Fly Fishing 101, Part 4
How Important are Reels? As in Catching Fish?
It's not a misprint. Familiar to thousands (maybe millions) of fly fishers,
that "ZIINNNNNGGGGGG" may be THE favorite sound. What is it?
It's your fly line rapidly disappearing from your
reel. Translated, it means you have a fish on. The fish knows it, doesn't
like it, and is running!
Wow! What a rush!
Playing and landing that fish can depend
on your reactions, knowledge, patience, and keeping cool. A
large part of your success rides on your choice of fly reel.
"PING!" Not a happy sound. Quite often
followed with words unfit for print. Your fish "broke" off. You
may even be adorned with loops of fly line. Anyway, your fish
is gone. Your fly is gone. Your leader is gone or missing a chunk.
I've never had it happen to me, (yeah, right.) It can be a very
How, did it happen? Given that you had
a modicum of knowledge and didn't get buck fever, it may have
been your choice of fly reel.
What is important in the choice of a fly reel?
Why are some so expensive? Is there really any difference? The
differences are immense. The reel is actually a place to hold or
wind the fly line and backing.
Backing serves two purposes. It fills
the spool which allows the fly line to be retrieved faster and
the backing provides "back up" for your fly line if a fish really
takes off. Reel manufacturers usually include some guidelines
as to how much and what type of backing they recommend.
A word of warning! Under no circumstances
use monofilament for backing. Trust me on this, the stretch and
heat produced using mono as backing will destroy your fly reel.
Prices of fly reels range from less than
twenty bucks to thousands. Really! From Aluminum to titanium ...
(some have said Bolognaium.)
Reel bodies, (the part that doesn't move)
are pressed from metals or graphite, assembled from pieces, or
milled from a solid block of metal. The former are less expensive
than the latter. Better reels have been coated to protect the metal
parts from salt water. Really good reels are totally saltwater proof.
A hefty price tag does not automatically mean the reel is saltwater
proof. If there is any chance you will be using your reel in saltwater
it must have built in protection.
Major price increases also occur depending
on the type of "drag system" the reel uses. The most common
reel has no drag system. It is called a click and pawl reel. The
only drag is the amount of pressure the fisher appliers to
the rim of the reel - if it has an exposed rim. Cost range:
from ten bucks and up.
The 'up' includes reels suitable for
saltwater use. Reels not protectively coated will seize up
caused by corrosion. Salt water dries into crystals which
adhere to untreated metals. Even treated or powder-coated
reels which get dings or chipped paint will corrode.
Knowledgeable fishermen rinse their reels in clean freshwater
after each use - even the ones that are "saltwater proof."
We have an after-fishing ritual. Reels are
removed from the rods and placed in a bowl of tap water. An
hour or so later, the spools are removed from the reels, rinsed
under running water and set on some paper towels to dry. The
next day a drop of very light oil goes on the working mechanism
before the spool goes back into the reel body.
That's a very small amount of maintenance
- and it pays off. Some of our fly reels are twenty-five years old.
More about drag systems. The
smoothness of the drag, or how far the spool turns before
the drag actually engages is important. Remember the
'PING' at the beginning of this? It happened when the line
peeling off the reel, (caused by the fish heading for parts
unknown) hit the little slack spot before the drag kicked in.
The solution? A better reel. More
expensive? Probably. Remember: don't mess with your
drag once you have a fish on. The drag should be adjusted
before you begin fishing, and tightened just to the point the
reel does not overrun when you strip line from the reel. The
more you fish, the more important the drag becomes.
For more information on reels, check
out J. Castwell's articles Pick
of the Show and A
New Reel Story or this
Product Review right here on Fly Anglers OnLine.
Stop by the Chat Room and meet some fellow anglers. It is a nice
bunch of people - always willing to help with fly fishing problems! Or just share your
fishing adventures. Fair skys and tight lines, ~ DB
Have a question? Email me!