The Legacy of Boris Peetz


by Doug Pollard, author of “PEETZ, A Reel For All Time.”
Published in Seaside Times, August 2011

In 1911, a young man arrived in Victoria 11 years after leaving his native Russia. Among his luggage was a tiny kettle and spirit burner he had fabricated while working at the Montreal CPR Argus works for the long trip across Canada. A testament to silversmithing skills he had learned in England, it speaks of the ingenuity and self-reliance that would make the name Peetz synonymous with salmon fishing in B.C. Shifting to jewelry, Boris Peetz (pictured) established himself quickly in Victoria. On weekends, his watchmaker friend William Hall took Boris to his cottage at Coles Bay and introduced him to salmon fishing, setting the stage for a very different enterprise: he became a tackle maker. The first PEETZ reel was probably sold in 1924, the year Johnson Street Bridge was completed.

The locally made reels were far better than imported products. They held enough cuttyhunk line to fish the deep waters of Saanich Inlet, they featured a drag strong enough to hold the largest salmon of the Inlet and they were tough enough for the hard knocks of boat fishing. The first PEETZ reel was almost certainly of a backless Scarborough design, sold as “The Pacific Reel”. Over the next few years, Boris shifted to the Nottingham design, whose wooden back plate could support a check mechanism. It was still a simple reel, but its basic construction of mahogany and brass has remained unchanged to this day. Boris had a refinement in mind when he adopted the Nottingham design. A small advertisement in the 1935 yearbook of the Victoria-Saanich Inlet Anglers Association mentions “The Pacific Recorder.” At 6.5 inches in diameter, it was to be the largest and most elegant reel ever produced on and for Canada’s West Coast. The “Y” configuration of its brass strap provided considerable strength around a device that made this “The only reel that registers the length of line being used.” Even at $10 it was an instant success. It probably didn’t survive WWII, but the iconic “Recorder” did, in simpler six-inch (and a few five -inch) reels familiar to anglers today.

In 1935, Boris bought premises at 574 Johnston Street, where the factory would remain for almost four decades. He died in 1954, leaving the business to three of his children, Ivan, Judy and Bud (Ola, the eldest, was married and deemed to be self-sufficient)! Judy and Bud worked with Ivan, although Ivan and his wife Betty managed much of the family enterprise. They moved the factory to Rock Bay Avenue in 1973, and four years later sold the business to the current owner, Bill Hooson.

Bill kept his promise to Ivan and Betty (both sadly since deceased, as are Ola, Judy and Bud) to continue their conservative approach to product development. Nevertheless, when salmon stocks – and tackle sales – slumped in the 1990’s he put a clock into a five-inch reel; for a few years sales of the Screamin’ Reel Alarm Clock exceeded 30,000! Sadly, 2011 marks the end of the “Recorder.” Like its magnificent predecessor, the “Y-strap,” the reel has become too expensive to produce. But reel sales continue, with the traditional four-, five- and six-inch trollers in mahogany and brass, plus a splendid reel for the new millennium: happily, the five-inch stainless-steel “2000” bears many of the hallmarks of the early reels. It is unmistakably a PEETZ. But if you want a “Recorder,” you will have to root around garage sales this summer. There’s no rush – PEETZ reels can last a hundred years!

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