H2O Magazine

THE GREAT TRADITION OF ITALIAN FISHING REELS

The history of reels began in Italy in the second half of 1930s with handicraft models having a limited edition , produced by small companies situated in Northern Italy, above all, in the area round Milan and Turin.
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First Rotation Spool Reels

A rotating spool reel widespread by the company Zucchetti, situated in Turin, dates back from 1929, whereas before that often rudimental wooden instruments such as swifts and the so-called “squares” were used to spool the line. On the basis of the models made thirty years before in England, the first fixed spool reels tended to imitate what came to Italy from Germany, Switzerland, France and even Czechoslovakia. One of the most imitated foreign models was at that time the Swiss Berna: it was the basis for the building of Ovil (built in Luino), l’R3, Glauco, Squalius, Simplex and the most famous of all, Cigno, in which case there is a first pre-war version with fixed pick-up, a second version with half bail dating back from the 1940s, a third one from the early post-war period, also with half bail, but with a named cap which was just screwed on the right, and a fourth one with whole bail.

A type of reels imitated in Italy was also the hybrid version between the rotating spool and the fixed spool reel “Sidecaster” by Malloch. The best-known model is perhaps the light Linx – DRP, which is similar to Pexor as far as concerns the shape, but we mustn’t forget the rare CS3 and Neoinvitto, Universal MG, bakelite Zama as well as Ideal Spem. A most original model is Brevettato, with a spring rotating spool which is wound up by means of a key. Two more refined models also date back from the 1940s and take example from the celebrated Altex by English Hardy.

They are Major Asso by G. Maja from Turin, with the subsequent version Major Asso Luxe, and Crebbia from Milan, with its late version Super, which was more similar to its model for the better accuracy on the whole. On the back oil sump of Crebbia you can find different types of informations as the serial number (1, 2, 3, 4, N), the year of construction or double A (the initials of Alessandro Aguzzoli, who would be at the head of Agal). Canadian is a new version of Major Asso. We have thus reached the years when the major companies in this field were born: the handicraft production would tend to decrease little by little and the limited edition models would now begin to imitate the major Italian models which were gaining international fame and diffusion.

Alcedo

Alcedo is probably the most famous Italian company in the world as manufacturer of reels. Founded in Turin in 1945 by Rolandi, it produced high quality reels for thirty years before it was handed over to Coptes, in 1975, which carried on the production till 1982 with trademark Alcedo.

The first model manufactured by the factory in Turin is the famous Omnia, a reel with precision helical gears having a thrust ball-bearing and gear ratio 1:3. Alcedo Nr. 2 too was made in 1945 and had a straight stem and a gear ratio 1:3,5. Its colour was grey and its medallion and logo were fixed on the cover with two small stems curved on the inside. The model Jupiter was manufactured in the late 1950s in various colours and its features were the curved stem, the highly sliding alloy bronze helical gears, stainless steel line guide arm and agate line guide with height-adjuster. The smallest and lightest reel then existing in the world had issued at the beginning of the 1950s, its name was Micron and it was celebrated for years on the American market, not without a reason. It was a small version of the successful 2CS.

There were different versions, from a black prototype without registration number to blue, then again dull black and finally blue and green models. The production of the biggest Alcedo reels, Atlantic and Oceanic, began in the mid-1950s. They were both planned by Rolandi on a single body, where you could put on a rotor and a spool of different sizes. They both got an official award in the United States in 1956, “The Renascent Golden Compass”, and they were marketed there under the names Mark IV (Atlantic) and Mark V (Oceanic) as well.

Zangi

Zangi was founded in Turin in the late 1940s by Velio Zangirolami and became without a doubt the most prolific and active Italian company on the international market, since Zangi reels were distributed with different international trademarks, from Abu (Sweden) to Orvis, Ted Williams, Pescador, True Temper, Herters and Holliday (USA). Zangi was finally handed over to Coptes too, in 1972, three years before Alcedo.

The early models were the dull black Trio, the brown Sprite, Jolly (first version in black, second one in dark grey, then even two-colour versions for many years thereafter). Joker was identical to Jolly, grey and blue. Jolly was also distributed with the trademark ABU 222, whereas Sprite was marked ABU 225. Among the first models of the early 1950s, however, the most famous and appreciated one is Pelican 100, with gear ratio 1:3, characterized by very sliding and silent gears. The left-hand model was named Pelican 101. There were also two smaller models: Pelican 75, with gear ratio 1:3,65, and Pelican 50, with gear ratio 1:5,1. Pelican 300 was completely different. They were marketed in America under the trademark Orvis.

