Fly Fishing Reels

Lesta Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 295) Aluminium alloy construction, Lesta stamped on the back. Maker unknown.

Kiewa Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 298) An ad for these reels appeared in the 1935-36 Alcock & Pierce catalogue:

‘The Kiewa. A very well finished trout reel suitable for fly and bait fishing. Contracted drum for quick recovery. Size 3½’’ 25/. Ditto with hardened steel Line Guard 30/- ’

The maker for these reels is unknown. Bill Southam made a fly rod called the Kiewa.

Labertauche Fly Fishing Reels- These reels were made by Charles William Labertauche of Campbells Cove in Shed No. 20. He made in excess of 40 reels for his friends and associates.

The Snowy Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 299) Maker Unknown.

Trout Master Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 311) Maker Unknown. Trout Master Reel, Made in Australia stamped on the back.

Goodwin Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 347) Norm Goodwin produced about 70 of these reels during the 1930’s. He worked with Thomas Chubb, a sporting goods retailer in Albury, NSW. His reels were sold exclusively through Chubb’s Sports Store.

Rod Kraft Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 355)Rod Kraft came in two sizes, senior and junior. The only advertisement known for this reel appeared in the Melbourne Sports Depot Catalogue No. 33. C.1935

Ace Fly Fishing Reel- (Photo 557) Aluminium construct. Ace Fly Reel stamped on the back. Possibly made in Melbourne around the 1950’s.

Gillies Fly Fishing Reels –

Malcolm Gillies was born in Melbourne in 1900 where his father, Professor John Gillies, was Professor of Theology, Ormond College, Melbourne University.

In 1926 Malcolm came over to Tasmania where he was employed by his life long friend and angler, Mr Doug Hollis, at Hollis Motors, Launceston where, throughout 1926-27, he travelled extensively throughout the island and became aware of the marvellous trout fisheries especially at the great lake.

After his return to Melbourne, Malcolm set up and commenced his angling supply business in 1931 as J M Gillies, College Crescent, Carlton, Melbourne. His fist catalogue, the J M Gillies Trout Fisher’s Guide 1992 offered a complete range of angling requisites, with illustrations of wet and dry flies, rods, reels and the famous “Hewitt” non reflective tapered cast of the Spanish gut.

To quote the Melbourne Argus of October 1931:

“After many years of trout fishing, Mr J M Gillies has the knowledge and expertise to supply the best tackle to anglers. He and his trained assistants manufacture the flies and rods, using only the best of material, to those who follow the lure of trout.

To be successful, an expert fly tyer and rod builder must be an experience angler, a skilled craftsman, an entomologist with a practical knowledge of local conditions, an artist able to reproduce, in feathers and silk, the insect life which abounds on trout waters.

Similarly, in casting and fly rod construction the builder must be able not only to handle his fine materials but also to know how, after they have been assembled, they will behave when the angler casts his fly, makes his strike, plays and lands the fish.”

In the late 1930’s Malcolm moved his business to the Argus Building 365 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. Throughout his life Malcolm Gillies pursued excellence, and nothing but the best ever satisfied him. Subsequently, he became well know to Tasmanian Anglers for the quality of his tackle, supplied through such well-known agents in Tasmania as Keith Moore, T J Cane & Co, and Charles Davies LTD in Hobart and The Cleavers Pty Ltd and JR Green Pty Ltd in Launceston, with also agents on the north west coast, Scottsdale and Ross.

Malcolm, often with his wife Jane, came each year to Miena to fish Great Lake and the Shannon Rise with such friends and well-known angles as Dr Terence Butler and the Hollis’s. They also, through their overseas friends and angling contracts, brought many Amrican and other international anglers to fish for the giant Great Lake Fish and also explored the Western Lakes, sometimes with their guide and friend Arthur Fleming.

“J M Gillies” were especially well known and regarded for the wide range of excellence and of artificial trout flies. Malcolm, his wife Jane, then as the business grew, trained lady craftsman, Lily Miles, Eileen Hamill and Joan Leed continued tying of the 1,000 different patterns, of which about 100 were of Australian origin.

