I have been enjoying this "Reel Love" thread but really, I don't have a favorite reel (I wish I did). I am always experimenting. So, as trout season is fading for me but I am preparing to head to the Bahamas, here is a rough chronology of my bonefish reel collection. My first, from back in the 80's is Frank Catino's "Bonefish". Steming from the Florida tradition of cork disc, "draw-bar" reels, Catino's may have been the first with a fully machined housing carved out of a single chunk of aluminum. I stuck with draw-bar designs and still love them. The Able may be the ultimate refinement of the breed but the Islander and Tibor are great too. The Magla from South Africa and Alutecnos from Italy are lesser known contendors.
But there is change in the wind. I think Jack Charlton sarted it with his first "sealed drag" reels but new designes of big-game reels have been expanding with each season. The Hardy Gem (as long as you ignor older Hardy's line size recomendation and buy a size larger) is a fine reel dating from the begining of Hardy's transition from their classics to the current state-of-the-art designes. I've caught a lot of fish on this one. The Vosseler from Germany is interesting, I think perhaps they are more attractive in the trout sizes. I accidently left my beloved Ari 't Hart out of the picture but Ari invented the idea of a one-way bearing actuation and using both sides of the cork to double drag surface area (you hear a lot abot this idea from some of todays' newcommers to multi-disc sealed drags). Speaking of sealed drags, the California-built "Hatch" 7+ uses multaiple synthetic/metalic asymetrical sealed-in-a-module discs to produce one of the strongest and smoothest drags around. This reel has no parts to loose or lubricate and is as solid feeling a reel as exists. Further, its aspect ratio is perfect. Now if this sounds like it is my favorite...I have yet to fish a Hardy Fortuna X which appears to take sealed drags to a new level!
Sweetandsalt I agree about the Hardy Gems, I have one of the big ten weights and love it. That was the first reel they used an Avacab drag on, and it's a winner. Also as a side note one of the Catino brothers is the rep for Cortland down in FL.
Burke, I ran into Frank Catino at a suite-and-tie fishing function in NYC a couple years back and was surprised he wasn't an older man! The history of the draw-bar reel is an interesting one that I hope to write about at some point while many of the inovators are still alive. For the angler that likes to maintain his gear, the field-stripable, few-moving-parts draw-bar is still the way to go.
Hardyreels, They are NOT all favoites for me. I love many rods and lines but the reels often annoy me. Things like poor aspect ratio (I dislike too wide spools which are increaingly common), drags that are not linear and stable within their adjustable range (and how many are?), ANY resistance in the reel-in direction (some top-priced and highly lauded reels are guilty of this flaw), shake, flex, un-harmonious or too loud sounds, clunkyness, propensity for sucking tippets between spool and frame, screws that loosen and reel feet that are not universal in mating to reel seats and many more things that I can't think of right now (but will occure to me after I post).
It is my view that the reason there are such a huge number of reel brands - and I am not even counting the plethera of spinning reel drag-based, hub-drag reels produced by the boat-load in Asia - is that nobody has gotten it completely right. Sure, a 1970 - early 80's Bogdan-designed, Hardy-built CFO IV is a sweet and handsome #5 reel on the Beaverkill but a 20" rainbow on the Fork might kill itself trying to be brought to net against that reel in the hands of anyone but a pro. It's hard to knock the elegance of an Able Super but, like all dog-actuated draw-bars, its mass shakes as the dogs rock in the gear teeth...and, on trout sizes, the drag is not fine tunable enough because of the spacing of the detents and rate of the coil spring. Ari't Hart is a genius concocting far out reels in his home shop...but don't ever try to dissasemble one! I could go on but as long as good fly fishers continue to strive toward building better fly reels, I'll keep trying them...I have a new one on order right now.
.. ANY resistance in the reel-in direction (some top-priced and highly lauded reels are guilty of this flaw),...
I actually favor a little resistance in the reel in direction. I find that when I'm casting my 9 and 10 weights the reels with no resistance will wind line back in on my false casts. I'l start with my backing knot out and end up with 3-4 feet of running line back on the spool by the time I cast. Does this happen to anyone else?
Swirl, One of the reels pictured above has that issue, the original, Amereican-built Orvis Vortex. Its three-part assembly is massive and a bit heavy but it has a smooth, stout cork drag with a lot of surface area and a rapid retrive rate. I use it on a thick-walled #9 rod when boat fishing at Montauk and, when furiously casting at up-and-down albies, it will inerta-shift some line back onto itself...a little annoying but not a real problem. It is not a reel of choice when flats fishing though.
Wow, you are a real reel person if ever I have read a post from one. I am by no means as experienced as you with various makes and the types of drag Incorporated into them. What I can tell you is that I use a Brit built Cascapedia 8/9 for general fishing here. General would be anything from a 14" grayling to a 40 pound or larger king salmon and I have found nothing at all to complain about with this reel. I use rim control reels on all my single hand rods and with them can handle whatever comes along usually. I'm an old school sort and never went for the new makes and designs so basically I am using hardy reels from the old Featherweight, Marquis, up the Cascapedia. You may like them due to their simplistic design. If the reel is a Marquis #7 when you hook a fish, you sorta know what to expect and then act accordingly. I like some more than others but all of those I have kept and not sold off are sort of favorites.