Picking Fly-Fishing Collectibles

Print More


By George Liset

    Winter is winding down, although begrudgingly. Just when I think the weather is going to cooperate enough to get back on the water, another storm comes along or the Montreal Express comes down to put us in a big freeze. At this point in time I’ve read most of my new books and fishing magazines, I’ve organized my fly boxes and fiddled around with my rod and reels. So for a change of scenery I hit the local antique shops, thrift shops and antique shows to find more fly fishing stuff.

    One of my hobbies is buying and selling fly fishing equipment and collectibles. O.k., buying is accurate, selling might be a stretch. There is an art to buying and selling. If you have enough money you don’t have to worry about the art, but the enjoyable part is finding a great item for your price. In order to do this one has to know what an item is worth. This sometimes takes time and experience.

    I enjoy watching, “The American Pickers’ on the History Channel. I actually have had two friends who have been on the show. The behind-the-scenes set up is actually quite interesting. Mike, Frank and the gang really know their stuff and usually already have some of their items sold before they even buy them. The pickers like to pick Maine and New Hampshire, calling them America’s attic. While they pick they dispense some sage advice.

    “Condition, condition, condition” is important to remember. In one episode they were picking a barn in Maine and the seller pulled out an old L.L. Bean bamboo fly rod and was asking big bucks for it; However, the condition was rough. In a fly rod, all the sections need to be of the same length, the ferrules need to be all there and tight. The seller’s rod met none of the criteria and the bamboo was separating. The only thing it had going for it was the name. This fly rod would be termed a wall hanger in the re-sale business. A nice decoration but not worth restoring.

    I just bought a beautiful fiberglass fly rod, vintage 1940’s or 50’s, at a local antique show for eight dollars. It is the first fiberglass fly rod I have bought and I couldn’t pass it up. It was in its original rod tube and had great action. I can’t wait to try it out. It would easily bring $75 to $125 to the right buyer. Condition is everything.

    Another adage is “The time to buy it is when you see it.” Some items are hard to find. I won’t say rare because you can find most items on the internet, but usually not for your price. I once passed up a nice vintage Leonard fly rod that was just at the top of my price range. I hemmed and hawed and decided I just couldn’t do it. I thought about it for a week or so and finally called to see if it was still available, but it had been sold. Another adage is “You don’t feel bad about the things you bought, you feel bad about those items you don’t.”  I’m still kicking myself about that one.

    I collect signed books, and one of my favorite writers is fly fishing author John Gierach. I have all his books of which, most of them are signed. I know that he is a signer so when I come across any of his books I check for a signature. I was at a local thrift shop when I found a hardcover, first edition of his book “Good Flies” signed for $2. Online this book would go for up to $45, however it was personalized which drops the price a little. It was made out to Pierre. Now I can either find a fly fisher named Pierre to sell it to or keep it and explain to my friends that Pierre is what my French Canadian guides call me which might be easier.

    I also just found a gorgeous signed and numbered print of a California Golden Trout for a song. The artist is a known artist which makes his prints worth more. Most of these items will not see the outside of my office. If need be, I may sell some of them to upgrade to a new or different fly rod. So if you get a little cabin fever and need a change of scenery hit the local antique and thrift shops and happy picking!

 George Liset of Dover is an award-winning outdoor writer and avid fly fisherman who shares insights of his time on the water exploring New Hampshire streams and rivers as well of those around New England. George is a graduate of Wheaton College, Illinois, and the University of New Hampshire. His column Writing on the Fly has been honored by the New England Press Association and the New Hampshire Press Association.

Comments are closed.