SCARBOROUGH REELS — A part of South Africa’s angling history — by Erwin Bursik
PERHAPS this article ought to be titled “An ode to the spinning reel”, because to those who were brought up with a Scarborough in their hands from the first time they went fishing, the mere sight or mention of these reels stirs up a well of nostalgia.
The Scarborough reel was named after the small English fishing port of Scarborough on the north Yorkshire coast where the prototype of a wooden fishing reel was first conceived and manufactured, but it is just as much a part of angling history here in South Africa, specifically in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Scarborough reel became the reel of choice in Natal way back in the days before the Second World War. Before nylon was invented, these reels were spooled with flaxline or cord line — in fact, any line that could be spooled onto a reel during that period and which enabled anglers to step up from handlining to fishing with a rod and reel. The rods of yesteryear which first replaced handlines will be covered in a separate article, having also played an integral role within the evolution of fishing and the way people fished.
The history of the Scarborough reel has not, to my knowledge, ever been fully documented. There’s a wealth of knowledge about Scarboroughs in the memory banks of those of us who cut our teeth on this type of reel, and I feel that this needs to be documented for posterity’s sake — not merely in an article like this, but in a much more comprehensive format.
Within the offshore angling community there still is a section of sportfishermen who almost exclusively fish with Scarborough reels. From Zululand, Natal and the Wild Coast through to the Border area, the Scarborough reel is still their reel of choice for bottom- or reef fishing. Indeed, many anglers feel it will be a long time before more suitable and practical reels are invented to force the bottom Scarborough’s demise.
Read the full story in the July/August 2007 issue of SKI-BOAT.