Ipswich family hooked on fishing for 100 years

The Alveys have been hooked on making fishing reels for four generations.

This year marks 100 years in business.

The Carole Park manufacturer is as unique as the fishing reels they make and sell.

They manufacture almost all of the parts for their reels in-house at Carole Park.

Alveys are most famous for their reels that use a sidecast fishing system which means the reel is turned sideways to cast.

They are believed to be the only company in the world making this design.

Bruce Alvey explains that unlike spinning reels, you can lay a side casting reel in the sand, wash it off in salt water and it’s good to go.

There have been many ups and downs over the last century and after nearly closing the doors for good in 2017, their sights are continuing to cast far into the future.

“We want to expand the business and as we grow it means more jobs for Ipswich residents,” Mr Alvey said.

“We have great fishing areas here around Ipswich, we have dams that produce good fish and red claw.

“At Karana Downs you can catch thread fin salmon and at Wivenhoe Dam there is Bass there at the moment over half a metre.

“They are a good fighting fish and eating fish.”

Mr Alvey’s reels are mostly used for beach fishing due to their durability and long cast.

He would like to see more net free areas and fisheries protected so that people can go and fish and find there are fish to catch.

“I think you should treat the ocean like a refrigerator, take out what you are going to eat and leave the rest there for another day,” Mr Alvey said.

“The biggest thing people expect when they go fishing is to be able to catch a fish.”

The history of Alvey Reels

The Alvey Reels story starts with Mr Alvey’s great-grandfather, Charles Alvey, an English migrant who worked at the Ipswich Railway Workshops as a coach builder.

By 1920 he had earned enough money to get a small workshop of his own.

He started a push bike repair shop and the sports store across the road asked Charles if he could repair some reels for then.

“He decided he could make better ones than the ones he was fixing, and that is how he came to make fishing reels instead of fixing push bikes,” Mr Alvey said.

“If people wanted something different he did it.”

In those early days at St Lucia, Charles produced about 20 reels per week on a treadle lathe.

In 1923 his son Ken, a pattern maker and draughtsmen by trade, joined him.

When the war broke out in 1939 they switched to making Bofor gun switch boxes, aircraft parts and other things before resuming fishing reels in 1945.

Charles’ grandson Jack was a fitter and turner and after Charles passes away in 1945, Jack joined the business in 1946.

The companies first foray into exports begun in 1960.

They started with the United Kingdom and then America followed by various trade fares around the world.

By this time the company were producing 100,000 reels per annum.

“Ken died in 1973 and was spared the heartache of the disastrous flood early in 1974 which caused havoc in Brisbane and severe damage to the Alvey factory,” Mr Alvey said.

“Members of the public and many fishing club supporters donated their time and efforts to assist the Alvey family and staff in the clean-up.”

That is how the Alveys came back to Ipswich.

They found higher ground at Carole Park and moved into their new shed in 1978.

Over the next 30 years or so, the factory found better ways to manufacture.

There were the introduction of various moulding machines and printers as well as different designs and materials.

After 98 years in business, Charles Alvey’s great-grandsons Bruce and Glenn Alvey announced Alvey Reels would be closing its doors.

An Alvey fan and businessman, Con Athans became a major shareholder and the partnership along with strong orders, saved the company.

Since then the brand has been invigorated, new products introduced and bigger markets in America are being explored.

“We have expanded our range and we have a strong interest in developing young anglers,” Mr Alvey said.

“We have released a special centenary edition including a set of feels made from a 200-year-old red cedar tree.

“We hope to be able to do another one in the future.”

The Alvey business plan going forward is to use new space-age materials such as titanium and carbon fibre and have this new range fit in with Alvey tradition of reliability and integrity and to keep manufacturing in Ipswich.

Tony Robinson (pictured) started working for Alvey Reels in 1980, when he was 16 years old.

This year marks 40 years of service and Mr Robinson wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a great company to work for,” he said.

“I’ve been able to live and work in Ipswich and not have to commute.

“I’ve worked in most areas of the factory and I am currently the quality control team leader.”

Mr Robinson has seen many changes over years and found the Alvey’s to always be highly adaptable.

“I have seen a lot of progress over my forty years, a lot of it to do with new machinery,” he said.

“The working hours are great as we work longer hours Monday to Thursday so we can work a four day week.

“I met my partner here, Jan Ketley, who has worked here for 26 years.”

Mr Robinson said the closure announcement in 2017 was a shock but he is looking to the future.

“Now Con Athans is on board, he is turning it all around and hopefully we will be able to put more staff on soon,” he said.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for this. Watching the ad videos was quite nostalgic for me. Reminds of the old days using Alvey reels to catch tailor and bream in the surf and the rivers.
    I still have my six inch Alvey that my mother gave me for my 21st birthday in 1965.
    Glad to see the company going on into the future.
    Thanks again.
    Bob Trevor.

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