This early spike reel from Ireland was made sometime in the 1860s or earlier, at a time that reels were attached to rods with spikes. In the case of this reel, the knurled spike attached to a square brass fitting on the rod and was retained with a matching brass wing nut.
These spike reels were mounted on the top of the rod and could be used to fish flies or bait as a multipurpose winch.
The “S” shaped handle, flush covered screws as well as the fine bone handle and high level of craftsmanship in the reel suggest that it may have been made by a jeweler used to fine handiwork.
While this example is unbranded, Kelly of Sackville Street in Dublin was making similar reels at the time, often outfitted with a matching ash wood rod with a brass spike fitting collar.
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.