Re: What is the best trout fly reel ever made?
I still have to go with Charlton. They had a self-adjusting carbon drag system that was sealed. They used Type III anodizing and were whittled to extremely tight tolerances.
The spool widths were a near perfect blend between too wide and too narrow and each frame accepted different spools. I give them the nod for trout reels but just have to mention some of the things that set his larger reels apart from the field.
To remove the larger spools a nickel-silver (I think) medallion was depressed and turned that activated catches much like the irises on a camera shutter. There are definately are other ways to release and capture a spool but none as clever.
On the very large spools used for salt water fishing Jack Charlton even had cooling fins machined right into the bar stock spools.
Charlton reels didn't always cost an arm and a leg... maybe a big toe or pinky finger but once the genius of his work caught on a mega-corp up in MN made him an offer he couldn't refuse and soon after spit his company out likely for not turning a huge profit in a quarter or two (read that: new-age business think) When he was no longer allowed to build reels for several long years (no compete clause?) the prices started shooting up big time. If you caught them at the time the dealers for that mega-corp in MN were blowing them out, you did well indeed especially if you held on to them for a while.
Mr. Charlton was a pure genius and artist with metal and will be sorely missed. R.I.P. Jack.