Fishing Reel

I’ve been working on a new hand reel to keep in my pack with my travel fishing kit.  I didn’t have much of a plan when I started so I drilled out a couple of one-inch holes a little further apart than the width of my hand and started from there.  The wood came from the scrap pile and is a very solid chunk of walnut.  I’m a little concerned about the possibility of cracking but this piece is old, well-aged, and extremely solid so I suspect it will be okay in the end.  It will be heavily waxed to waterproof the wood and I’m working on making and trying a few silk leaders.  Anyone with experience with hand-made fishing gear have any thoughts on this?

The hand reel and the primary tools used.

These little projects are a nice way to spend the evening in a productive way.  After looking at so many artifacts over my career it becomes apparent that our ancestors often created works of art and beauty that truly come from within maker and their influences throughout their lives.

When you make for yourself, your tools and possessions become a reflection of who you are, not where you shop.

13 thoughts on “Fishing Reel

  1. “…Anyone with experience with hand-made fishing gear have any thoughts on this?…”

    Hi George,

    My first time “hand fishing” (手釣り – “Tedzuri”) with a “hand-line” (手釣り木枠 – “Tedzuri kiwaku”) was in 1966 while catching a very precious Koi I named “Grits.” This was an old Japanese handline reel made of some kind of very dense (much denser than walnut) hardwood…Too long ago to guess at species, but wood either came from Korea or Okinawa. (A long story about its maker and origins.)

    The next handline to cross my palm (and get extremely well used) was of the making of a Choctaw-Seminole Elder. His Grandson and I became fast friends, and handline fishing for all manner of aquatic denizens from Alligator Gar to actually Alligators was a common adventure of the Bayous of Blackwater Bay Florida in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This one (and the ones I have fashion since and loved the most…) are all made of antler. This one sometimes was accompanied by a sort of Atlatl for casting. This later evolved into a Atlatl and handline combined…Long since gone, but it should get remade…

    I do have concerns if yours is going to be used for anything larger than very small panfish. Even a dropping (very, very common…!!!!…LOL) on to one of the “horns” of the “line-keep” is going to snap it off or at minimum crack it from my perspective and experience. Many do “play” the fish with just their hands, but most in my experience, actually use the handline “horns” to trap the line and pull against. I can think of ways to strengthen the design you have thus far.

    Good Fishing,


    1. Thanks Jay, I need to get to know you more. Yes, it is a lightweight one and was not intended to be so. I plan something more sturdy but what I get now is mostly small perch, bluegill, and bass. It is a very sturdy piece but you are right, it could crack under serious strain. I am an over-builder by nature and know this to be true.

      1. Hi George,

        No Sir, I’m em not…

        I was partially raised by a Korean Elder and her Japanese Husband as my occasional care givers as a very small child when my mother was away and my Grandmother unavailable. He was a very talented working Teahouse Carpenter ( 数奇屋大工 “Sukiay-daiku” with his speciality being 草庵 “Sōan” style.) Because of the stigma (still present) in Japan for marrying an outsider, it was in his best interest to leave Japan with his wife, so Southern California became there home just outside Laguna Beach.

        Because of their combined influence, I have a passion for Asian crafts, culture and philosophes. Because of her Taoist beliefs (he was Shinto in practice) I too follow the same life path philosophically, but still hold to my Kiowa-Comanche culture as well. I would add thought, I have not forgotten the other bloodlines I am fortunate enough to have as well…I’m a mut for sure…LOL!!

        If you have access to larger antler, I don’t think you would be disappointed in a handline made of it.. I would also love to see what you would come up with yourself in combining an Atlatl and a Handline. The one I had was awesome and still the longest casts I have ever made!!! It was great for surf fishing and still the largest shark I ever caught was with it…Frankly I like it better than a modern rig, and hope to make it again someday…

      2. Thanks so much for the background. You have an interesting past too. I appreciate you sharing your experience and will let you know about the atlatl idea. I don’t know why I wasn’t smart enough last spring but I was having a terrible time getting a long cast into the wind as I was camping along a very gentle and shallow drop-off. The atlatl (which I had with me) would have solved the issue).

  2. You are so right…It would have made that cast easy!!!

    Even with lightweight baits (e.g. small shrimp) and a heavy Seabreeze hitting you in the face, one could place a bait (even without a weighted line for certain fishing techniques) well out past a breaker into much better locations. With this method of bait deployment, only a hook and live bait, the presentation was often enough to start catching fish when others had not had a bite all day…

    Look forward to reading what successes you have with it…


  3. Super hope you catch and catch well it. I love reading stuff like this. You cannot beat making your own fishing equipment. I make my own floats and have great satisfaction making them, but it’s an immense feeling when you catch with them. 👍

  4. LOVE the atlatl idea! For all the hundreds of hours with one, tossing a line never crossed my thick skull! As for the silk….I have played a bit with Tent Catepilar nest silk and think it has some potential, although think if you can get it before it gets full of crap it would help. That said, Trout haven’t seemes bothered by my Fireweed or Dogbane lines yet. Maybe I’ll make an antler reel for my ice fishing rig, although experience has taught me that tying off to a stick that win’t go through the hole is not the worst plan ha!

    1. Jim!!!…as George wrote…DO IT!!! You won’t be disappointed at all. Its a real blast to go to a beach where some “Blues” or “Stripper” are being sought after by those with huge (and expensive) surf rigs. Then you walk up with a “hand made system” and cast out to a distance they could only dream of…I actually had one of these folks once give me $20 bucks if I would just fish next to him and cast his lines out when he needed it. He said it was one of the best days fishing he ever had!!! Next time I say him…guess what he was using?

  5. I was thinking of your post here today George while I was working (by the way…I hope you are recovering and feeling better!!)

    There is a fishing technique that is really effective, but often hard to achieve with many systems of modern tackle, and that is just “free floating” a bait or even lure…Getting these out a good distance and/or with accuracy in the cast can be a real challenge. With the Atlatl, hand line and a “slip hitch” around a small stone, one gets the distance and accuracy while then also loosing the cumbersome weight after the caste…A method worth exploring and practicing…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.