Tom Rowland, Gary Coxon, Bruce Richards, Brad Wesner, Barry and Cathy Beck

Brad on Reels

First, lets take a look at a melt down and what makes it happen. We use melt down to describe all the different forms of reel destruction that are caused by fish asking the reel to do more than it was made to do. Normally this does not equate to the phenomenon known as "lock up." This takes place when the gears in a reel get so hot that they literally weld themselves to each other.kind of like superheating an engine block and having it lock up. This is not a good time.

Rather, the problem is one typically of reel explosion. Generally what happens is as follows: The fish hits and starts to run. You crank down the drag in an attempt to slow the fish down and end the run, but what you do not know is that you hooked into a three hundred pound monster that has no intention of stopping. The drag screams for mercy in a vain attempt to stop the fish. The fish applies even more pressure to the run and the reel spins out of control. At this point.disaster.something in the reel just gives out. The spool flies off into the water, and the drag gears blow out into the ocean. The fish runs out all the line and backing and the spool slams into the stripping guide with such force that it rips all of the eyelets off and turns your fly rod into a poor imitation of a walking stick. I gotta say.that would be a bad day on the water.

Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this comedy of errors. Unfortunately, it normally involves selling your first born to come up with the money. Here is the bottom line. There is just no substitute for quality when you are dealing with saltwater. There are several factors that you need to consider when thinking about buying a new reel Though it is not a part of the question, I am going to address corrosion first.

Corrosion is the single biggest danger that your equipment faces in the salt. Saltwater will eat through about anything if you give it enough time. For this reason it is vital to make sure that any reel that you purchase is constructed of anodized aluminum. Briefly, the anodizing is an electro-chemical process that converts the surface of raw aluminum to an artificial oxide coating. The process uses an electrolyte, or acid, which conducts electricity, similar to an automobile battery. The acid, along with the electrical charge, causes and sustains the anodize process on the surface of the aluminum. Now, there is only one thing that you need to know when you are looking to buy a reel. You need a reel that has been through the Type 3 anodizing process. I will not bore you with the complexity here, but the coating on type three is thicker and much more resistant to corrosion. Accept nothing less. If the guy you are buying the reel from can't say if it is Type 3 or not, then he better get on the phone and find out. If he won't do this, I normally take my 500 bucks down the street.

That said, let's look at the reel itself. There are three important things to look at in the reel's construction. First, you want to make sure that the reel is milled out of a solid piece of bar stock aluminum. This is important for strength. You do not want a reel that has been welded together or jointed in some fashion. Simply, everywhere there is a joint or weld; there is a weak point that will break when you are faced with a situation that pushes your equipment.and in the salt everything pushes your equipment.

The second item of importance is the drag system, and there are two things that you need to know about that. First, it has got to be enclosed and securely. I do not have to tell you that if you are standing in the breakers, that the waves are kicking up a fair amount of sand. That being the case, there is ample opportunity for sand to get into the drag, when this happens, it is kind of like dropping a rock into the crankcase of an engine.. it will tear the hell out of everything on the first big run. For this reason, when you are standing in the store, rip the spool off and see how the manufacturer has enclosed the drag disks. Make sure that there is a watertight cover in place over the drag, or something that gives it protection. If it does not have not buy it.

The only other essential consideration with reels is smoothness. Now this does not mean that you give the reel handle a turn in the store and say, "oooh.that is smooth." What I am talking about is smoothness throughout the drag curve. It should not matter if the drag is turned off or all the way up, the drag should smoothly rotate without any hesitation or jumping. Lack of smoothness causes more broken leaders and lost fish each year than anything else.

Now we are down to the options. Large arbor or standard arbor can be a difficult decision. In my opinion, the large arbor is the way to go. The reason for this is that salty fish take lots of line and backing off of the reel, and larger arbors mean that you are going to be cranking your reel less to recover line. Large arbors will pick up more line in fewer turns, and this will reduce fatigue. Anything that you can do to reduce fatigue is something you will appreciate.

The only other thing that I consider to be of importance is that the reel will hold a lot of backing. When making your selection, remember.more is better, and only use thirty-pound backing.

Finally, I want to talk about anti-reverse reels. This is kind of a nice option, as it keeps your fingers from ending up looking like hamburger. When a fish takes the fly on a direct drive reel and makes a run, the handle on the reel can travel a few thousand revolutions per minute. If you do not get your hand out of the way then you end up with some blood in the water. The anti-reverse system eliminates this. The fish can run and the handle will not move. This is kind of cool, but I personally like my direct drive. I think that it gives you a little more control and is a little more challenging. I like a good challenge.and I have not lost any fingers yet!

So what reel do we need? Well, that is a matter of personal preference. I will list three here that are as good as they come. For the budget fly fisherman, I think that the Orvis Batenkill Large Arbor is tough to beat. You can get into one for about 250 bucks, and the damn thing works like a charm. I have one on my nine weight.

Middle of the road people should look to Loop Fly Reels; their large arbor saltwater series in the 400-500 dollar range is tough and super reliable.

For those who want the best of the best there is Abel. These are the tank of fly reels, and you will not find one on the market that will match their smoothness. Still, you better bring your first born to trade as they start at about 500 buck and they go up from there.quickly. Still, for BIG fish, they have no equal that I have ever fished.

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