Fly Fishing Reels
The argument over Reels has been going on for a long time, " it's just a reservoir for the line ", " No!", " it must have the most sophisticated disc drag going ! " But what is the real deal ?
First of all, what is a reel ? An engineered block of plastic or metal, designed to hold backing and fly line. It comes in the form of a body, with a reel foot. This is connected to the reel seat of a fly rod. The metal or plastic bar protuding from the body houses the business part, a spool. In basic terms, think of it as a wheel and an axle. The middle of this spool is called an arbor to which is connected backing line, using an arbor knot (see knots section coming soon). This thin line serves to bulk up the reel so that fly lines have an expanded diameter, (fly lines often suffer from memory after prolonged storage) and importanly follow a hard running fish should it manage to extract all of the fly line from the reel (hopefully!) Fly lines are usually between 27 - 35 yds long and are connected to the backing with a needle or nail knot (knots section soon!)
Oh right, so that's what it is, but ....
What is available ? The benchmark, market standard for many years has been the Rimfly (cost about £20). An excellent, cheap, sturdy reel and probably used by every Trout fisher during some point. It is as basic as you can get, very little to break and a stiff drag with hardly any adjustment. A drag ? This is where Fly Reels get expensive ( most of the time ), when they incorporate some way of breaking the speed ( a knob connected to a brake constructed from cork or possibly ceramic ! ) at which a fish can run ( swim ) away from the angler. There are all sorts of ways employed to do this, and manufacturers spend a lot of money telling us that theirs is best. It is essential that this drag system is well engineered, often a problem with the cheaper reels. You see if you hook the fish of a lifetime and it takes off against a stiff drag it is very likely that either the hook will pull or leader snap, neither is a memorable experience. So the next step is to purchase a middle of the road model, not all singing all dancing, but capable of stopping the hard fighting Trout found on lakes such as Chew Valley. Popular models are Orvis Battenkill, Leeda System 2 and Tioga, starting at about £75 and going up to around £200. There are many more ! Are there cheap reels with a drag system, well yes there are, but as with everything in life you pay your money and take your choice!
And so to the top of the range. Everything from tiny little brook reels right up to huge big game versions is on offer, many with incredible engineering and drags with an infinite amount of settings. The smaller versions are in my opinion unnecessary. However, climbing through the ranks to reels capable of holding many yards of backing, heavy fly lines (the heavier the line, the more room it takes up on the spool due to increased diameter) and halting an express train, we see a tool designed to help anglers fight incredibly strong fish. Salt water fish ! I have spoken to a number of Florida guides who said that clients using average quality Trout reels have watched in amazement as a medium size Bonefish has melted them down, quite literally! The slang term is "smoked up" and it is very close to the truth.
So from this we can conclude that when Trout fishing in normal circumstances a pretty basic reel is required, often because the drag will not be required. However, the bigger and stronger the fish the better the drag should be. Other considerations are the climate the reel will be exposed to, the amount of use it will actually get and even the pride felt through owning a nice looking, well engineered reel. In every case my advice would be to buy the best you can afford, you won't regret it.
This has been the latest reel craze to sweep the world. Basically it means that the spool has been designed to increase the diameter over which the line is stored. This means several things. First the fly line will have less memory (although a good quality version should not have one anyway!), second, less turns of the handle are needed to recover more line and finally the pressure needed to pull line throughout the reel is more uniform. This can be very important when a fish makes a long, hard run. The down side is that they are often heavy, bulky and look oversize on many rods. Steer clear of the cheap versions!
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Chris, Bob & Will (Somerset) - 1 Day Fly Fishing Course