This rare Hardy first model brass Perfect three-inch reel was formerly owned by James L. Hardy, the grandson of the founder William Hardy. J.L. Hardy spent 44 years working at his family’s company before retiring in 1992.
The reel is neatly block engraved on the faceplate with two bands of text displaying catches from the Gweedore River in West Donegal, Ireland in 1890 and 1991, including “1 Salmon, 27 White Trout and 310 Brownies” on the outer band and “42 White Trout and 988 Brownies” from June, September and October 1891 on the outer band.
The original owner’s name “James Boughey Monk Lingard Monk” is also engraved on the reel. He was an Irish magistrate.
What is of great interest to the Hardy collector is the engraved details of the 1890 fishing record as this model does not appear in Hardy’s catalog until one year later and was granted a patent in January 1891. It can be assumed that this reel was one of the first-ever to have been produced and was possibly sold prior to becoming commercially available.
The Hardy Gweedore reel was sold at auction by Angling Auctions Limited in the U.K. in 2015 for 40,000 Pounds Sterling or $60,000—the most expensive reel in the world at the time.
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.