Eildon (H.R. Bain)

The following history of the manufacture of the Eildon Casting Reel and other fishing equipment by H.R. Bain of Melbourne is contributed by his son Don Bain who owned and used quite a range of his father’s fishing equipment.

HERBERT REGINALD BAIN (also known as Bud Bain) was a great river fisherman all his life. Mostly trout fishing, although often he spoke of the beautiful blackfish in the streams of Bayswater, Victoria where he lived as a teenager from 1905.

Due to business commitments, I don’t think he did as much fishing after the Great Depression years as he would’ve liked, but when I was a boy in the 1930’s we often had fishing holidays at Eildon Weir. We camped all night under the Weir wall the old (much smaller) wall and it was easy to pickup a 2-5lb trout at the spillway or from a small boat in the lake itself.

My father and his friends Artie Wade, Bill Riches, Ivo Meggs ( probably the only one-legged fisherman on the weir) Norm Addison and several others enjoyed great times around Eildon. The big river and right up to Jamison (incidentally we often cooked these 5lb trout in wet newspaper an green leaves in hot-coals right on the river’s edge, a delicacy not to be forgotten).

His fishing days extended through the years of the second World War – when he was involved in war time productions including aircraft components and towards the end of the war – the commando engine. This engine a heavy-duty outboard motor (a few inboards as well) designed to power special barges for the re-invasion of the Malaysian Peninsula. In fact, nether the barges or the motors were ever used. However, some 200 motors produced and were fitted to the first prototype and the production models, but on the Eildon Weir (today commonly known as lake Eildon).

Towards the end of the war, all manufacturers were looking to post-war products. Fishing equipment seemed appropriate to my father’s plant and although there were a few imported casting reels about just before the war, there were literally none available anywhere in the world in 1045. First the Eildon casting reel was designed on a Rolls Royce model with ball race bearings and brass and diecast components. Originally the reel-drum was alloy but later a plastic version was manufactured. The first prototypes were sandcast – machined out of solid or made from primitive dyes and there was an extraordinary amount of machining on each reel. The box was of very solid pressed cardboard which survived today as small part of boxes in my workshop. My father decided to make up 6 prototypes for himself and his friends using scrap metal from his aircraft production.

One of his fishing friends was an executive of the famous Hartley Sports Store in Flinders Street, Melbourne. He showed interest in the project and my father send him a reel for inspection. A week later, a large advertisement placed complete with a large picture foreshadowed the availability of the Eildon spinning reel. At this time towards the end of 1945, all materials were strictly controlled for wartime production and it couldn’t have been an imported product as import licences and exchange controls completely forbade such a product.

In next to no time, a government inspector was talking prosecution for breach of regulations. My father had to prove he had only made 6 units from scrap material and even then he was in trouble for not accounting for the scrap which had normally had to be returned to the department of aircraft production.

The result of the advertisement was overwhelming. Hundreds of enquiries and orders were received as soon as the control people would permit its production it commenced in early 1946 I think.

The product remained a Rolls-Royce design which was its ultimate problem as by 1950 many cheap plastic reels both local and imported, came on the market. However, Eildon was respected and even today in 1993, I still have one that meets all of my requirements.

The first production run I believe was 1500 units and the second run also of 1500 units was commenced in about 1948. Around that time, the Goulbourn (plastic) fly reel was introduced and this sold well as a universal reel. Probably about 1000 were made (1945-1949). The next product was a very long Nylon woven fishing line supplied in a spool and then a flick landing net was manufactured in small quantities under the Eildon name.

In 1949, my father sold his engineering business, but not the fishing gear section which all the stock he transferred to his garage in his private home in Toorak, Victoria. He continued to “balance” the stock by subcontracting and assembled many more reels of the second production run.

By now, repairs were needed to the reels and he carried on quite a sizeable business in this area from his home for the next 10 years or so.

All the dyes and castings were available although some of it was a little primitive and about 1957, Halcyon Products LTD of Sydney bought the tooling and stock (£1500) and developed the surf master Eildon (it’ll never do for surf-fishing my father said). In fact, a heavier model was developed later but many of the original components continue to be used.

More importantly I thought Halcyon products bought the Eildon and Goulbourn trademarks which should have been of immense value especially when the large expansion of Lake Eildon was undertaken. I am greatly surprised that these trademarks have disappeared from the marketplace.

The Eildon equipment was manufactured together with my fathers other products in an old factory right on the corner of Spring and Victoria streets in Melbourne. The building was demolished in the late 1950’s to make way for a government building, The Commonwealth Centre (which has now been demolished). The factory building was a pre-war curb side pump “garage” (they hardly had service stations then) and there was always a petrol licence attached to the premises. When curb side pumps were outlawed, a pump was installed just inside the door and Shell signs were displayed until the building was demolished.

Don Bain