1896, Fishing history – the Coxon ‘Aeriel’ Reel










The Centrepin is a classic reel design and in 1896, Henry (“Harry”) Coxon designed one of the most famous and collectible designs – the Coxon ‘Aeriel’ Reel.


Fishing reels originated in China between 300 and 400 AD. The English developed a modern reel in about 1650. The first American reel was in 1820 by George Snyder from Kentucky. Charles F. Orvis brought out his lightweight reels in 1874. The Coxon ‘Aeriel’ Reel was designed in 1896.

The Centrepin reel comes into its own for river fishing. It is also particularly popular in Australia for surf casting from the beach.



The Centrepin reel was invented in the mid-1800’s in Nottingham, England where river anglers wanted a lightweight free-running reel. These simple wooden reels promoted a method of fishing called the Nottingham style.


The Centrepin rapidly gained popularity and by the 1890’s were amongst the finest made and very expensive. Some are superb pieces of design and craftsmanship and are eagerly sought by collectors – none more so than the famous Coxon ‘Aerial’ Reel. 



Coxon didn’t have to look far to make his discovery – his brother made bicycles – the ‘Aeriel’ design in 1896 replicated the spoke and wheel. It was brilliant for the time and rapidly became the most popular.


The reel was designed by Henry Coxon and they were manufactured by himself in his own workshop. When he couldn’t keep up with demand he passed on the design to the old-established tackle company of Allcocks, who marketed Coxons for around 70 years.

The ‘Aeriel’ name (air drying reel) came from the caged construction and its attribute to dry the fishing line which in those days was made from braided horse hair and silk.

The Coxon ‘Aerial’ open-spoke design was originally made with an ebonite drum and wood back with brass fittings. It was similar to the popular Nottingham reels of the day but in use its lightness was a revelation. Many still rate the earliest Coxons as the best Centrepin ever.



Coxons had a tremendous following among fishermen because they were light, silent, incredibly free running, and thanks to the ventilated spool, dried the line. The Aerial evolved over the years with literally dozens of models and variants.




The best ones are the pre-1940 reels – these truly represent the high-water mark of the reelmakers’ art and are as usable now as the day they were made. The Coxon ‘Aeriel’ Reels are very collectible and the one pictured with original packaging sold for $10,000 in 2004.





Rare Coxon ‘Aeriel’ Four Spoke



Rare Coxon ‘Aeriel’ Four Spoke









In 1896 Coxon published A Modern Treatise on Practical Coarse Fish Angling, the original of which is highly sought and now sells for $1,000. The subtitle of the book is ‘How to Catch Fish’, a simple but effective statement of the quality of the Coxon book.








HENRY (“HARRY”) COXON, was born at New Lenton, Nottingham on August 12, 1847 and died at West Bridgeford, Nottingham on November 5, 1929. He was a journalist and wrote on sporting subjects, especially cricket and fishing. For many years he was the Nottinghamshire cricket scorer. He was a great authority on angling and invented the “Aerial” fishing-reel.  He was also a representative of both The Field and The Fishing Gazette.


[Acknowledgements and : Wikipedia, Wisden Cricket Almanack, 1929, The Medlar Press – Fine Fishing Books, John Cooper]

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