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An Introduction To The History Of Fishing Rods

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

fishing rod and fishing reel on wodden deck
fishing rod and reel

When was the first fishing rod invented? A question that will never be answered. It is completely impossible to make an assumption about who decided to create the first fishing rod, although, we can assume the first rod was created as far back as 2000BC. In today’s article, we will discuss the process of how fishing rods have adapted and developed over the years.

Early cultures such as the Egyptians left inscriptions of people fishing. Ancient, faded tomb carvings and drawings on papyrus scrolls show the early Egyptians fishing. As well as fishing, inscriptions showed men preparing fish and cooking it.

What fishing tactics were first used; Ancient Greeks and Romans also wrote about fishing. In China specifically, writings and painted pictures refer to fishing with a silk line, a hook, and a bamboo rod. The Moche of Peru painted images of fishing on their ceramic pots. Native Americans along the California coast fished with hooks made from wood and bone and line tackle.

The first-ever rods were designed using six-foot-long bamboo, hazel shoots, or sections of thin flexible wood with a horsehair line attached. Siple non-barbed hooks were then placed on the horsehair line. Horsehair was commonly used before nylon or tenkara line was even invented. The first-ever written documentation of fly fishing anywhere in the world mentioned the line used was horsehair.

In the early 1600s fishing rods were greatly advanced. A small wire was wrapped at the top of the rod t be used to run the line through. This is the first known example of a fishing rod’s eyes being created.

The fishing reel was then created. A massive advancement in the fishing rod timeline; a wooden spool with a metal ring that fitted over the fisherman’s thumb. Although very basic this was surprisingly effective in comparison to previous fishing methods. After some time throughout the 1600s fishing rods were designed to be disassembled into multiple sections. This was the first instance of a travel rod being created.

In 1770 the first-ever reel that could be deemed mechanical was created. As well as a rod with guides along the length of the body. The reel was a geared reel attached under the rod in which a turn of the handle moved the spool six to several revolutions. Rods were then developed from bamboo imported from India.

Towards the late 1800s rods were made much stronger than they once were. Bamboo strips were taken, refined and joined together to increase the flexibility and weight the rod could endure. Spin casting reels were introduced and became very popular.

In the 1960s rods were made of carbon fibre. This establishes with some certainty that the Hardy 'Carbon Spinning 9 1/2', the World's first carbon fibre fishing rod, was made between mid-late 1967 and early-mid 1968. This rod massively developed Hardy as a company.

Cane Rods

Cane rods were very common with fly fishermen. Cane rods can still be purchased today. Many fly fishermen will fish with a traditional cane rod as their preference. Although, cane rods can be extremely expensive.

Cane rods are not common in non-fly fishing environments. Many fishermen will come across cane rods from their grandfathers passed on equipment. If you have a cane rod and are planning on selling it you should definitely check its brand and date stamp. Some cane rods that are branded eg. Hardy can be worth a large sum of money. Some better vintage Hardy’s have brass or aluminium tags on them which will allow you to tell their worth after a few quick google searches.

Some tags can be glued or placed in the handle or even wrapped on the base of the cane rod length. It is important to mark the model of the rod as specific models can be worth much more.

Modern Era Rods

Currently, spinning rods are the most common fishing rod of our era. Spinning rods are very common due to their compatibility, light design, multipurpose and budget-friendly options. A spinning rod can be used for both spinning techniques and some forms of bait fishing. Graphite is our current leading fishing rod material.

Graphite varies in price due to some blanks being higher qualities. The reason we use graphite in our modern rods is so that we can cast further. Graphite is extremely lightweight this means it is easy to cast metals, spoons, spinners etc. longer distances as well as having more accuracy.

Many modern fishing rods still have resin cork handles. The reason for this is that cork can be a very comfortable material to hold for a long period of time. Although some rods will have a graphite handle. It shud be noted that most modern rods contain some form of drag system.

Drag systems are used for controlling the force used to hold the line when it is being pulled. Drag systems can be loosened or tightened depending on your personal goals. As well as the drag system, you will find many modern era rods have a butt on the end This is for placing the rod onto the ground (to not score the blank) and for added comfortability when playing a fish.

Finishing Notes

The development of fishing rods throughout history is vast. It is important to note the innovation found within the advancements in both materials and design of the rods. Adapting and overcoming challenges found was a big part of why our fishing rods are designed the way they are. Many issues were resolved. As we take a step forward into the future I’m sure our current rods will adapt and improve as we have slowly seen throughout history.

by Daniel ONeill

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