You Get a Line, I’ll Get a Pole

May 26, 2021

The early days of Illinois weren’t overrun with consumer goods. No furniture marts, no big box stores. General stores did exist, but they probably had less of an assortment of goods than a present-day dollar store.

Fishing reels did exist in the 1800s, but were hard to find. Most people relied on the tried-and-true method of finding a straight limb or piece of cane and tying on a length of line. Early lines were made from horsehair, silk, linen, and other materials. These were obviously fairly fragile and had to be carefully dried and taken care of to last any time at all. The poles could be hazel, ash, or willow, but then gradually an excellent newfangled material was being brought from India — bamboo. There were some kinds of cane growing in the United States but it wasn’t as strong as the Indian bamboo. And the magic thing is that the fish don’t care. All of this effort is only to present something that looks tasty to a hungry fish — and get him (or her) to bite it.

So next time you see a fisherman fitted out with hundreds — or thousands — of dollars’ worth of equipment, remember that the barefoot boy can catch his limit just as easily as Mr. Outdoorsman. He didn’t have to spend untold hours working to get the money to buy the stuff. And the sizzling fish fresh out of the pan tastes just as good.

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