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Old 03-19-2014, 02:08 PM
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Default Sealed Drag Reels

Last week I experienced a first and it is indicative of a maturing, revolutionary trend. Between DIY and guided camp trips I have been bonefishing once or twice a year since the late 1980's. Flats fishing with hard running, backing revealing fish, intense heat, salt, sand and marle is an ultimate test of tackle. After allocating the significant funds to travel to and be guided in tropical flats environments and grasping the need for reliable, high performance equipment, it makes little sense to try and save money by outfitting yourself with sub-standard tackle. Hence for decades, the #7 - 12-weight rods rigged on camp rod racks have sported the usual suspects; cork disc, draw-bar reels. Back when, it was "wedding cake" Fin Nors and Seamasters. My first bonefish reel was a Catino Bonefish, the first machined, one-piece frame cork, draw-bar. Abels and Tibors quickly followed and these two rugged, easy to maintain, powerful drag reels, along with a few Islanders have dominated camp rod racks for a long time. Over the past several seasons, flats fishermen have begun to add several sealed drag reels to their arsenal on the theory that a genuinely sealed drag sounds like a good idea for the harsh flats environment. But are they really sealed and what if they fail...you can't rinse, re-lube, re-assemble and go back to fishing as with a draw-bar design. So, I too have been experimenting with sealed drag reels while bringing cork draw-bars as well both because I like them and to address any mishap that may occur.

Arriving in camp and settling into our room, my wife and I quickly rigged a brace of rods and waded out onto the flat in front of camp for a few practice casts then proceeded to the rod rack to hose the tackle down. Immediately I observed that there was not a single Abel or Tibor present; there were quite a few Hatch Reels, a bunch of Nautilus NV's and several Charltons and Makos. Of course, we fish Hatch and Nautilus plus I had my trusty and potent Hardy Fortuna and for colorful fun, a Cheeky Mojo...so we too where participants in the sealed drag revolution. Each afternoon around 5:00 as our skiff came in we would put our rods on the rack and rinse them off, then proceed to the adjacent Tiki Bar to indulge in a platter of conch fritters, Kalicks and cocktails while exchanging tales of the day's fishing. Among the nine anglers in camp there was not a single story about reel failure.

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Old 03-19-2014, 02:42 PM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

I'm no flats fisherman but I find it intersting that there were no Abel's or other draw bar reels. I'm not surprised that there were no tales of reel failure, because there are some really high quality sead drag reels made. I have a significant aresenal of Abel reels built over the years and while I love them, I have to wonder if perhaps I should have spent a little more on some sealed drag units. The majority of my reels are Hardy Made click/pawl by Orvis and Sage (8), draw-bar Abel (11) with only a few sealed units - a Loop, a Galvan, and a Hatch. One thing I can count on is that both the clickers and the draw bars will work forever with proper maintenance. But have I misjudged and over built the quiver in "yesterday's" technology...? Will those stand the same test of time?

Cheers,
Mike.
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Old 03-19-2014, 02:58 PM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

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Originally Posted by chi flyfisher View Post
I'm no flats fisherman but I find it intersting that there were no Abel's or other draw bar reels. I'm not surprised that there were no tales of reel failure, because there are some really high quality sead drag reels made. I have a significant aresenal of Abel reels built over the years and while I love them, I have to wonder if perhaps I should have spent a little more on some sealed drag units. The majority of my reels are Hardy Made click/pawl by Orvis and Sage (8), draw-bar Abel (11) with only a few sealed units - a Loop, a Galvan, and a Hatch. One thing I can count on is that both the clickers and the draw bars will work forever with proper maintenance. But have I misjudged and over built the quiver in "yesterday's" technology...? Will those stand the same test of time?

