build such as museum than right here in the Shuswap.


Salmon Arm Observer

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