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Fifteen Fishing Firsts

an image of an old fishing pole

Fifteen Fishing Firsts

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has been around for 80 years. The IGFA is the first official association for recordkeeping, but we are far from the first for other fishing accomplishments. 

Luckily, The IGFA E.K. Harry Library is full of interesting tidbits of fishing history and fun facts. We recently unearthed a list from the Joe Brooks collection on some American fishing firsts from a Harold H. Smedley, of Muskegon, Michigan. He prepared the record for the National Association of Angling and Casting Clubs (now the American Casting Association).

Learn more about the history of the ACA. 

Here are fifteen American fishing firsts:

Fishing's First Social Club
Bylaws from the Schuylkill Fishing Company.
1. 1732: First Angling Club in the U.S.

Founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1732, the Schuylkill Fishing Company claims the title of the first angling club. The club had a limited membership of 25. To date, the Schuylkill Fishing Company remains the oldest continuously operating social club in the English-speaking world.

2. 1810: First Multiplier Reel

George Snyder, President of the Bourbon County Angling Club in Paris, Kentucky, produced the first multiplier reel. It was likely also the first jeweled reel—inlaid with garnet bearings. Not something you’d want to lose overboard. 

3. 1813: First Steel Hooks

A gentleman by the name of Ed Jenks of Colebrook, Connecticut, made the first steel hooks in the U.S.

4. 1845: First Split Bamboo Rod and First American Angler’s Guide

Samuel Phillippi, of Eaton, Pennsylvania, made the first split bamboo rods. Made of three splits, the tip and the middle joint were bamboo. The butt of the rod was made of ash. Also that year, the first known American Angler’s Guide appeared. John J. Brown wrote the inaugural guide.

an image of fishing line from Henry Hall and Sons
Henry Hall is credited with the first fishing line company.
5. 1859: First Fishing Line Company

Henry Hall established the first fishing line factory in Harlem, New York. He made lines of linen and silk.

6. 1860: First Complete Bamboo Split Line

Following in Eaton’s footsteps, the first complete bamboo rod was made by Mr. E. A. Green of Newark, New Jersey. These rods were made of four split sections and were sold through Andrew Clerk & Co. Later, the rods were sold by Abbey & Imbrie (1876).

7. 1864: First Grayling Identified

Professor Cope of the Academy of Science in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania identified the first grayling in the U.S. The fish was sent to him by Dr. Manly Miles of Lansing, Michigan. Cope named the fish Thymallus Tricolor.

8. 1868: First Wire Centered Rod

Mr. Hyde, of Maiden Lane, New York, made the first reinforced wooden rod.

9. 1870: First Six-Section Split Bamboo Rod

Hiram L. Leonard of Bangor, Maine, put together the first six-section split bamboo rod on the market.

10. 1878: First Winding Reel

The reel deal appears! The first level winding reel appeared on the market in 1878. It was a product of Wheeler and McGregor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It came in two different spool widths and were marked the No. 3 and the No. 4. The reel was sold mainly by the Wilkinson Co. in Chicago for only a few years.

It came in nickel silver (German silver) and nickel-plated brass versions. The reel has two patent dates of May 29th and June 26th, 1894 marked on the reels. The patents were for the level wind and the direct drive of the crank handle to the level wind worm gear, respectively.

an image of a brown trout
Brown trout were originally brought over from Germany in 1883.
11. 1883: First Brown Trout

Welcome home, brown trout! The first brown trout eggs made it over from Europe in 1883. In April 1884, the U.S. Fish Commission first released 4,900 brown trout fry into the Baldwin River, a tributary of the Pere Marquette River in Michigan.

Between 1884 and 1890, brown trout were introduced into suitable habitats throughout the U.S. and by 1900, 38 states and two territories had received stocks of brown trout. Their adaptability resulted in most of these introductions establishing wild, self-sustaining populations.

12. 1887: First Steel Rod

Horton of Bristol, Connecticut, patented the first steel fishing rod on March 8, 1887, changing the course of fishing forever.

original fishing line patent
The IGFA unearthed the patent publication for Elisha Martin’s silk fishing line machine.
 13. 1888: First Cork Grips

The original cork grips appeared on rods in 1888.

14. 1896: First Silk Fishing Line

The first fully silk fishing line was made by Elisha J. Martin, a worker at Belding Bros. in Rockville, Connecticut. Later, Martin founded the first silk fishing line company, also in Rockville.

15. First Wooden Casting Weight

E.R. Letterman, of Chicago Illinois, made the first wooden casting weight. Three years later, Letterman also crafted the primary aluminum casting weight. 

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