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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Why buy an expensive fresh water fly reel?

I'm in need of a new fly reel to fish my home waters of the lower Susquehanna and it's tributaries. Been using the Original Orvis Battenkill paw drag for well ever and thought maybe its time for a change. Looking through the catalogs reels vary in price from just under $40 to a large $700 with spare spools averaging half the price of the reel. If I was looking for a reel to fish heavy salt conditions with the possibility of consistently catching large fish and lot's of them there's no question I would buy the best (rod & reel) I could afford and that's what I have. What were talking here is fresh water fishing where I seldom if ever get fish into the backing enough to go to the reel for the release. Basically a tool to hold line.


So I got to thinking of what I expected from a good fresh water fly reel. Maybe you could add some thoughts on this cold miserable morning (10 degrees in Churchville) to help with my selection.
1. Reel….Light and durable….. I tend to bang up and bruise my stuff on the rocks wet wading the river and need something to stand up to the punishment. Not as agile as I was in my early sixties.
2. Drag……. Paw or disk not that important in 95% of my fishing, but there's always that possibility. I normally strip the fish in for release, been doing it so long it just feels more comfortable unless I'm into the backing then I go to the reel.
3. Spools… Now this I spend some time thinking and looking over because it's a big deal with me. I carry 4-5 spools (maybe a later post on why so many) in the truck and on the tin boat fishing the river because of ever changing conditions mostly during shad season. I like a spool that is constructed well, goes on and off easy, and can take moderate abuse. In the past I have used the STH reels with plastic cassette spools. But after a hard day of wading and fishing I decided the weight was a real killer on the arms and back.
4. Price…unless I'm missing something no one should have to pay over $100 for a well-constructed reel that should last almost forever. The old medalist has proven this for pretty near a century. A basic machine to hold line. On the down side, very heavy with little to no drag, but very functional.

So there you have it.
Got any thoughts?
Leaning towards the Orvis Battenkill (BBS II) Bar Stock Reel.
Wayne
 

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I'd wager that the old-school Battenkill (not the bar-stock) is plenty for what you do, and it'll save you money on reels/spools.

I used one on my 7-weight for years and years, and it was fine catching schoolie stripers and carp and smallies...nothing that REALLY tested the drag, but it was a perfectly serviceable reel.

About a year ago I changed over to two Pflueger Trion reels for my seven weight lines, and I'm really happy with them...and I've had the drag tested by some pig carp with no issues.

Yeah, there's always a chance you'll hook into a big carp or striper, but the old Battenkills have enough drag to do just fine, and consider the Pfluegers...you can pick them up on fleabay for ~$75-$80 new.

My 2c....
 

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Wayne,
Apparently for your use, drag is not an issue. Purchase what satisfies your backing requirements, feels comfortable (wt.of the reel) on the rod, fits your budget and asthetic taste. Catching strong species requires an adequate drag system but that is another story. Some buy cheap and some buy expensive just like cars. Chevy or Cadillac? There sure are enough out there. Have fun exploring. Personally, for river fishing I go as light as practical. Casting all day wears my old body out.
 

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Hello Frog Hair.

I don't use super expensive reels for my smaller rods but they aren't cheap either. For my 3wt through 8wt rods I have Galvan Open Back (OB) reels that I use almost exclusively. As I mentioned, they're not Abels but they're not Okuma Sierras either. There are a few reasons I like to use these reels on my lighter rods.

I do a fair amount of trout fishing and often times I am using 7x or 8x tippet. If I happen to hook a large fish (which unfortunately does not happen as often as I'd like) I much prefer to rely on the drag from the reel. In my experience trying to control a large fish using my line hand can lead to problems. Unless my fingers are well lubed with water when the fish makes a run I've found that I can't manage the line as smoothly as the drag can. Good drags have almost no start up inertia. If a large fish (or even just a spunky regular grade fish) makes a run and the line gets "stuck" in my fingers for even a split second, bye-bye fly and fish.

