Wings on the Water

Wings on the Water

Written by The Online Fisherman Team on 04 October 2012.


This is the story of an American company called Wright & McGill. The company that made it a habit to support women’s sport teams (in the 20’s), employ the disabled as well as “people of color” at a time when few companies would even consider such “progressive” ideas. This is a story of fishing, a story of two guys meeting on a stream, and a love of trout fishing. And a story of America.

“To those needing introduction to Dame Nature’s greatest battler, a little explanation is due. Mr. Trout is a freshwater fish whose family includes about forty species, most of them commonly allied to the Salmon. The wet warrior is found in many mountain streams, rivers, and pools.” Reading this copy from a book graciously given to me by the wonderful people at Wright & McGill makes me think about fishing for trout. And writing about the outdoors and about fishing.

The first fish I caught was a bluegill. I used a red worm taken from a little white cardboard box with a metal handle. They are still around. There were no styrofoam cups of worms back then. Styrofoam would not come around for a while. But as much as I remember that, I remember standing in a Pennsylvania stream waste deep. Unlike our local waters, wading there, you never get far from being a little scared. Lose your footing while trying to get in the right position to cast where the fish are (sound familiar?), and you could die. Uncle Eddie used to growl the words just that way. “You can die. Be careful.” The fish we were stalking were brown trout. There were rainbow there too, and a Brook at times. But it was those browns that I remember most of all. Now older, there is some of me that is going to be sure to chase them again. The color, the smell of the forests you catch them in, the sound of the water, and yeah, the chance you are gonna hurt yourself all come together to make those trout magical. Not many of our readers know about those stream and mountain fish, but those who do know that it is different – and maybe the best – that there is. I can only imagine Russia after fishing in Alaska for salmon and grayling.

The company that makes those Eagle Claw hooks you’ve been using all your life has been in the world of fishing since the turn of the century. The two guys that actually formed the company in 1925 had been fishing the same Rocky Mountain waters for the same healthy trout for a long time before fate brought them together — and changed fishing in America forever.

That quoted statement above sounds like it came from a fishing magazine in 1920. It didn’t; it is copy for a product a guy from Colorado invented. The story of the company you have known all your life is a story of our sport, our lifestyles, our country, the free market, and what can be done for communities when a couple of guys have a good idea.
Two fishermen on the same water…

The story of people meeting each other and becoming lifelong friends is not a new one. It might be relatively new to read it on an iPad, android tablet, desktop or laptop – but it sure isn’t new. Hemingway wrote that story about an old man based on a guy he loved who he fished with. A local whiskey drinker who loved baseball even more than the papa. And could hand-line marlin as easily as Hemingway could pull them to outrigger metal on the true love of his life – a custom fishing boat.

The two guys in the story are named Drew McGill and Stanley Wright. They both lived in a state where the city of Denver had just crossed a half-million people. McGill was a salesman for a company that made sporting goods. They manufactured sporting uniforms, mostly, but employed a team of ladies who hand-tied flies. Trout fishing was popular and becoming more so. Another local angler who he knew was a banker named Wright. They both loved to fish the same streams for the same fish. Like any good angler, they knew that to catch fish you had to fish where the fish are, and you had to present a natural-looking bait in the right way.

And they both tied their own flies. One of the problems flies had then was keeping their form. Fish them for a while and they limped. Drew had an idea. Hell, this was America in the twenties. You had an idea you ran with it. He started tying his own flies and treating them with a chemical mixture he had designed. He went to the women who tied dry flies, nymphs, and streamers for the company he worked for and hired them in their off-hours. He designed a new wingless fly, and taught them how to tie them. He was buying feathers from India, having women in Spain tie gut leaders and work silk worms, and he started selling his flies. When his friend the banker found out, it is easy to see a beer or three being drank after a day waist-deep and creel-full on a Colorado mountain stream. I have not fished that water, but I have seen it. And people in the water are a common site. Things do not change that much, do they? The idea for a company called Wright & McGill was born. The company is still run and owned by a McGill – a man named Lee.

And although they are now covered with regulations, and have people on staff to make sure they follow them closely – they do not have to have the authorities command them to be the same community-minded individuals and company they were almost a hundred years ago. When Colorado was leaving the wild west behind, they did the right thing.

And they still are. When you are as big as the company that makes those Lazer Sharp and Eagle Claw hooks and all the rest of their incredible American-made tackle, you do not need to pay attention to a small start-up web site like ours. But just like those two friends who fished together and saw themselves having an impact on the entire angling community, the people at Wright & McGill / Eagle Claw have become part of this site.

Times have changed since 1925 — and so too has the level and sophistication of the equipment the company manufactures. But just like the old guys did in the twenties, the company still keeps an eye on social situations without having been told to be nice with regulations and law. If you have to do something nice, or do it so you look good, it doesn’t really count all that much in the scheme of things. This company has meant something from day one. It’s why doing business with them is a cool and healthy thing for any and all of us to do.

We hope you will use their products. To make sure they are talked about, we have a couple of dozen bags of grouper hooks – circles, of course – to give away to our readers. So make sure you catch the fish of the week so you can win the picture of the week (so TOF can also send you some free premium Lazer Sharp hooks while they last). And the next time you tie an Eagle Claw hook onto your line, think about those two friends – the sporting goods salesman and the banker who contributed so much to the sport that we all love. They are watching us all from that mountain stream in the sky.

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