Cheers,
Mike.
Those are some very fine reels you have, and will in fact last you a lifetime or more. Asking if you have over built your quiver of "yesterday's" technology is really a moot point as long as they do the function of what you want them to do - hold the line, offer any drag you need, and not fail at the end of the day. What more is a reel for than to catch a fish, and if the non-sealed drags are working well for you, then yesterday's technology is actually your today's. So many times we get caught up in the new fangled hype and forget that what we have is already good enough or better than we would ever need. That doesn't mean that we can't indulge in some of the newer bounty, but at least think twice before deciding we "need" to change.

I haven't been fly fishing for a lifetime, but quite a few years have passed, and as I fill my vault, I tend to find I try one or two of the newer technologies just for...well..you know....and giggles. What I do know is that if I am going to spend my money on a product that I intend to be a workhorse for a lifetime, I will buy something tried-and-true with some street creds - and that's why I will stick with companies like Abel, Tibor, Nautilus, Bauer, et al that have earned a reputation over the years. I've bought some lesser brands that just don't feel the quality build, and usually end up giving them away or tossing them, and although most of my fly fishing is done sub-4wt, when I buy a product, I expect it to meet all of my performance expectations and last until my kid retires.
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Old 03-27-2014, 03:26 PM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

Chi, Do not, I repeat, do not dump your Abels! I'm not. The above observation actually shocked me in Abels absence; hence my posting it. I began using non-draw-bar reels with drags as replacements, not for draw-bars but for spring and pawls. At the time my go-to 5-weight trout reel was a CFO IV, it had plenty adequate backing capacity and a smooth palming rim and I caught many fine trout with it. I reasoned though, if I used a bit of low inertial start up, fine tunable, actual drag, would I bring a big, wild, Henry's Fork bow to net more quickly, thus releasing a less stressed trout? So I experimented and, though I can not measure some percentile difference, my sense was, yes. That was a quarter century ago and trout reels with drags have proliferated and improved exponentially so now all but my little stream rods' reels have mid to large arbors and quality drags. They are as light or lighter than my old Hardy-builts, make subtler sounds and I am more convinced than ever that they save on lactic acid build-up (in the fish). However, I didn't consider their drags to have the headroom and tried and true reliability of cork surfaced, draw-bar actuated designs when it came to the salt. Many of them rely on one-way clutch bearings which CAN fail. But quality companies like Hatch, Nautilus and modern Hardy devised powerful drag systems, effectively sealed from the outside world that have now rivaled or surpassed the draw-bars strength and reliability and exceeded the draw-bars incremental fine tuneability and start up traits. So, while I will still fish my Abels and Islanders bonefishing, I have no compunctions about fishing Nautilus and Hatch too. It has long been my attitude that I select a reel to match up with a specific rod in terms of balance, capacity and performance requirement and my options are expanding. Evidently, the group of hard-core types at this Bahamian bonefish camp concur.
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Old 03-27-2014, 04:53 PM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

Perhaps Abel is "losing fans and market share"?
I apologize, couldn't help myself.
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Old 03-27-2014, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

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Chi, Do not, I repeat, do not dump your Abels!
Never! I'd just add to the quiver more reels I certainly don't need
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Old 03-27-2014, 05:19 PM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

Can never have too many reels, Chi.

And for Fysh, I wish a #4 NRX with a new Abel stacked drag trout reel anodized a thread matching blue.
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Old 03-28-2014, 05:38 AM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

My new Nauti NV-G8 arrived on the doorstep this week. Can't wait to put it to the test. Viva la Révolution!
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Old 03-28-2014, 06:56 AM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

This is my 3rd year with NV Giga 8 mounted on NRX#8 and it all but eclipses my many other bonefish outfits.

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Old 03-28-2014, 07:12 AM
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Default Re: Sealed Drag Reels

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Originally Posted by sweetandsalt View Post
This is my 3rd year with NV Giga 8 mounted on NRX#8 and it all but eclipses my many other bonefish outfits.
The NRX looks inviting, but I'm mounting mine on a Scott S4s #8 and loading it with Chard's Grand Slam. A sweet setup, for sure.

Mike
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