Museum Pieces: The Sun and Planet Reel


P.D. Malloch’s innovation was in creating a reel whose knob could be used as a brake.
Photo courtesy AMFF

Editor’s note: The American Museum of Fly Fishing is located right next to the Orvis Flagship store in Manchester, Vermont. The folks from the museum will be sharing many of the cool items from their collection in an ongoing series called “Museum Pieces.” You can take a little virtual walk through part of the museum at the bottom of this post. 

Peter Duncan Malloch (1853-1921) was born in Almondbank in Methven Parish, Perthshire, on July 15, 1852. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a bleach worker until 1872, when he formed a small taxidermy and fishing-tackle shop with his brother, James. Using his mechanical expertise from bleach working and from tinkering with fishing equipment from a young age, Malloch quickly became known as Scotland’s greatest reel maker, and his 1880 Sun and Planet reel (pictured above) did much to enhance his reputation. This reel’s chief advantage is that when line is run off by a fish, the side plate does not turn—the handle knob rotates. Because of this arrangement, the handle can be used as a brake.

Riding the coattails of a flourishing business and angling career (Peter Malloch himself won an unprecedented amount of Loch Leven Championships, and his Fisheries Exhibition medals adorned the company’s stationary), the brothers moved into a 7,000-square-foot building in Perth, making it the largest sporting goods establishment in the UK. The store became a Bass Pro Shops-like experience, with people traveling great distances to buy their fishing tackle, guns, and could even purchase or lease beats and sporting estates.

In his extensive travels throughout Scotland, Malloch also contributed to improvements like salmon ladders to enhance or create access to spawning grounds, and the construction and design of dams and weirs to create new lochs or improve river flows. Such was his authority that details of his innovations and statistics of his catches were regularly cited in the annual reports of the Fishery Board for Scotland, and he gave evidence as an expert witness in 1899 to the royal commission on Irish inland fisheries and in 1900 to the royal commission on salmon fisheries. He regretted the slow pace of legislation to protect salmon stocks.


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One thought on “Museum Pieces: The Sun and Planet Reel”

  1. Yet another example of a great historical piece; I learned something here, for sure! A novel idea, that brake provided by a handle! That’s great!

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