Brass winches and horse hair lines

Fishing in the 1700 & 1800’s wasn’t just a case of grab the tackle and go.

Lines were at a very early stage of development in this period and so when a brass winch landed on my desk this week filled with horsehair line, it reminded me of that issue.

The early brass reels, often called winches were more of a line store than fighting from the reel affair. It was the line however that was the issue.

Silk and gut were in their infancy and many anglers opted to make their own lines from horsehair.

The tail hairs of the stallion were the preferred choice as the female ponies fouled the tails and weakened the hair. A mixture of white and black tail hairs looks pleasing but it allows the maker to check the standard of the braid they have woven.

So, you buy or make a line twister, anywhere from 3 to 9 prongs works, the more prongs, the more single hairs can be attached and the more complicated the whole event becomes resulting in stronger or thicker line.

Method: attach the twister to a bench or table with the hooks pointing down.

Then tie on as many hairs as you like, one per hook, normally 3-4 feet long, hold or tie the bottom of the hairs together, put a wood egg shaped weight in the middle of the hairs and wind the twister.

As the hairs weave together, the wooden egg travels up the hair keeping a tension on the braiding. Hey presto when complete, you have 3 feet of line.

Repeat as required, braid splice all sections, soak in water to soften with a little oil, wind on the reel and after 10-15 hours you can go fishing, easy!

Nightmare for anyone, it’s no wonder many companies from Spain to Italy, Mexico and the western world entered the race to develop what was called a modern line.

The gut twisters are rarer than the reels. To collect a gut/ hair twister with a brass winch still retaining its horsehair is a result for any tackle display cabinet.

All you need to do now is find a horse!