^ Interesting questions.
I think the idea grew out of theatrical devices for making Peter Pan fly and Greek gods descend from the heavens. Several different systems were patented specifically for figure skating in the early 1980s.
Training methods using the “fishing pole” version were developed by coach Nick Perna., although Perna credits the actual design to a Canadian inventor, Jan Glerup. According to this bio of Perma, he used the fishing pole with many skaters including Sasha Cohen, Sarah Hughes, Michael Weiss (Perma also invented the “freedom blade”), Johnny Weir, Ina and Zimmerman, and Bereshnaya and Sikharudlidze.