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The Handliner's Handbook

A Simple, Traditional Fishing Method
for the Over-teched, Time-starved Angler



Section I: Gear Selection

1. The Cuban Yo-yo and Other Handline Reels
2. Hooks, Lines & Weights
3. Baits & Lures
4. Rigs
5. Protecting Your Hands

Section II: How to Do This Stuff

6. Homemade Handline Reels
7. Casting a Cuban yo-yo
8. How to Deploy Lines for Trolling and Drifting
9. How to Set the Hook
10. Playing the Fish
11. Hauling & Stowing Lines
12. Trolling & Drifting
13. Raising & Curing Bait
14. How to Tie Furled Leader for Trolling & Drifting
15. How to Make Shock Leaders for Casting

Section III: Special Considerations

16. Running Multiple Lines
17. Float Fishing
18. When to Hang Up the Handline
19. From the Bank
20. Case Studies

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Think you nailed the title

The Handliner's Handbook

A Simple, Traditional Fishing Method

My only suggestion would be to start with the history of  hand line fishing .

Don't discount hobo rigs as well as coke bottle fishing

Not sure if it fits into the topic but I always considered fixed line fishing hand lining. This way you could also discuss cane poles and other methods

Tight Lines 


I kind of wondered how I would approach the history of handlining. Despite it being as old as mankind itself, the modern interest in handlines definitely stems from crazy YouTube challenges, cheap Cuban yo-yo reels available on Amazon and Ebay giving new life to an old technology, then tons of survival experts selling Hobo-type handlines, plus other culture putting handline videos on YouTube with their cell phones even, as well as walleye handlner on the Detroit river which is part of the culture videos, just indigenous. I think all that has risen awareness in the past five years or so.

Even if it doesn't make much money, I think it's time for something like this to be written. It's amazing that this is the most popular way to fish in the world, yet so very little has been written about it.

Im pretty sure if the rest of the world could afford a Sage or KVD rod, handlining would go the way of the dodo.
It is universally used by masses of people because it costs almost nothing. Which is part of its appeal for those who have little else

I yo-yo'd for years when I lived in the Keys, not becasue I had to, but it was useful for certain thngs, like catching bait. I still use it for set lines.

I think you've hit on an interesting niche idea, but I see the challenge of a historical treatise on handlining. It is ubiquitous, but nearly all of history recounts the use of a stick with line attached... when not talking about really efficient ways to catch fish like net, wier, or spear. I have images of Egyptian hieroglyphs in my library that depict fishing - with a pole. Surely ancient Egyptians knew handlines, but none appeared to waste the ink to paint them on the walls.

Then, too, with a few exception, accurate descriptions of fishing methods didn't appear until the 15th century... and they left handlining out, like some unwelcome stepchild. Even the oldest description of all that I am aware of, Aelian's description of the Macedonian fly (around 200 AD), describes a line on a stick. I cant recall seeing handlining treated as a favored technique in any of the old books Ive been graced to read.

I do have a copy of the old Radcliffe treatise, written in the 1920s .It attempts to cover ancient fishing methods as far back as the stone age. I know Ive seen the use of the gorge described, which was surely employed on a handline. Ill see if there is anything useful in there, specific to handlining.

Ill be interested to see how you handle an accurate chronology of handlining. Please keep updating this topic so we can follow.


Actually you may have hit on the proper treatment. Maybe not so much of a history but a current  world's view. Every culture hand lines since it's cheap and effective. I would imagine the rigs would vary by type i.e. salt vs fresh water as well as the materials use.  Bet if an image search was run in google you would probably see 40 - 50 different rigs . That would be something to see. Wabi Sabi fishing at it's finest

BTW, I would not trade my 5 foot,$4.95  cane pole for a $1,000.00 Hardy Fly Rod and Reel, period.....


Yeah, the book really isn't about the history of handlining but really what I've learned in the process. Sorry but most any subsistence fishing is not rod and reel nowadays. There are three forms of fishing in the world: commercial, sport and artisan/subsistence. Even modern longlining is just a mechanized handline.