You also mentioned the “toughness” factor. I feel much more confident that my Galvans will survive a fall better in a bouldered brookie stream than one of my under $100 reels.

I also like to be able to use my larger freshwater reels the OB-5 and 6 in the salt. Now, in the bay the odds that I’ll really need to rely on the drag of the OB-5 on my 6wt are pretty slim. But when I used the OB-5 in Belize on bones and cudas and other strong fish I was glad I had a good reel. Same goes with the OB-6 on my 8wt. I’ll use it in the fresh but can definitely rely on it in the salt.

All that being said I do have some less expensive reels that I use sometimes in freshwater, but I use them much less often.

David
 

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Price does not necessarily translate into durability. It sounds like we have something in common regarding our equipment getting banged up now and again. I have had the rim break on two Hardy LRH reels when I dropped my rod and they struck rocks. The last one was almost $300 when I bought it a number of years ago. The Hardy's were cast reels. The lower cost reels tend to be made of cast metal. Cast metal is more susceptible to a shock type damage than a bar stock which is a bit more flexible so I would suggest paying a bit more money for a bar stock reel. I don't think you can beat the price of the Orvis barstock Battenkill, I've had two for several years.

My two cents.

Guy
 

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The battenkills are great reels, so is the rocky mountain. Who needs a drag when you have a palm? Although those reels have very decent drags. I have a scientific anglers 56L that I use for my fresh water stuff (5wt). I've had it for more than 10 years, caught just about every species of fish with it and I have been lucky to see my backing a few times. Big trout on big water will do it to you in a hurry or a ticked off carp or catfish on the Potomac.

I have a White River Dogwood Canyon reel on a 4wt. It has a great drag, supplies even pressure, disc drag not the click and paw type, it's aluminum, durable. Perfect. But it's a little heavy, not sure how many ounces but for my tiny little 6'9" 4wt, it throws off the balance a little. It would probably be perfect on an 8' or 9' rod.

http://www.basspro.com/servlet/cata...arClassCode=1&hvarSubCode=1&hvarTarget=browse
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and recommendations, and Bill I've seen your stuff, first class and purty. To put a finer point on the issue I fish mostly 3 & 4 wts in the creeks and 4 > 6 wts in the river. I did buy a Rocky Mountain large Arbor that was on sale a couple months back. This week while loading backing and line I noticed the cassette type spool work loose and rubs the back inside housing of the cage, so it's going back along with the 3 spare spools. I've decided to stick with what works for me and get the Battenkill Bar Stock Reel (BBS II) and 3 spare spools. The only problems I have had in the past with the older model Battenkill are minor. The line slips past the spool and the cage sometimes (bent more then likely) and the spools are a little cumbersome to carry in a fishing shirt wet wading. I fish as light as possible, no bags/packs for me, if it dosen't fit in a good fishing shirt pocket its time to look for alternatives. Example: I carry the same basic flies on every trip in an old used brown plastic prescription bottle with a hole drilled in the top of the lid that has a bungee type cord through it, which I attach to my shirt or waders.

Thanks again
Wayne B.
 

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Timex keeps time as good as Rolex. but pride of ownership and lasting value is another thing. I have a couple of old Medalist that still work very well and suitabable for the old Lamaglass fiberglass rods they are mounted on.

For modern tackle I settled on Tiogas for everything. Not the most expensive but not cheapest either. It makes good sense to stick with one brand for parts, knowledge of how they work etc. If you fish a lot of different fisheries you need a fair number of reels so real high dollar makes little sense. I have seen some notable failures with Okumas and other real cheap reels. I am running 10 Tiogas with another 10 extra spools between 2 and 10 weight. Traditonal design, good constuction, and value

Boats
 

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In reality can anyony really justify the prices we pay for any fly fishing equipment?
We buy it because in most cases. We just want it. Even in saltwater. Their is no reason to spend from $300 to what ever for a fly reel. Just look at how many recorders were set with a simple medalist. We buy it just because we want it., and their in lays the problem for us all. the manufacturers know this. So they keep reasoning the prices, to see just how much we will pay. So it really goes right bact to what you said your self.
 

