Cast From the Past: Fishing Catalogs

Photo: Dave Watson

Fishing catalogs from yesteryear provide not only a way to preserve a record of the fishing tackle sold at the time, but also the creativity and artistry associated with this unique method of mail-order commerce.

National and global brands such as Orvis, Thomas Chubb, Hardy’s and Farlows, Abby and Imbrie and William Mills and retailers such as Abercrombie and Fitch or Hibbard, Spencer and Bartlett or Ducharme Fletcher & Co., all used catalogs to market their products via mail order.

Photo: Gary Siemer

Many commissioned special art for the covers of their catalogs and even trademarked paintings by famous artists to preserve the copyright for these images.

Photo: Steve Woit

Catalogs deliver a timeless snapshot of the evolution of fly rods, reels, fly patterns and accessories, that help document the innovation and industry of the leading tackle makers.

Photo: Dave Watson

The Hardy Anglers’ Handbook because a huge success with its customers and the commentary and “how-to” articles were meant to inform and educate its clientele.

Photo: Steve Woit

Vintage fishing catalogs have become very collectible over the years, sometimes achieving thousands of dollars in antique and vintage fishing tackle auctions.

Photo: Steve Woit

Many of the catalogs featured in this article are from the extensive ephemera collection of angling historian Jerry Girard.

Steve Woit is the author of “Fly Fishing Treasures: The World of Fly Fishers and Collecting”, a book featuring profiles of 30 experts and collectors and over 800 photographs of rare and collectible fly rods, reels, flies, books, and ephemera.

Use special code MOLDY10 to get $10 off the cover price.

One thought on “Cast From the Past: Fishing Catalogs

  1. I’m a huge fan of documenting this sort of thing. For me the take home message is just how efficient fishing gear has become and how it reflects the inverse relationship between the abundance of the target species and our ability to catch it. “Progress” I suppose.

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