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Fly Fishing 101, Part 4
How Important are Reels? As in Catching Fish?

"ZIINNNNNGGGGGG! 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 rotten experience.

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!

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