Rapping (knuckles)

Rapping (knuckles)

Tracy&James | Sunday, 4 December 2022

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a bonefish that fought way above its weight, the Usain Bolt of the species than ran an extraordinary amount of backing. I also mentioned that something happened to my reel during the last few metres of this run that meant I had to manually strip some backing off the reel to avoid over-tensioning the line and possibly breaking the tippet. At the time I thought that perhaps a loop of line had slipped on the spool and was preventing the outgoing line coming off smoothly. I also thought that I’d find this loop when I got home and stripped the reel – actually I was quite looking forward to measuring how much backing was used. However, my immediate concern was in recovering the line, so the issue was quickly buried on my reel as I whisked it at speed to keep in touch with the fish that was now coming back at me. Two days later something occurred that made me rethink what had happened though.

Whilst fishing a very productive flat, one where our bonefish count was in double figures every time we fished it, I experienced a total lock-up of my drag.  The first time this happened was, thankfully, just after I’d landed a bonefish (I should point out that this flat was prolific in terms of numbers of fish, but they were all similarly sized).  Upon release I went to strip the line off the reel in readiness for fishing again, and on the second or third pull the drag just stopped feeding out line.  Standing in knee deep water with no tools to hand isn’t the best situation to be in when something like this goes wrong.  I removed the spool and anti-reverse bearing, storing the latter in my shirt pocket to avoid the potential disaster of dropping it and losing it in the water.  I then could just about get my little finger down to the drag mechanism.  After a bit of manipulation and a few rinse outs with my drinking water, I managed to get some movement back so I reassembled the reel.  Just to be confident I decided to strip the line and wind it back on the reel a number of times to satisfy myself that things were working again – they weren’t.  I found my ‘fix’would work for maybe one or two line removals but would then lock tight again.  I stripped the reel probably three times,repeating the rinse of the drag until I finally conceded that I was not going to get to the point where I would trust the reel on a fish.  At this point I’d missed the chance of several shots as the bones took advantage of my down-time to sidle past.  As such, there was nothing left to do other than remove the anti-reverse bearing completely, thus disengaging the drag, and fish on with effectively just the clicker preventing my reel from free spinning.

A certain bonefishing book I have mentions that, in the early days of saltwater fly fishing, the reels used all had primitive ‘click’ drags.  I now have a new found respect for these trailblazers – playing a bonefish without a proper disk drag is not easy.  I managed to lose a couple of fish probably because the pressure applied by palming the reel was distinctly lumpy (although who knows, maybe I would have lost them anyway).  I also managed to rap my knuckles a number of times during the slightly panicked transitions between winding and giving line, conscious that the chances of the reel over-running and the line jamming was high at these points.

Luckily this was our last full day on the flats, however we do travel with a spare reel that can be deployed in such circumstances.  On our return to the UK I’ve been doing my best to clear out the muck from the drag.  If what’s in the drag is anything like what came out of the anti-reverse bearing when soaked in white spirit, then I can perhaps understand why it locked.  I suspect I’ve been a bit over zealous in greasing the workings over the years and I suspect it’s finally got too much for the reel to cope with.  However, my memoryis going to be that the Usain Bolt of the bonefish worldcooked my drag!

I hope your drag is tested to the maximum this week,