Vintage Japanese Gut Fishing Line: Geisha, Cherry Blossom and San Toy brands. Information & Reference History.An Informative article on the manufacturing techniques of Gut Fishing Lines, written and kindly provided by John Brown,Tweed Heads. 8/9/2015.
My earliest fishing memories are of the 1930’s, when Japanese Gut was at the core of an amateur fisherman’s existence. But it was a fishing medium which required understanding and care, otherwise problems could occur. It consisted of myriads of strands of natural silk twisted to a specific number of turns, and then impregnated with a secret dressing and dried to give it a similar appearance to some brands of modern nylon. But unlike nylon it had to be kept moist in use to give it the correct degree of suppleness. If not, it could kink and would almost certainly break under strain in the affected area. Special knots were used. However, a fisherman who understood gut could maintain it for many years in good condition so long as it was dried thoroughly after use. The round corks on which the lines were wound for use, were frequently fluted with lengthwise ‘V’ cuts to assist drying. Anglers often wound a moist cloth bandage around a reel filled with gut, to prepare it for fishing. Some enthusiasts ‘tanned’ their lines with strong tea, but this was not recommended by the importers. Fishermen in those days had a great sense of intimacy with their lines, as handlining was the accepted norm for say bream fishing from a boat or beach. My discussion will revolve around two particular brands of line – “Geisha” and “Cherry Blossom”. They were from the same Japanese geographical location, and probably from the same factory, but “Geisha” was polished and “Cherry Blossom” unpolished. The unpolished line was slightly stronger and used generally in rod and reel fishing, while the polished “Geisha” was the handliners’ preference, as it allowed a big fish to be played by letting the line slip between the fingers when a strong run was made. When I joined the NSW Surf and Bait Casting Club in 1941, “Cherry Blossom” was an almost universal choice for use on members’ overhead fishing reels. Up to about 1930, “silk twist” had been used by those employing long light rods for blackfish (luderick), and then Jap Gut became available in fine breaking strains and was enthusiastically adopted.
After the outbreak of war with Japan, imports naturally ceased, so gut lines were given greater care, and mine were still useable at the end of hostilities – but not for long, and while gut manufacture may have resumed in Japan after the capitulation, none was seen in Sydney – and as nylon was actually invented by Dupont in the mid-thirties, the Japanese were probably aware that the “writing was on the wall”. To my recollection, nylon appeared in NSW about 1950. For Japanese Gut it was the end of an era, not only for “Geisha” and “Cherry Blossom”, but also for their numerous competitors. One such was ‘San Toy”, which also came in a ‘super’ version.
Two books written about 1938 by the NSW importer of “Geisha” and “Cherry Blossom” gut, show how labour intensive was their manufacturing process. The factory was in Nagahama, home still to Japan’s finest silk products. The manufacturing method described how the best silk from each cocoon was wound on to a large wheel. The filaments were amalgamated into multiple threads, which were then twisted into the final lines. The number of individual filaments used was extraordinary. Breaking strains varied from 2lbs. to 76 lbs. in the ‘Geisha’ specification. The process by which the line received its final coating was a trade secret closely guarded through successive generations. There was much speculation by our locals, but the theory most widely accepted, was that the required preparation was concocted from a rendering of silkworm cocoons into a suitable liquid dressing, which coated and impregnated the twisted silk line, giving it a hard surface.
The last generation of silkworm gut makers has almost certainly died out and the secret of their manufacture has probably been taken to the grave. And what was once a thriving Japanese industry delivering an exclusive product to almost all developed countries, has vanished from the face of the earth. J.R.E. Brown 6/10/2015.
Writer John Brown, his father Harold, and friends with Rangoon fishing poles. Location Pilot hill, Harrington, NSW, at the mouth of the Manning River -1936. On the right, a sprightly John Brown photo, 70 years later at the same fishing spot.
Geisha Cherry Blossom advertising book -c1937.
The GEISHA SILK
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