The use of the reel was first referred to in English angling literature in Thomas Barker's The Art of Angling (1651). The modern centrepin however, was really invented by Henry Coxon. In Britain, free-running reels of varnished wood were widely used from about 1850, especially on the Trent. Further improvements were introduced by David Slater in 1883 and Henry Coxon in 1896, which led to the development of the famous Coxon-Aerial (later the Allcock-Aerial).  The basic principle of the reel revolving on a tiny bearing, where the tip of the centrepin has contact with a central adjusting screw, was a stroke of genius. It allowed anglers to fish with finer tackle than they had previously been able to, and in the right hands they could also be used to cast considerable distances.

In 1896 Coxon published A Modern Treatise on Practical Coarse Fish Angling, the original of which has now become highly sought after. Full leather bound copies of A Modern Treatise are also available. He was also a representative of both The Field and The Fishing Gazette.