The enigma of leather reel cases and initials

Often as not, when a collector comes across a lovely fly reel in a block leather case, they ask about initials or inscription on the case.

To some these personalised marks devalue the case; to me they give the case life and history.

Hardy, Farlow, Carter, Eaton and Deller, Malloch and so on all supplied stunning high-quality block leather cases for the reels as an accessory purchase.

These were sold to protect the reel during travel and storage, BUT these makers did not generally make the cases they sold.

Richard Wheatley of Walsall has been hand making leather cases since the turn of the century for other famous “makers” to stamp their mark on. And why not, with the Black Country’s skilled workers in leather and metal, who better to make the cases. Early in the business life of Wheatley they were making leather wallet pouches for the tobacco industry. It’s almost a natural progression to a fly wallet and later reel cases. The alloy fly boxes we probably owned at least one of, the black japanned lure and fly tins, the leather tackle cases such as the Hardy or Farlow Carry All, the Westley Richards compartment lure case and the little glass oil bottle leather lapel holder for the dry fly angler, all Wheatley.

During a rare invite to the original Wheatley works some 30 years ago I gazed with astonishment at all the famous branded products they produced wholesale in the founder’s office display cabinet.

Back to initials.

A large collection of brass and alloy fly reels can look cold. Add some block leather cases and it softens the collection, adds value to the reels and they have value in themselves .

A few of the examples here are from famous retailers but just look at the matched pair of Farlow Patent Lever reels in matching block leather cases. Simply stunning as a display, each professionally stamped to the lids, No. 1 & No. 2.

I wonder how many more there were, who they belonged to and perhaps which great estate they spent their life in the tackle room of, being cared for by the Ghillie.

See what I mean, it brings the reel to life?

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