The History of Angling

Part Two: Modern Fishing Equipment

Glass Fibre and Carbon Fibre plus Advances in Reels

Advert for Mahseer fishing tackle

An advert for Mahseer fishing tackle from 1897.

Fishing rods made out of bamboo lived on for many years, indeed split cane bamboo fly rods are still used today by some fly fishing anglers. However, by the end of the Second World War new materials such as glass fibre were being used to manufacture fishing rods. At first glass fibre rods were extremely expensive, but American manufacturers pushed forward with the development of glass fibre, and soon they came down in price and became extremely popular in the American fishing tackle market. In Britain Leslie Moncrieff’s glass fibre ‘Springheel’ rod was the first that allowed the average angler to cast 100-yards or more with a little practice. This was soon followed by Abu Garcia’s 484 ‘Zoom’ rod, which in the hands of good caster could hit the magic 200-yard mark. In the end the domination of glass fibre rods was short-lived, as carbon fibre was discovered in the late 1960s. Its usefulness as a material for making fishing rods quickly became apparent and rods made from this material soon came to dominate the market on both sides of the Atlantic. These rods, when combined with the new lightweight aluminium reels, such as Abu’s classic Ambassadeur 5000 and the Mitchell 300 (the biggest selling reel of all time), allowed anglers to fish with rods that were comfortable, easy to use and could cast distances unimaginable just ten years previously.

The Manufacture of Carbon Fibre Fishing Rods

Carbon fibre is the ideal material for making fishing rods as it bends to allow casting but then instantly straightens when pressure is removed. However, manufactures are increasingly mixing carbon fibre with other materials such as boron, Kevlar, and graphite in their search to create the perfect fishing rod. Although the way fishing rods are made differs from manufacturer to manufacturer the general process follows this pattern:

  1. Carbon fibre comes to the manufacturer in the form of a flat sheet. It is pre-impregnated with resin making it sticky to the touch.
  2. Next a custom-made tapered steel rod known as a mandrel is chosen and the carbon fibre sheet is wrapped around this. Selecting the correct mandrel is extremely important as slight changes in the shape of the mandrel will produce very different results in the completed fishing rod.
  3. Once the carbon sheet has been wrapped around the mandrel it is placed in a specially designed oven at temperatures of up to 200° C for up to an hour. The heat causes the carbon fibre/resin mix to dry and harden.
  4. The finished blank is then removed from the oven and the mandrel removed with a hydraulic ram and the cellophane tape removed. The blank is now completed and is given initial tests by the manufacturer and sanded down to remove any rough surfaces and then coated.
  5. 5. Additional fixtures such as the rings, reel seat and grips are added and the rod is complete and ready for use or sale.

Modern Technology and Future Innovations

Mitchell 300 Reel

The Mitchell 300 reel was manufactured and sold worldwide from 1939 to 1986 and is the best selling reel of all time.

The massive advances in fishing rod technology have transformed the sea angling market and today modern rods are light and durable and yet can still cast long distances and remain strong and tough enough to fish rocky ground and pull fish through rough seas. Many of the world’s best rod manufacturers such as Grey’s, Century, Cono-flex and Zziplex are based here in Britian. Reel technology has advanced just as much as rods, especially with Japanese manufacturers entering the UK market in the 1980s. The Daiwa 7HT revolutionised the sea fishing world by offering an advanced magnetically controlled reel that was affordable, easy to use and could reach massive casting distances. Other manufacturers such as Penn from America, Mustad from Norway, Sweden’s Abu Garcia and Japan’s Kamasan have joined many others in the UK market meaning that sea anglers in the UK are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing high quality sea fishing tackle and equipment.

But fishing technology never stands still and new and innovative tackle is being developed all of the time. While British beachcasters were once a maximum of 12-13 feet long, but now there is a growing trend towards continental-style three-piece rods that are 15 or 16ft long, and even longer rods may be coming in the future. Braided line was very much for boat use only ten years ago but has now advanced to the point where it is becoming increasingly popular for casting, and future developments which could see a small amount of stretch or give added to braided line could see it overtake monofilament as the main fishing line for UK use in the future. Other advances have seen powerful LED headlamps have made old fashioned gas lanterns redundant, and today’s chemically sharpened hooks are light years ahead of the enamel coated hooks which were used years ago. And lets not forget the little additions to terminal tackle collections that angler’s today take for granted – impact shields, spalsh down solos, the range of weak link releases and the high-tech terminal tackle produced companies such as Gemini by are all developments that are way more advanced than the tackle anglers used just a generation ago, while companies such as LYNX (a different company the manufacturer of deodorant for teenage boys) are developing precision joining technology which could see knots done away with altogether!

So there we have it. Over five-hundred years after Dame Juliana Berners Famous book and the rate of development of new fishing tackle continues and the popularity of sport fishing itself continues to go from strength to strength.

 <<<<< Return to Part One: Ancient Fishing to Early Rods and Reels

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