Matching tackle

Matching tackle

Viking Lars | Saturday, 6 August 2022

I find it important to match tackle properly. There’s nothing brilliant about that - everybody does and has since forever. None the less, I’m going to share some thoughts, knowing that there are priorities than trump others and I know from my fishing friends that there are many different opinions. Finally, there are some aesthetic choices that with some fly fishers even trumps other choices and priorities. I’ve never gone quite that far. These thoughts are entirely my own and in absolutely no way dogma - there are plenty of others with other ideas just as valid, quite possibly even more valid.

My first priority is reel weight. I’ve always opted for the lightest reel possible, of course taking into consideration the other parameters listed below. When I began fly fishing, I often read how important is is to “balance the outfit”, which I frankly think is nonsense. Once you’re casting, every rod is tip-heavy and I’ve never ever filt a rod tip-heavy when retrieving the cast. I’ve always thought the total mass of what you move through potentially thousands of false casts over a day matters more (just a little). I fell in love with the light weight and looks of the Waterworks reels when I first saw them over 20 years ago and they are still my preferred reels for all my fishing. Their light weight designs are of course more fragile than heavier reels which are often sturdier ones, but as always with fly fishing everything is a compromise. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve found heavy reels can impair the action and feel of rods, especially the lighter ones. I remember one of my first high quality rods. I was quite disappointed with it. A seasoned fishing friends said that if I exchanged the reel seat for a lighter one and used a lighter reel, the rod would be quite different. So I boiled off the reel seat on a brand new rod and it certainly did transform the rod into a love dry fly rod.

A Waterworks Purist 1 and showing off the beautiful Latohegy Osage Orange reel seat, Lee fitted to this rod.

Other considerations come into the equation, of course. Some fish are likely to run far, emphasising the need for a lot of backing. Tropical species might run a 100 year, often probably more. A big salmon in heavy current can easily take 150 yards of backing in a very short time. So sometimes backing capacity is a priority together with a proper, reliable braking system. Stil taking this into account, I’d rather have a lighter reel than a heavy one.

The environment you fish can also matter. Rocky banks, long walks and an increased risk of slipping could lead to prioritising a sturdier reel. I have once bent a reel on the first unpacking on a trip to the Dee. I had the reel wrapped in a fleece sweater, which I forgot and sent the reel flying over the parking lot overlooking… It was infact the North Esk. To spool rim bent, locking up the reel. The Leatherman fixed it, but a sturdier reel might not have been bent, only scratched.

Looks matter - to a degree. They are lower on the priority list. A few of my friends take looks to new heights, trying to make sure there’s a proper match between reel colour, line colour and backing colour. I don’t take it that far, especially since I often change lines on the reels. As far as backing is concerned, I use GSP backing. Less bulk and lighter weight. With less bulk I can sometimes get a way with a reel “one size smaller”, which then in turn might look odd on the rod… What then? OK, rabbit hole.

I have a Hardy Perfect salmon reel from the 1950s that I fish on my 13’ doublehander. It fits practically none of the parameters I usually choose reels from, but history matters too. I like fishing this old, classic reel knowing that it’s probably already landed more salmon than I ever will and land many more than I ever will too. And it’s nice to know that even the people on the next beat and one more down can hear it when my salmon is running. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first met Paul he gifted me his old Ross 4-wt reel. That fits very few of the parameters above, apart from it being *very* sturdy. Judging from the amount of scratches on it, it would have died a long time ago, had it been less sturdy. I use it for nymphing and it means something to me, because it was a gift.

Finally economy is also an important factor. I have expensive reels, which I could never afford buying at full price, but I’ve had the fortune of doing some work in “the industry”, often choosing to get paid in tackle. Few have that option and only the minority can, or even want to, spend a lot of money on tackle and reels alone. Especially if you’re a beginner and might need two-three different outfits. Within a budget, I’d still choose from these same parameters. Waterworks, for instance, makes great, fairly light weight beautiful reels that are “cheap”. There are plenty of other brands too. Ralf Vosselers Air One is the reel I keep my practice line on. Vosseler Reels in Germany makes excellent reels at most price points. Beautiful reels in typical, German precision engineering. Swedish Danielsson Reels is another brand with good looking, sturdy, good quality reels.

While all of the above are personal choices, some a little arbitrary, I still think they make sense.

PoD: My HT 763 with a Waterworks Purist 1, which I just bought. My reel of choice for this rod.