Weber Fly Fishing Ad June 1945 Sports Afield

Today in Fly Fishing Gear 1945 we continue our look at World War II era tackle and its availability at the time.  For those who might think it’s sacrilege to bring fly fishing to a bass site, you’re sorely mistaken.  You can’t discuss bass fishing from its genesis through the 1960s without bringing up fly fishing.

To the avid bass angler from 1881, when James A. Henshall wrote his seminal work on the Black Bass, to the advent of contemporary bass tournaments in 1967, every bass angler worth his River Runts had at least one fly rod in the boat.

Fly fishing for bass during these times was as important to the sport as was baitcasting and eventually spinning.  Deer hair bugs, cork poppers, and even small “fly rod” lures made by Heddon, Fred Arbogast, and South Bend made the lineup in anglers’ tackle boxes during the time.

As a kid, the fly rod was as important to me as my boron pistol grips when fishing the golf course ponds near my house.  If they weren’t eating a worm, topwater, or spinnerbait, they seemed to hit a hand-tied mouse or popper.  And once you got a fish to come up and eat the little frog imitation, you were in for a good time.  Unless you’ve done it, you have no idea how a 3-pound bass will pull on a 9-foot, 6-weight rod in the lily pads.

The fact that the tackle companies placed six ads with respect to fly fishing in these issues shows the importance it played back in the day.  With those ads were three that either called out or showed bass fishing specifically.

Now on to the ads.


Depending on the source, Horrocks-Ibbotson went into business between 1863 and 1880 and was one of the largest manufacturers of high-end fishing tackle in the mid-20th Century.  This is a company I have little knowledge of but looking through the vast maze of the internet, it appears they concentrated on fly rods and reels.

Horrocks and Ibbotson Ad May 1945 Sports Afield

The ad placed in the May issue of Sports Afield is another tribute to the war effort and the angler.  The first two paragraphs of the ad describe the feeling of hooking into a fish and the sport it brings.  But at the bottom, they want to remind everyone why their tackle hasn’t been available for some time.  They said:

*** There will be very little H-I fishing tackle this season.  Essential materials are scarce and H-I continues to be up to its “wader tops” in victory production.

Then below that they state:

Peacetime manufacturers of the largest line of fishing tackle in the world.

That’s a bold statement considering the likes of Heddon, South Bend and Pflueger at the time.


If you fly fished in the 1980s or earlier, you’ll remember the Martin Automatic fly reel.  A common challenge while fly fishing is the accumulation of line at your feet while presenting the fly or popper.  And, invariably, you always get bit while you have 20 yards of line at your feet.

The trouble then turns to keeping tight to the fish while reeling up the line between your rod hand and the reel.  If you catch a fish that takes a long run right off, you’re fine as all that slack will be taken by the fish.  But if that doesn’t happen, you’re left to reel it up as fast as you can with a 1:1 reel.

Martin Fly Reel Ad May 1945 Sports Afield
Martin Fly Reel Ad June 1945 Sports Afield

Martin decided to fix that problem by making their automatic reel.  This reel didn’t have a handle and utilized a spring-loaded spool to pick up the fly line, in record time.  These reels were very popular and pretty much every fly angler I knew at the time had one.

My first fly rod consisted of a Fenwick glass rod that was a 9-foot, 6-weight and on it I had a Pflueger 1495 Medalist single-action reel.  I liked the setup but always wondered how a Martin would perform.  So, one day I borrowed a friend’s and went to the golf course to try it out.

I loaded the spring like my buddy showed me, stripped some line out, made some false casts, and then laid out about 40 feet of line onto the surface of the water.  I did this for a few casts to get used to the reel and then made a cast off a lily pad point.

A few quick strips of the line to make the bug gurgle and a bass came up and ate the offering.  At that point I had about 10 feet of line at my feet.  I hit the switch, to release the spring, and the action just about jerked the rod from my hand downward as the line wrapped around a root sticking out of the ground.  The root instantly gave away and being wrapped around the line zipped up and got stuck inside the reel.  Needless to say, I lost that fish and spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to get the root out of the reel.  That was the last day I ever ventured to own a Martin.

This isn’t meant to disparage Martin in any way, as I know others must have had good experiences with them based on the number of reels they sold.

Martin placed two ads in Sports Afield in 1945.  In the May ad, they state that they had been making automatic fly reels for 60 years.  That means they started making them in 1885, around the time Dr. Henshall was making the bass America’s #1 game fish.  In that May ad they also state that they were 100% committed to the war effort and you’d be able to buy one of their reels as soon as they became available.

Pachner & Koller

Pachner & Koller, known better as P&K, also placed a couple ads in the 1945 Sports Afield magazines.  This ad was for their new “Liteweight Fly Reel,” the 101-R.  This reel weighed in at only 4 ounces and was made from aluminum and steel.  It was a precision machined, single action reel that was lacquered in a two-tone green.  The reel sounds like it was a pretty little reel that would compete in today’s market.

P&K Reel Ad July 1945 Sports Afield

P&K doesn’t make mention of the war in the ad but doing a little research I found that the did support the war effort by providing hooks to the troops through emergency kits.  At the time they were one of the few hook companies manufacturing hooks in the U.S.

P&K also offered to sell the reel direct to the customer for the cost of $4.40.

Formed in 1934, P&K was a successful business through the war years.  But, after the war, competition with the Japanese, who started importing hooks and knocked their sales down by 300%, led them down a path they couldn’t recover from (NFLCC 2019).  The 1950s were rough and they had to sell half of the business.  The company closed its doors in 1966.

South Bend

South Bend placed several ads in the magazines of 1945, most of which were dedicated to the war fighter and their overall company.  Each ad stated their responsibility to the fight and how they’d be coming back during peacetime.

South Bend Ad March 1945 Sports Afield

The ad presented below is just a great picture and a great message.  The image came from their 1944 Photo Contest and features a gentleman fighting what can only be a nice smallmouth on a fly rod.  The verbiage in the ad is sparce, but the picture says a thousand words.  Cliché, yes it is.


Finally I have what I think is the best ad of the bunch, from Weber Lifelike Fly Company.  Weber flies have been around since 1920 and quickly became the biggest fly supplier in the U.S.  The company also produced rods, reels, lines, essentially everything you needed to catch fish on the fly.

The image in this ad is absolutely top notch.  A stump is both backdrop and prop for two big bass hanging, a creel and the rod and reel.  What amazes me is after nearly 80s years the color is still vibrant.

Weber Fly Fishing Ad June 1945 Sports Afield

The words of the ad relate to the fight these two bass provided and how Weber tackle beat them.  But the ad doesn’t stop there.

As with all the companies of the time, they made sure anglers wanting tackle knew why they weren’t able to obtain it.  the most poignant part of the ad states:

. . . sportsmen at home are sharing with the fighting men around the world!  In emergency kits such as this – amazingly compact and complete – go many Weber lures . . . to save  lives, and to provide vitally needed recreation.

It was a different time.

The covers today’s post and the tackle of 1945.  Tomorrow we’ll end the series with a look at the ads from South Bend.