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Hairline Fishing - A Little History

by Herb S.
(Southwest Michigan)

Sub-ultralight fishing is not new nor a Japanese invention. It goes back a long way in Europe, principally in France even before WW2.

According to A.J. McClane in his 1952 “Spinning for Fresh and Saltwater Fish of North America” the firm of Pezon & Michel were the main makers of ultra-leger lancer equipment. McClane reports that monofilament lines less than ½ pound test were available, but recommends lines of ½ to 1# test for the extremely light and fragile cane rods available in France at that time with lures from 1/30 to 1/8 ounce. With tackle like that he writes “you can cast an ordinary cigarette, with no added weight, 30 feet.”

What makes fishing this light possible with the reels of that time was, rather than depending on the possibly sticky drag to fight fish, using the reel-hand fore-finger to feather the spool and gain line by lifting the rod and reeling as you lower it.

Skipping ahead to 1965, McClane’s article (reprinted in “The Complete McClane”) “Exploring With Ultralight” updates his recommendations to one to three pound test lines with two pound as the most popular for hairline spinning. By then lines had become thinner per strength and more flexible. Reels and rods had improved, too. But his old advice on casting, retrieving and playing fish remained and is still well worth looking up in any of McClane’s books or magazine articles you can find.

I, hero worshiper that I am, highly recommend it if you want to get the most out of your ultra-light spin fishing or fly fishing or anything about fishing for that matter.

It’s 2018 and you don’t have to order your tackle from France! Thanks to Chris and the perfectionist Japanese, very advanced hairline tackle is now available for those who have always wanted it or maybe didn’t even know they wanted it.

Happy fishing,

Comments for Hairline Fishing - A Little History

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Aug 27, 2018
Piscatorial Absurdities
by: Alex Argyros

I'm not sure how available it is, but Piscatorial Absurdities by Joe Robinson is a recent book about extreme ultralight spinning.

I know Joe, and fish one of his rods, a spinning rod built on a St. Croix 3wt. fly rod blank. Joe is a really good fisherman and his writing style is witty and irreverent. He packs a lot of wisdom in this rather modest tome.


Aug 28, 2018
by: Chris Stewart

You guys are going to get me in trouble!

You know where this is going with the 1 lb line!

Spin Fishing for Micros!

I've caught fallfish and chubs with the Vega spoons, but there are smaller fish out there. I have a friend in Arkansas who has been bugging me to get the Wide Eyed hooks smaller than size 12 so he can make micro-spinners for fish that are too small to take the size 12s, let alone the size 8 hooks on the Vega spoons.

The SBL 35 hooks don't come smaller than #12, but I found some size 16 big eye hooks. The hook eyes aren't as large as on the Cultiva SBL 35, but they might be large enough. I have some small split ring pliers that can handle size 00 split rings (not yet on the website). The split rings I have on the Finesse-Fishing site are size 1, but I will order some 00. I may have to get some 00 Indiana spinner blades to complete the package (they look smaller than the Colorado blades, so smaller fish might try for them).

I haven't found high quality 1 lb line, but I can get some 1.2 lb. Probably close enough ;-)

Just one extra, extra ultralight rod left. Probably have to get more of those, too.

Then have to hold a "smallest fish" contest.

Oh, I'm in trouble now.

Aug 28, 2018
Great Article Herb!
by: Les Albjerg

I thought you were going to be writing about horse hair fishing! I am enjoying the fine finesse fishing equipment that Chris is bringing us from Japan. I feel trepidation fishing 2 pound test line! This is all new to me. I have a friend Mark who grew up and lived a majority of his life in Missouri. He has a love for the spring creeks back there, and has made annual trips back to fish them with his family for 17 years. His secret weapon is that that he fishes 1 pound test line on his quality spinning outfit! He showed me several pictures of 2-4 pound brown trout that he landed on 1 pound test line!

On my last outing with the Tenyru Rayz Spectra, I was amazed how I could really feel the sensitivity. I knew when I hit a rock vs a fish. I could tell if the lure was on the gravel. I could feel the smallest weed tangle. Best of all, I could really feel the take by the fish!

I find the same sensitivity when fishing with a fixed line rod. A big difference between fly fishing and fixed line is keeping the line off the water! I know Chris empathizes it, but last weekend I truly experienced the difference. I just realized that I have no fear or trepidation fishing true Keiryu method with 2 pound test!

Always more to learn and techniques to explore. MMMM maybe I should try the bobber with 12 pound test down to the size 6 hook with a nightcrawler, lawnchair, soda next to me, and sleepily stare at it and hope something happens!

I don't think so.

Aug 28, 2018
by: Terry Farmer

Another great resource for this style is The Modern Science of Spin fishing by Erne St. Claire. written in the 50’s and It’s available as a free PDF online.

Sep 01, 2018
speaking of Piscatorial Absurdities
by: bill piatek

Great book. I need to make some of his balsa poppers over the winter for spring bass & panfish.

I've made some of the Charlie Cypert fly rod poppers in the past and they were fun to make & fish.

He also has a crayfish/crawfish/mudbug jig in there.

Jan 29, 2019
Piscatorial Absurdities
by: Tom Donnelly

I've been trying to find a copy of Joe Robinson's book for almost 2 years. If any of you can help me find a copy, email me at

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

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