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I disagree Walt. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going out and buying that new titanium Hardy (I think) that runs 10 grand or whatever it is, but I do think that you get what you pay for.

There are folks on this board that fish for sailfish and big tunas on the fly and I really doubt any of them would even try to do something like that with a Pflueger Medalist, or even one of the many $100 reels that are machined aluminum, have disc drags, and so on. They might land their fish of a lifetime on it, but why take the chance.

I do agree with you that the majority of fly fishing equipment is overpriced, which is why I rarely buy anything new. I just can't afford it. But I also think that there are some companies that are starting to offer quality stuff at reasonable prices.

I could use a Yugo to drive to work every day and if I got lucky when I bought the Yugo and it wasn't a lemon it would probably take me back and forth to work for a while. I wouldn't be too sure how long though. Or, I could spend more money, not on a Cadillac mind you, but say a Honda Accord that I know will run that Yugo into the ground. Maybe I could have bought 6 Yugos that would have lasted me as long as the Honda, but the odds are they wouldn't have. Even if they would have, who wants to go through that process more times than they should have had to?

I'm not saying Pluegers are pieces of junk. They are what they are. They do what they do.

Besides, what fun would fly fishing be without all of the toys ;) !

David
 

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Hey dave I'm not disageeing with you either. Just that when I was getting into this game , which was more years ago they I care to remeber. Fly fishmen use to try to tell people, it took great skill to learn to fly fish. Which is alot of bunk in my book. But this part is true. With the equipment of those days. You had to learn how to fight fish the right way. The reels were less forgiving. One mistake on your part, ment a partting of the ways for you and the fish. I would rather see a guy buy what i will call good low end equipment and give the salt a try. Then not try it because they think they need high end stuff. tarpon, sailfish and tuna . Were caught back then too. Fishing for them is more specialized, but not unknown to fly fishers. Leon Chandler once told me at one on our fly fishing classes that he came to observe for cortland. "I'm glad to see you guys don't emphasize just fly casting because it is only one part of fly fishing." He was right and I will add this to it. So is the equipment. Just one more thing. you are right that their is real junk out there, but medelist is not one of them. They have stood the test of time, and for a guy just getting in or one that is an old timer. Their still a very good reel. And by the way i do have alarge number of what you may call high end reels, but also have some lwer end ones to, that seve me very well.
 

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I agree that prices are crazy. I have started to buy used reels via boards for a fraction of the new cost. I now have a policy of only buying reels that are 1/2 price or less than the new cost. I also only buy reels that are like new. This is a great way to get nice equiment and beat the crazy mark ups. I have purchased, Vortexes, Machs, Ables, JA Forbes, Scientific anglers to name a few. Really nice stuff like new in box most of the time with line.

My best buy....Vortex (VO2) IV with new backing, 9 wt. sinking line, extra spool with new backing and 9 wt. int. line. Box, reel case and paperwork included all for $125.00 This reel was like new...sent it back to Orvis for a check up and $25 later, it came back in new condition...parts replaced etc.

Bought a JA Forbes Saltwater Disk Drag with 2 spare spools for $75. Clicker was broken. Sent it to JA Forbes, they sent me a NEW reel back.

If you look....these deals are out there. I hope this helps some of you out. I am SURE that there are thousands of like new reels out there that are NEVER used.

Frank
 

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Thats a good way to buy good equipment. Believe me guys I'm not knocking anybody for buying what they feel is the best. Just like I said before, its really what you want that counts. My only thing is that I love this sport. Over the years their have been a number of people that have helped me. So I don't want to dicourage anyone from giving any part of it a try.
 