Cargem

Cargem was founded in Gemonio (Varese) in 1946 by Sergio Carnevalli. The first models with trademark Cargem were CarGemonio, which had a five-point star on its cover, the fifth version of the famous Cigno, with arm, and Due Pesci in four versions: the first one without an anti-return device, the second one with an anti-return device on the rear, the third one with the same on the front, both with the inscription CarGem, all of them with two fishes impressed on the cover, the fourth one with trademark and logo in a silver coloured medallion. Then followed Cargem 11 (in various versions as well, from the early 1950s to the early 1960s), Cargem 17 and Cargem 22, an evolution of Cigno. The first version is black and has a golden plate stuck on it, the second one is grey or black with inscriptions printed inside a crown-shaped circle. Cargem 22 Falcon, from the early 1960s, had a curved instead of the previously straight stem. Cargem 33 Mignon dated back to the 1950s too, with its helical ears and gear ratio 1:5,2, chromium-plated arm and agate guideline. The rarer Cargem 23 Lancer has similar sizes, but the rotor is bigger.

Ofmer

Ofmer (Officina Meccanica Rossetti), based in via Bassa dei Sassi 16, Bologna, was set up in the early post-war period too. Two reels are to be recorded among the first ones produced in the late 1940s, 211/N, aluminium grey with ratio 1:4, and 266/E, cheap version without rack slider, replaced by a simple connecting rod. A second series of these models was made in the 1950s and it was differentiated above all for its “grand piano” shape, which was typical of Ofmer. The model 266/E was thereafter named N/22 and manufactured in small series, 409 SL and the cheap E/400. The series 400 continued in the Sixties and Seventies. Ofmer 301 was built in the 1950s and gave the possibility of turning the spool of 90° by pushing a button under the stem, according to the so-called “rotating spool” scheme. The new models from the 1960s are characterized by their “grand piano” shape too, from the series Eco, in different sizes, to big sea reels. For economical reasons some of them were mounted on a Zn+Al+Mg alloy crown, which crumbled after the least effort.

Nettuno

Nettuno was founded in the post-war period too, in Nova Milanese by Attilio Postini, and its production continued till the early 1970s by his son Luigi in the factory based in via Montegrappa 2. Among the early models we can mention the prototype, which was produced in three versions: one with an anti-return device and one without it, with the inscription on a metal label with red background, and the third one with a different stem and a printed inscription. There are three quite different versions of A.P. (the founder’s initials) too: one with a straight stem and the other two with a curved stem. The initials appear on the early models, among which we can mention the model P1, the first one of a long series where only the initial of the surname is printed on. However, the beginnings are not very clear, because even different rotors are named P1. We should also point out that some models were marketed with different initials too, mostly with A.F. and R. or Erre, which corresponded to the exclusive distributors Achille Fusi and Ravizza. P5 is provided with the same arm and crank, but its shape is much more slender and the rotor and spool smaller. Both are rather common. We don’t know anything about P3, which was probably never produced, as well as P13, whereas P11 was a landing-net. P7 was for the sea, P8 had two versions, a cheaper one and one with bronze gears and an opportunity to shift the crank to the other part of the body. P9 is perhaps the most widespread model by Nettuno, cheap and quite Spartan, with a ratio of 1:3, whereas P10 is an excellent reel, the only one with a closed bobbin, and it’s quite rare.

Besides the industrial production of these companies there was little space left in the 1950s for handicraft series, of which you can find different models, even if these are rare. We can mention Cormoran, Spinning (in two series), Heron, Delio, Novo. A small company was based in Breda Cisoni, in the province of Mantova, and owned by Pasqualino Piccinini (hence the initials Pik-Pas). It produced from 1951 both Nautilus versions S-503 normal and S-504 with bent spool, which made it possible to lengthen and cross the coils during the pick-up of the line, and Nautilus B1 e B2, the last of which had a version for the sea too.

Agal

The production of the firm Agal, owned by Ernesto and Alessandro Aguzzoli and based in via Quaranta 3, Milan, expanded in the 1950s and 1960s. Major Asso and Crebbia had been produced in the early post-war period in the same foundries: the stem, crank and handle of the model Captor reveal this derivation. Two similar models are Agal 60, which is cheaper, and Agal 56, in rustproof metal, with luxury finishing and spring-arm with cam and spring. The model simply called Agal was quite widespread and had conical gears and an anti-return device: it was driven by a tie-rod button and marked Royal for the foreign market.

Almost all of these companies suffered irremediable losses from the Japanese competition, which produced similar reels characterized by very poor quality but low prices.

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