See the Australasian, October 1945.

Malcolm tied several new flies for the Tasmanian conditions, modelled on the local insect life, one in 1932 he ties in his room at the Miena Hotel which was named by an angler present the “Gillies Fancy”, whole his most well known and original creation was the “Great Lake Beetle” which was a deadly fly in the heyday of Great Lake Fishing and of course still is a most popular and well known dry fly throughout Australia and New Zealand (sold in the 1930’s for 5/6 to 7/6 per dozen).

The first J M Gillies reels were from Young Bros of Redditch, England and subsequently the well known “Silver King” and ‘J M G” reels, designed by Malcolm, were made for J M  Gillies by the Young Bros who Malcolm and his wife visiting in 1955 during an extensive world tour, mainly in search of the latest materials and techniques in manufacturing practice.

We all remember the old “gut casts” and the J M Gillies “Hewitt, patent semi-invisible tapered casts” were of top quality being manufactured, to quote for the catalogue, from only the best Spanish gut of the Highest quality, especially selected for us in England.

The J M Gillies “Cast Damper”, made of solid copper with safety edge to prevent cast damage was of course the deluxe piece of equipment, priced at 7/6 each.

Mr and Mrs Malcolm Gillies retired to Ulverstone in the late 1950’s spending much time in the Central Highlands restoring the house “Lagoon Lodge” at Miena in 1967. Malcolm and his fishing friends enjoyed the fine base until Malcolm’s death in 1976. Mrs Jane Gillies, who now lives at Battery Point, Hobart has donated his memorabilia of Malcolm to the Salmon Ponds Museum.

(Photo 357) ‘Melbourne tackle maker and fly dresser Malcom Gillies listed three fly reels in his 1935-1936 catalogue. At least one of these, the silver king, appears to have been introduced in that year. It featured an unusually positioned drum release latch which was stated to be a Gillies design. Its location opposite the handle – therefor providing a counter-balancing function- was claimed to ensure ‘extremely even running’ . In later models the latch was replace by the more conventional Slater-type latch. Also listed in the 1935-36 catalogue were the JMG, a wide drum reel with perforated spool and adjustable check, and the standard, a contracted drum ‘no frills’ reel. From information supplied by Mrs Gillies it appears that by the 1950’s all three reels were being made to the Gillies specification by J.W Young and Sons Ltd or Redditch, England. The earlier reels were made somewhere in Melbourne.’ – Bob Dunn 1994 Australian Fishing Reels

Pilot Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 359) Maker Unknown

Pipgras Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 362) Eric Pipgras started working for Hartley’s in 1931, later became manager of the Swanston Street shop. He was a very keen fly fisherman. Eric Pipgras worked and went fishing with Reg Lyne who he lived just up the street from. This reel came from his estate. Eric had a small workshop equipped with a lathe in his garage behind his home. A friend of Clive Staples, who was involved with the Vanguard thread-line spinning reel production, possibly may have been involved in the manufacture and design of the reel.

Sinclair Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 856) This reel was made by Arthur Sinclair of Hawthorne, Victoria. He patented a reel in 1948. Although this new reel is not identical to the reel in the patent, the patent number is inscribed on the back of the spool. This was a fairly common practice to use a patent number on other reels made.

Walton Fly Fishing Reels – (Photo 848) A pamphlet with the reel describes it as:

This reel is made from the finest light-weight alloy. The workmanship is of the highest. Guarantee and some interesting features. Ratchet wheel is of chrome steel while pawl is made from hard brass. This is done precisely in order that pawl may take the wear rather than steel which is fairly costly to replace, whereas a new pawl can simply be slipped into place. A spare is enclosed in this box and should you ever require another your stockist has instructions supply free of cost. This applies also to the tempered spring. A line guard is standard on all ‘Walton’ reels and should it wear or be lost it will be replaced without charge. The ‘Noirite’ finish is non-cracking and almost impossible to remove- in fact, with ordinary care and handling, it improves in appearance/ Drum is contracted for quick line recovery while the carrying capacity is ample.


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