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the company you buy

I thought this was a great discussion. Since i own a flyshop and sell reels (and hand out advice) everyday i thought i'd throw my 2 cents in the ring. You probably made a great choice with the BBS reel. solid, machined and relatively light weight but even more than that, and something i haven't seen addressed in this post yet, is that you are buying part of a great company. I sell about 100,000 dollars a year in orvis gear (as well as other brands) and i can tell you multiple examples of Orvis standing behind their products with replacements/repairs etc when you need it in timely manner. this is something that is not always part of the buying/decsion making process for some anglers. Not all companies are created equal. (although there are a lot of other good companies that will also back their products). In addition, i think you take a great step up in quality when you go to a machined reel as opposed to a cast reel. they start at about $100 so there ya go.
One final comment is that fly fishing for most of us is about enjoyment--and that includes the pleasure of using the equipment that we need to catch the fish. obviously measuring enjoyment is a completely subjective science but my experience is that you normally get what you pay for to a point. can i fish with a medalist? yes. will i enjoy the reel? umm...nope. its heavy and unrefined--not adding to my enjoyment of a refined sport. on the flip side sometimes our enjoyment is enhanced by getting a great deal--saving money is cool. or sometime because we know what we own a premium piece of equipment that is the cream of the crop and was worth paying a premium for. rambling here but usually there is a balance between the last two points, a "divine middle" where most of fish, purchase and are happy. Seems like you found it. tight lines.
gordon
albemarleangler.com
 

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Well I wasn't going to say any more about it. But anybody that knows me knows I would respond to that.

When I look at an old medelist reel. What do i see? Well I see 50 years of fly fishing all in the begaining with a reel i could aford back then. Years where if I had not bought one on them and would have waited till I could aford a high end reel for those days. I would not have had. Fish , fishing trips and friends I made along the way though those years, that I would have not cought not taken and not met. heavy clunky, not by my way of thinking, but beautiful and smooth and lasted me till I could aford other reels. would I have change any of that. hell no. their are just to many great memories in them old reels. And you know? I'm sure if you were to ask anybody from those years. Would they feel the same as me. I would bet thay would say you bet. One of the problems with the young of today. they want it all right now. Dam I'm glad I went though those years. Its sad you guys can't appreciate simplicaty at its best.
 

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Oh I did forget one thing. I never did say buy one. I just pointed out how well a lower piced reel will work. Today their are many more lower piced reels then we had to chose from. So if a person wants to learn or has been at it for awhile. Most of them will do a find job in fresh or salt water. But I will add, along with all the good lower priced reels their is some real junk out there to. So be wise when you buy regardless of what price range you decid to buy.
 

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When guys look at things they see different aspects of them. A fly reel is a very simple mechanism. There is no reason they cannot be produced rather inexpensively and still do a good job. If made in Asia the labor is very cheap . Inexpensive fly reels can also be sold at big chains like BPS and Cabelas. Their volume purchase can help keep the price low.

I taught computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing CAD/CAM at the university. Had my student design and make a wide variety of objects in our metal manufacturing course. Students often chose to make machines like bench grinders, wood lathes, belt grinders, etc. I thought of making a fly reel but my CNC lathes could only turn bar stock up to 3". It would have been a great project, if our lathes had a larger capacity. We had the CNC milling machines, programming and tooling to handle the milling tasks.

When I see a Tibor reel, I see elegance of design and beautiful craftsmanship. They are still made in the USA. After you get to a certain age, you have most of the stuff you really need in life. Something that gives you pleasure in both owning and using is a worthwhile purchase, whether it is truly necessary or not.

I have some retired professor friends with very few if any hobbies. A big time to them is going to Atlantic City to play poker or black jack. They often drop far more than the cost of a Tibor. Our former president is a really high end poker player. He wins more than he looses, but some of the other guys do not.

If cared for a high end fly reel can last for generations. Buy what is right for you.
 
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