In a letter to Bob Dunn from John W. Southam:
It was fun to look over the list of fishing tackle and accessories made by Wm Southam from his first factory at 77 Longueville Road, Lane Cove. I was a school boy in short pants in those days when the business was getting underway and I remember calling in to the shop on my way home from school. Dad was often entertaining some big game fisherman in his small office or around the back-street teaching someone how to fly cast.
I appreciate your interested and would willingly do all I could to help in your quest.
The Southam involvement in fly reels and fishing nets was in the early days and proved less exciting than the rod making potential in volume terms. Dad based his fly reels and fishing nets on the Hardys of Alwick line – particularly the Hardy Perfect reel for dry fly fisherman.
My guess is less than 100 reels were made and about the same in the collapsible trout net which came in a bag to hang on the fisherman’s belt. Not at all sure where any samples could be found. I recall a wonderful character by the name of Carl Massey of Berridale who was one of Dad’s great fly fishing pals, but he has long since moved on to the ‘big trout stream in the sky’. He had a son, Carl jr., who possibly occupies the family property which from memory was called Severn Park, Berridale, N.S.W. Carl snr. had two Purdie shot guns owned by his farther I recall, as well as trout tackle from Wm Southam.
Not much help I’m afraid, but you have mentioned all the contacts I would have suggest to you.
Good luck in your quest.
John W. Southam”
In his pamphlet, “The Errol Bullen “ATALANTA” Big Game Rod” William Southam describes it as follows:
“The ATALANTA rod is constructed of three strips of specially treated treble built split cane and three strips of carefully selected guaranteed. Second growth hickory.
Considerable thought has been given to the design and the position on the rod of the phosphor bronze line guides, both for the “over the top” and “underneath” types.
The winch fitting and butt piece are all metal and eliminate any possibility if fracture and in addition ensure a perfect alignment at all times between line guides and reel.
A chromium plated spanner is provided for the tightening of the reel seat and a heavy duty, best quality, duck bag is part of the equipment.
All metal parts are of first-class material and are chromium plated.
The “ATALANTA: rod is the outcome of considerable thought and practical fishing experience of the well known Sydney big game fisherman – Mr. Errol Bullen, whose name it bears.
Special attention has been given to the requirements needed during protracted encounters with big fish and for these lengthy efforts a rod of great strength and flexibility is necessary and in the “ATALANTA”, it is the belief both the designer and maker, these features have been embodied.
The attached copy of the testimonial given by Mr. Zane Grey, the well-known angler-author, after using one of these rods expresses his opinions.
William Southham, Rodmaker, Sydney.”
In the same pamphlet, Zane Grey writes:
“To anyone it may concern,
I am glad to recommend Bullen’s Atalanta big game fishing rod made by Southam as it is the strongest, most beautifully finished, springiest and most enduring of all the rods I have used.”
In a letter Zane Grey wrote to Erroll Bullen, he states:
“The rods you had made for me by Bill Southam are the most beautifully built, and are the finest finished I have seen anywhere, much superior in that regard than the American rods. The special rod butt and reel seat appear to be the last word. Ig this saffron-heart wood holds up, as I am convinced it will from the hard usage, I gave a lighter one up on the Barrier, you will have had Mr Southam design and build the best rods in the world. I am so sure of this that I shall have future rods built here, instead of America.
The Southam Reels were possibly made by Warren Glasscock, who worked for Southam in the 1950’s. He made Southam some spinning reels (revolving drum multipliers). Only a couple were made, mainly for tournament casting with bakelite endplates and aluminium spools. Although, one has surfaced that is all aluminium and has Southam Rodmaker stamped on it. The fly-fishing reels were possibly made by the same maker of Kiewa Reels, as the reels are almost identical to each other.