by P.Majeran  

The fascination of salmon fishing has got many facets. For some, Atlantic salmon fanatics, vintage salmon fishing tackle is a vivid reminder of a glorious era, when the rivers in Europe were still untamed, clean, produced big salmon runs….and where the British elevated salmon fishing to the status of an art rather than merely a sport. Among the most prominent collector’s items are vintage salmon flies, the really old ones tied to gut, later on with an gut eye, finally the hooks having been equipped with the metal eye. Today, we will have a look at vintage salmon fly boxes, often underestimated by collectors of vintage fishing tackle, yet fascinating nonetheless…. .

Peter Donald Malloch started manufacturing fishing tackle in 1875 in Perth, Scotland. A fascinating personality (he was a highly successful salmon angler and writer, too), he invented numerous patents along fishing, his inventions to fishing reels are famous. But P.D. Malloch manufactured also beautiful hand tied, fully dressed salmon flies, and…a wide range of fly boxes.

Old, even very old, Malloch salmon fly boxes can still comparatively easily be found, as they were manufactured in significant numbers. Their most common features are: black enameled metal on the outside, with cream enamel inside. And: the typical ‘Malloch’ plate with the respective patent no. engraved.

Above: a variation of the quite common swing leaf salmon box, this one is equipped with a cast container…. Below: A nice one – small and very handy, slips easily into the waist pocket, light blue enamel inside (not so common)…..

This one is the common swing leaf salmon box, not in a very good condition….apparently, it has seen many days on the salmon waters. What makes it fascinating, are the old flies still inside, and…the handwriting in ancient ink by the previous owner!

This box is rather rare. The special edition, nickel plated….can hardly think of a more elegant way to store precious vintage, gut eyed salmon flies…. To learn more about Malloch’s salmon flies and boxes, please see this excellent reference by Colin Innes

Hardy Bros Ltd of Alnwick hardly needs any introduction. The ancient cult fishing tackle manufacturer had salmon fly boxes on offer, too…..

However, Hardy fly boxes were not manufactured in Alnwick. Hardy rather had them produced by suppliers to specification, and sold them under their renowned brand. . Maybe adding the one or the other original Hardy product idea or patent, like the ‘security clips’ shown on this waist pocket box. We are witnessing an early form of ‘outsourcing’ or ‘supply chain management’….

Above: the biggest supplier was supposedly Richard Wheatley, at that time already a fly box manufacturer and brand in it’s own right. Below: made by RW, equipped with Hardy’s patented security clips, a swing leaf salmon fly box of enormous proportions, fit to hold large double hooked salmon flies.

Above: a tiny and neat waist pocket alloy salmon box, made by RW and equipped with Hardy\’s patented security clips. Below: Quite sought after, introduced in the 1930ies, the ‘Neroda’, a box made of bakelite. Looks elegant, but it’s quite heavy, actually

And then, there is of course Richard Wheatley, to be easily identified by the characteristic ‘RW’ logo. This venerated manufacturer started off in 1860, making a name in leather fly wallets, at those times the standard container for flies. The production of the famous patented alloy fly boxes dates back to 1908. Somehow it seems sad that this brand of grand tradition is nowadays struggling for survival.

Above: an old and battered salmon fly box, dating presumably from times when RW was not yet working with alloy. Due to its size, it is probably made for double hooked salmon flies. Withered from the outside, it is actually rather immaculate inside. Lined with ivorine, an early substitute for ivory…we are witnessing an early form of wildlife conservation (and cost cutting)..(-: Below: a much earlier example, from shortly after WW II. Made of alloy, this box with odd measures includes a cast holder at the top…some vintage Hardy casts were still inside…

This one is rather particular: the famous patented ‘Kilroy’ box, introduced in the 1930ties. It makes use of springs to hold even large single hooked salmon flies, and contains a salmon fly gauge to assess the size of the hook. Not super rare, but becoming increasingly collectible…. An excellent reference to any RW fly boxes ever manufactured can be found here:

And then, there are numerous less known manufacturers. Here as an example, Forrest & Sons of Kelso, located on the shores of River Tweed.

This large salmon fly box is in nearly immaculate condition, quite remarkable given its age. What makes it even more fascinating: it as full of fully dressed vintage salmon flies when purchased (via a well known online auction platform). So: the fascination of vintage salmon fly boxes lies as well in their content, if still original. But that is a separate chapter, to be opened on® at some later occasion…..