The thing is people keep coming to my YouTube channel. People are interested in the subject. They keep watching the videos and commenting and going out and buying Cuban yoyos and coming back to tell me about it. That's why I'm writing it. It's a how-to book more than anything. Greatest work of fishing ever "The Old Man and the Sea," Hemingway depicts a man fighting a marlin on a handline. Won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

"A River Runs Through It"  was recommended for the Pulitzer but didn't win. So much for dead dodos. Fly rod didn't make it in. Handline did.

I remember when I first dabbled in handlining about 10 years ago. People said the same things, that it'd go the way of the dodo if everyone could afford "proper" equipment. Yet 10 years later I've come back to handlining, refining those methods and catching more fish than I've ever caught. Dodos made be dead, but ostriches and penguins have more than taken their place.

Damon, I think you are absolutely right! Your HOW-TO book on handlining is much needed, as a productive and enjoyable method that can add yet another dimension to our great sport!After all, methods such as jiggerpoling,, jugging, trotlines, dapping, etc are not standard, but each offer unique forms of excitement! I hope that you'll include LOTS of personal experiences in your book! Heck, even though I'm primarily a light tackle jig fisherman, my interest was triggered many years ago when watching an old black n white film during elementary school -the men in that film were fishing Antartica,out of a mother ship, using handmade polar bear jigs - and handlining those jigs to fill their skiffs!!

Did I strike a nerve?

Sorry - I'm on your side. Historically, you are probably right to avoid any deep dive on hand-lining. Mention is made in Radcliffes* examination, for example, but it isn't in detail. Its an assumption. Far more is covered over the ages concerning spears, harpoons, nets, and of course, hooks, rod and line.

A few paragraphs should suffice.

*generally accepted as a definitive, even cumulative source on ancient fishing methods.

I'm sure people are interested in the subject of modernized handlines. They're basic, low cost, and convenient. And they harken back to a nostalgic time when things were simpler. They provide that connection some people seek. 

Its a good niche topic, too, one only rarely covered. You will have the market to yourself, I'd say, until the copycats jump on. You could probably start a whole "revolution," complete with social media pages, forums, ad-space, etc. 

Few man can say they've completed a book, and I'm glad to help in any way I can.

(PS - As for literary comparisons between Hemingway and Norman Maclean, here's my take: apples and oranges.

Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea was an epic, metaphysical tale of a mans (potentially) last battle to pit his wits against nature and survive. It was one of many great works by him. Like Steinbeck, Hemingway was a master at describing the human condition in as few words as possible. It was also written in a time when strong, literary men were nearly revered in our society. It deserved at LEAST a Pulitzer.

On the other hand, just as OMATS wasn't a book about handlining, RRTI wasn't a book on fly fishing. It wasn't a book at all, in fact - it was one of only three works written my Norman Maclean, part of a collection of short recollection stories. Also metaphysical, it used the backdrop of a disjointed family to examine the distances that evolve between brothers over time... and how things can go terribly wrong from a good start. Fly fishing only featured because it was semi-biographical, written when the author was in his 70's. It could as easily have featured the building of barns, or running a country store.
It was denied the Pulitzer because the committee decided to award NO prize for fiction in 1977 - to any of the nominees. That it was a strong contender, being a first effort by a one shot writer, says as much about its quality as anything.)

Joe Angelucci - Its probably sufficient to say handlines  have existed since earliest times and give a few examples. There really isn't a lot more to say than that, historically. And to Damons point, he's not trying to write a historical book.
The oldest known depiction of fishing from 2000 BC shows these three: a seining operation, a pole and line, and some poor chap in the corner with a handline.

Early Egyptian hieroglyphs describe handlining, too, but as a sort of second best method... what you do while waiting for the net to fill. So I expect an extensive historical perspective might be counterproductive. How they are employed today, and some of the methods is probably the way to go.

Id trade the pole for the Hardy in a minute, though. Sell the Hardy, buy a nice TFO... and all the cane poles you want. 

 I visited Mexico years ago and was amazed and amused to see a guy casting a hand line.He used  a length of various test line he knotted together from discarded mono he found. The line was wrapped around an empty beer can which served as his "spool".He  used a spark plug for a weight and baited a hook with strips of bait .

Done that myself John!
Sure it wasn't me?

It was a Mexican carpenter that was fishing on the beach .Beer must've been Corona , maybe Tecate or Dos Equis ,lol'



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