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Acid Test For Fly Reels

With all the different makes and models of fly reels on the market, it is a wonder anyone is able to sort through all the glitz and glitter to make an intelligent buying decision. With the newer reels priced anywhere from sixty to six hundred dollars, what should you look for when making your choice?

I’ve always believed that “form follows function” in most anything that is mechanical.  Just as there are wheelbarrows that require more mechanical aptitude than others, so are there fly reels that defy the imagination. Knowing my limits (the boundaries of which lie somewhere between pure genius and total ignorance), I choose for myself, and advise others to purchase likewise, a reel with the fewest moving parts. Once that decision is made, I always check to make sure that there are no exposed screws. Anything that can get lost will get lost nine times out of ten.  An open rim is a plus because it provides good line control, as does an adjustable brake. And finally, the reel should be about the same weight as the rod to create a good balance.

If you make it that far and everything is still working properly --- the spool goes round and round, the clicker goes click-clack, and the whole thing is resistant to wet rot --- then you’ve only got one step left, the Acid Tests. These consist of those true-to-life occurrences that happen to the best of us.  Here are some examples:

The Road Test.  This test must be preformed in the cab of a pick-up truck, assume the sitting position, by the open passenger window, at a speed approaching 70 m.p.h. As if you were going to do what you always do on the way to the river to save valuable fishing time, go ahead and make preparations to clean your fly line. Loosely held in your left hand should be your line cleaner pad, line, and reel to be tested. Your right hand (the one nearest the open window of the pick-up) will have less responsibility. All it has to do is strip the line wildly from the reel.  If the reel does not backlash, disappear out the open window, smack solidly on the highway, get run down by the boat trailer and the 18-wheeler following you, jump the road ditch into the biggest blackberry patch in three counties, takes a metal detector after dark to find the body of the reel, and... well... then you probably didn’t jerk the line hard enough.

The Hide-n-Seek Test. Follow these simple instructions carefully:
Step (1) Place your fishing equipment in your vehicle the night before your next planned outing to the river.
Step (2) After dressing a.f.a.p. (as fast as possible---this requires jumping real high so you can put both legs of your pants on at the same time) the following morning, drive a.f.a.p. to the pre-selected test site.
Step(3) Remember that there will be the inevitable trip to the “john” during the assembly session of your rig.
Step (4) Do a running zigzag pattern---this must be done with the knees held tightly together, one hand removing your vest and waders, the other hand holding tightly to your posterior---to the nearest camouflaged restroom....Make sure to pass the restroom twice.
Step (5) After the brief interruption in your morning, walk directly back to your vehicle, begin to complete the morning’s preparations, and have your best streamside vocabulary ready when you discover that your fly fishing reel is missing from your vest pocket.
Step (6) Slap every pocket of your vest at least five times while searching for your reel before disassembling the back seat, flooring, and side panels of your vehicle.
Step (7) Try to backtrack to the aforementioned restroom, using the same zigzag pattern---this should be done in the bent over position, stopping occasionally, look in all direction to assure you bearings are precise, and scratching the top of your head---while all the time swearing you’ll never be so careless again if you are granted the mercy of finding it anywhere. And I mean anywhere, but in the bottom of the last place you have the heart (or stomach) to look---the Crapper.
Step (8) If the reel is or is not there (and it seldom is), walk despairingly back to your vehicle, breaking limbs off trees, kicking camper’s cats, and cussing yourself for your haste. Throwing objects randomly about is often helpful as well as hat stomping and rock kicking.
Step (9) Drive the ninety miles back home, pick a fight with your wife and loose---this usually means celibacy for at least two weeks.
Step (10) Three week later, go back to Step (1) and proceed to Step (3).
Step (11) In your haste lay your new reel in a place so you won’t loose it, right beside your old reel that you lost three weeks early. Act astonished, bewildered, and joyful, then promise never to tell your wife or anyone else drunk or sober about the results of this test.

As is evidence by the rigors of the procedure, the acid test will make short work of the most popular models, separating the trash from the thoroughbred, and the occasional fly fisherman from the hard-core angling addict. Try it in good health and spirits, and buy a dozen of the first reel to past the test.

It's All Fly Fishin',
Fox Statler

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The Acid Test for Fly Reels