David Webster was born in Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire in
very poor circumstances. He worked as a weaver in the town
of Lanark, for most of his life, strangely, or maybe not,
‘webster’ is the Scots word for a weaver.
Sometime during the 19th century he became a professional
fisherman, catching trout, grayling and salmon for the market.
He published a book called ‘The Angler and the Loop Rod’ in 1885,
the picture is from that book.
He fished with a very old style of rod, which he called the ‘Loop Rod’.
This was a two handed spliced rod measuring from 13 feet 6 inches
to 13 feet 8 inches (his words) of three pieces. The butt is made of ash,
the middle piece of hickory, and the top of lancewood. Attached to
the extremity of the top piece is a strong loop of twisted horse-hair,
through which is passed the loop of the horse-hair line used in casting.
This style of rod goes back to before Isaac Walton.
Reels had been available for many years but would be to expensive
for a working man like Webster, and anyway he probably preferred
to stick with tackle he knew. His income depended on it.
His ‘casting-line’ was made of horse-hair, not too firmly twisted - the lengths of
hairs being knotted at their junction, and the ends neatly tied with well-rosined
It tapers gradually from the loop to the gut. The number of hairs composing the
thickest part of the line at the loop ranges from thirty-six to forty-five, according
to fineness, diminishing gradually to five or six at the point where the gut-line
is attached. The length of the casting line should be from 18 to 20 feet. The loop
at the top is about three inches long, and is passed through the corresponding loop
of the smaller size attached to the rod.
The Gut-line, as distinguished from the from the casting-line proper, measures from
16 to 17 feet,
and so the total length of line from the loop to the trail-fly is from 34 to 37 feet.
The gut should be tapered as well as the hair-line - the strongest lengths being
selected for the portion next to the casting-line, and the finer for the remainder,
so as to preserve the tapering of the line throughout its entire length from loop
to fly. He goes into great detail on the choice of gut.
He says “I always use nine flies on my cast, and as they are all tied on very
fine looped gut, the droppers are as easily attached by bringing the loops over the
knots of the line”. He gives a lot of detail on the distance between the flies, usually
about 20 or 22 inches. The droppers were about 2 inches.
I thought the information on his rod and line would be of interest, as there is
not much in the literature about how such rods were rigged. His horse-hair casting-line
in particular will be of interest to the furled leader fans. His flies, salmon and
trout are listed as follows.