How Did We Catch Fish Back In The Day?
Last week I was rooting around my less-than-organized garage and dug up some old gear in my locker that, frankly, I had forgotten I had. The deeper I dug the older the gear got. There were Mitchell 300 spinning reels, some old Pflueger Supreme casting reels, and lo and behold a few old Heddon Pal rods that, at one time, had been my pride and joy.
It’s pretty amazing how what we consider “the best” changes from year to year. But we’re not talking about a couple of years ago, at least not with this stuff. Nope, we’re talking decades, and I use the plural here. Best I can tell this was stuff that I used in the 1960’s and perhaps 1970’s before I abandoned it for new and better gear.
But, as is common with people my age, there was a nostalgic sweetness that appeared as soon as I discovered these old reels and rods. Memories of fishing trips with my Dad, overnight portages with friends, and many, many big fish from the past swelled up in my mind immediately.
These reels and rods were truly “survivors”. I hadn’t broken the rods or dropped the reels in a bottomless lake during a lapse of attention or while trying to learn multitasking with a boat full of customers while guiding. Yea, these were pretty cool as I stared at them lying on the garage floor, seeing sunlight for the first time in probably 30 years or more.
The spinning reels had some dried up mono on them that was surprisingly strong given it’s age. I pulled it off which quickly revealed what is meant by line memory. Think of a monofilament slinky and you will have the picture of what ended up on the concrete floor. It was more brown than clear and definitely a prime candidate for the dustbin.
The casting reels also had mono on them, but as I pulled it off it revealed a “backing” of what I assumed was braided Dacron line. Now that stuff was tough and I’m certain it was as strong now as the day it was spooled on the reel. It was the “camouflage” variety which has various colors ever few inches. Not sure, but that stuff may actually be in the antique class and perhaps valuable. But it hit the dustbin just as the mono had.
Once the reels were empty of the old line I gave them a few spins. To say they were a bit tight was the understatement of the week. The Mitchells would barely turn, and the Pflueger’s were almost as bad. I grabbed a rag and some kerosene and cleaned the grime and dust off all the reels. Then I took them apart and cleaned everything in some more kerosene. I then applied some modern reel oil or reel grease where appropriate.
Once this was done I reassembled them. They looked pretty good! They spun like they had just come out of the box when they were new!
Reels without line are useless. So, I grabbed some 10 lb mono and put that on the spinning reels. Not having any Dacron line, I grabbed a spool of 20 lb PowerPro and filled the casting reels with this modern braided line. Once this task was completed I stood back and admired my relics. Not bad. Not bad indeed.
The rods were in good shape save the dust that had accumulated, so I wiped them down and polished them out. Then I mounted the reels to the appropriate rods. Oh the memories!
Now if you were in my shoes at about this time what do you think you would do? I figured the choices were limited to about 2. I could mount them on the wall and use them as a sedge way into telling friends and captive grandkids and daughters about “way back when”. If they are polite they will feign interest for a few minutes, feeling that humoring the old guy is the best option. If less so they will roll their eyes and quickly find an excuse to exit stage left.
I decided a better choice would be to load these antiques into the boat and take them out to the lake. I’d use modern lures or baits, but would only use my old gear. Surely I would succeed in catching fish while enjoying memories of days past. Sort of like driving an antique car.
Well, long story short, fishing with antique reels and rods is challenging. The spinning outfits were seriously heavy – like about 16 oz. each! They cast OK, but distance and accuracy was lacking. I managed to hook into a few small fish, but the drags were jerky and the retrieval quite problematic. “How in the hell did I ever catch fish with these old outfits,” I thought.
The casting outfits were even more of a fiasco. If you are close to my age you probably remember the original “mag drag”. We called it “our thumb” and it was definitely an acquired skill. Now, perhaps 40 years later, that skill has completely vanished. I cast out, tried using my thumb, and either stopped the bait way short of the intended target or ended up with some of the damnest backlashes you have ever see. Never did catch a fish. But I spent lots of time trying to untangle line.
Being as hard headed as I am I hadn’t put any “newer” outfits in the boat, so I stayed with all this for about 2 hours. Then I simply gave up. And headed home with the spinning outfits pretty much intact, but the casting outfits in various stages of diabolic birds’ nests of tangled line.
Once back in the house I suggested to Dixie that one vacant wall in the family room would be greatly improved by some antique fishing tackle hanging on the wall. Well , needless to say that dog didn’t hunt. Didn’t even leave the porch.
So, I retired to the garage and mounted these outfits on a wall above the peg board my tools hang on. Frankly, they looked pretty good hanging there. Now all I need to do is attract some friends, grandkids, and daughters to the garage. I’m just sure they will love to hear stories about my newly installed wall hangings and how they caught lots of fish way back when.
Father’s Day is right around the corner, and we have some great gift options for you this week. We also have a new Catch of the Week that we think you’ll really like.
Thanks to all of our great friends and customers who have supported us and passed our name on to their friends. We know we are only here by making sure your needs are our first and only priority. Please let me know if we ever fail to meet and exceed your expectations.