Fishing reel is a device that is a part of a fishing rod. Its role is to wind and stow a line. Reels are used in angling and competitive casting.
Fishing reels appeared for the first time in China. Text “Lives of Famous Immortals” from the 4th century has the first mention of a fishing reel. Ma Yuan, Chinese painter of the Song Dynasty, painted a picture in 1195 called "Angler on a Wintry Lake" that represents a fisherman in a boat that uses a fishing rod with a reel. Wu Zhen (1280–1354), another Chinese painter that lived between 1280 and 1354, painted fishing with rods and reels in his paintings. An Armenian parchment from the 13th century also shows a fishing reel. Chinese encyclopedia Sancai Tuhui (“Collected Illustrations of the Three Realms”) that appeared at the beginning of the 17th century has the first detailed drawing of fishing reels that even shows the windlass pulley.
People started practicing angling as a recreation in England in 15th century as, but the fishermen of that time didn’t use reels. The first fishing reels in Europe appeared in England in the mid-17th century. That was a time when angling became popular among gentlemen. Great Fire of London in 1666 moved all artisans who made fishing tackle to Redditch which, from then became a center of industry that made products and equipment for fishing. In 1761, Onesimus Ustonson opened there his shop. He will be later credited for with the invention of the fishing reel. Invented it or not, he was the first to sell it.
First reels had a small diameter and gears that run the mechanism were made of brass so they wore quickly. Next model appeared relatively quickly, near the end of 18th century. It was a so-called “Nottingham reel” which had wider diameter and it spooled out freely. Multiplying reel was invented in 19th century - a reel that has a ratio of up to 3:1 (three turns of a main drum for one turn of a handle) but was not too popular in Britain. George Snyder of Paris, Kentucky modified this reel in 1810 and started selling the in United States where it had much more success. This was the first bait-casting reel. The next improvement appeared in 1880s when the silk line appeared and replaced the line made of horse hair. Silk line allowed for a much greater casting distance but because of that fishermen needed more line on the reel. This led to entangling, so reel had to be improved with regulator which will evenly spool the line out.
Charles F. Orvis from US invented the first fully modern fly reel as we know it today in 1874. Albert Holden Illingworth, 1st Baron Illingworth, British businessman and politician, invented the modern form of fixed-spool spinning reel in 1905. His invention had a line pickup which restrained and rewound a line when it was cast. This allowed much lighter lures to be cast because line didn’t pull against a rotating spool.