1st Jul 2018
Manton & Co. of Calcutta 3 1/2ins. Nickel Plated Brass Crank Wind Mahseer Winch c. 1925
A rare and exquisite nickel plated brass crank wind mahseer winch dating from around 1925. The distinctive and charming fish-shaped handle is stamped with an oval shop stamp 'MANTON & CO. K. CALCUTTA. It's knob is made from turned and polished horn. The reel is in immaculate condition and in full working order with a constant check and steady retrieve. It would most likely have been commissioned by an angler in India for use hublot replica during the mahseer season and plated either at the factory in England that supplied Manton's or in all probability in India at the Manton's workshops. These were extensive and employed a large workforce primarily to service guns, rifles and pistols which made up Manton's main trade. The Manton & Co. 'Price List of Guns, Rifles, Ammunition and Sporting Goods' 1926-1927 said of these workshops, 'During the course of the year we receive hundreds of weapons either for storage, repairs, restocking, resighting, or for the correction of some one or other of the numerous defects, which even in the best gun are apt to develop in use, and it has, therefore, been necessary for us to secure and train men, thus giving them the highest skill which it is possible to obtain in India, and we are pleased to say that during the long period since the establishment of our business in this country, our endeavours in this direction have been successful, and we are able to-day to accept practically any class of repairs and to effect in Our Own workshops with Our Own men trained by us on Our Own premises.' Pictured alongside this entry in the list were workers who had been in the employ of Manton's for 40 and 46 years respectively. On page 109 of the list under 'American Hammerless Revolvers' two types of finish were offered, 'Nickel or Blued',replica watches and on page 124 at the foot of the page the following was printed 'Our Fishing Tackle List Sent on Application'. Surviving items of Manton's fishing tackle do turn up in old collections and although one often sees Mahseer spoons, many of them made of nickel plated copper or brass, to find a nickel plated reel is extremely unusual.
Mahseer fishing was hugely popular amongst anglers posted to India, The Field's 'Where to Fish - The Angler's Diary 1923-24' said of it, 'There is excellent mahseer fishing in the Punjab, in the North-west Provinces and in Central India, in all rivers running through hilly or mountainous country.....Ideas of tackle (for India) have been modifield since old days when greenheart rods were recommended. Greenheart still serves, but most men now prefer split cane. For mahseer useful rods would be a powerful spinning rod of 11ft to 12ft and say, two powerful fly rods 10ft 6ins. to 14ft. Good oil-dressed lines suffer from the climate, and many skilled anglers prefer undressed hemp or silk. Gut is very perishable in India, and one of the good "gut-substitutes" is to be preferred for fly-fishing or fly-spoons, and wire traces for spinning. The gaff is not much used. Native ghillies are very expert in beaching fish. A big, sound landing-net is advisable. Spoons of various colours and sizes, and spinning flights for natural baits are wanted. Where the mahseer take a fly, gaudy patterns and silver bodies will serve. Usually they need not be big No.5 Limerick being a good stock size, but a variety of sizes is useful. Tackle can be obtained in various centres nowadays. A useful little book on the subject is 'Mahseer Tackle' by Major R.S. Rivett-Carnac (Pioneer Press, Allahabad).
At the time that this reel was built, plated and sold, the Manton & Co. shops could be found at 13, Old Court House Street, Calcutta and at Kashmir Gate in Delhi. The business had at that point been going for 100 years and were gunmakers to H.E. The Viceroy.