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Abel Nipper
Abel Nipper
Rob Gardner
Published by gfirob
11-15-2014
Author review
Performance
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Average 84%
Default Abel Nipper

Well, after some consideration, I thought I would write a review of Abel nippers. I do this with a little hesitation, because in some ways they are kind of ridiculous, the sort of over-the-top consumerist excess that is almost a joke. I mean, really, $50 nippers?

So let me qualify this by describing my approach to fly fishing gear generally. I am unrelentingly cheap. All of my reels are used, but grand old reels (Hardys, Pfluegars, JW Young and so on). My main reel is a magnificent 1927 Hardy Perfect with a big bite out of the frame, (so I got it cheap). Works great and it’s just a superb little piece of fishing machinery (exposed ball bearings? Agate line guide?). The sound of it alone is worth the price of admission…

My waders (new) and wading jacket (used) are Reddington. My only new rod is a Reddington Classic Trout, bought as a remainder. My go-to rod is a 1950 8.5’ Phillipson Pacemaker 5 wt bamboo (found cheap), second favorite is a 7.5’ Chinese Zhu 5 wt bamboo, $100). I have a used 9.5’ Thomas and Thomas 7wt graphite for larger bass. It’s about 11 years old.

And the fact is that even though I love fly fishing, I’m really not terribly good at it, so the idea of spending big money on this hobby seems inappropriate.

But if I get a little windfall money over the transom, I sometimes indulge myself in an unlikely treat, which is why I have a Nor vise (a truly great vise, once you figure out how to fly it), a Vedavoo Tightline Deluxe Sling pack (the best there is) and finally, the Abel nippers.

So that’s the context. Here is the review:

How often do we experience something that never disappoints? Not in marriage. Not in our profession. Not in our politicians. Not even in our children. And often not in our fly fishing equipment, regardless of price. Well, the Abel nippers never disappoint. Not ever. They just do their job with heavy, faithful competency every time.

Standing in a river, how many times to we clip leader or tippet? More than almost any other repeated action. We do it over and over again. And then we try to thread the tippet through a tiny little hook eye, and if the tippet has been mashed by a dull nipper and the hook is small, it becomes a struggle. And maybe its cold. And maybe the light is fading. And maybe we have aging eyesight. And maybe the fish are rising all round us. And maybe it fails to cut at all on the first or second clip.

It is of small disappointments that torment is built.

I like to think I came on the decision to buy these nippers honestly, by first using the cheapest nippers I could find, no-name fly shot nippers, one after the other, then graduating to Dr. Slick in annoyance, then to Fishpond Pitchfork nippers in exasperation (ridiculous at $23, but who can stand the annoyance?).

By this time (my wife pointed out) the cumulative nipper expense was about the same as if I had purchased the Abel nippers in the first place, so after Fishpond told me on the phone that they could not replace the blades for me after they became dull, and suggested helpfully that I could try to sharpen them myself on a whetting stone, I had suffered enough. When the money gods smiled on me by surprise one day, I bought the Abel nippers, in conservative black.

I will compare them to the old Hardy Perfect reel rather than an Abel reel (which, after all, is too expensive for me to own). At the time Hardy made that old reel, England was still an industrial powerhouse, with very high standards, and Hardy hand-made these reels, heavily over-engineering them so that 87 years later, after having had the **** fished out of it, the finish worn off and a big bite taken out of the frame, its ball bearings run quiet and true and it gives complete fishing satisfaction.

Of course the Abel nippers don’t have ball bearings, but they feel like they do. Like the Hardy Perfect, these nippers are also ridiculously over engineered, with heavy castings, thick enamel and relentlessly sharp blades. Listen to what Don Swanson, the president of Abel, says about those blades:

“The critical cutting edge jaw is Crucible CPM S35VN, an American-made and developed premium grade stainless steel created especially for knives. It is powder-made steel with a uniform carbide distribution and clean steel properties. The steel is heat treated and hardened to a Rockwell factor of 58-60. As a blade material, it offers excellent corrosion resistance and superb edge qualities,”

Thank you, Don.

Now if the president of the company can spend 60 words describing just the blades, you know they are probably not going to tell you to go out and sharpen them on your own whet stone if you are unhappy with them.

These blades have a two year warranty and are replaceable and they tell you they will cut anything you ask them to (80 pound fluorocarbon or braided line or whatever) though I haven’t experienced anything more demanding than 6x tippet. I also understand that you can clip your fingernails with them too, if you decide you need some grooming while fishing, but I have never tried that either. The nippers also include a superb hook-eye cleaner too, something which also never disappoints.

The only real downside to them (other than the cost) is that the legitimate fear of dropping them in the river demands some form of security system for them. Abel sells a lanyard ($25) which puts the combined cost of the nippers then at $75 (!) but I use a Gear-Keeper heavy duty zinger at $12, which I already had for a camera. Not only is it more versatile but doesn’t hang around my neck (and I already had one, so it was free). The camera will just have to take its chances…

Abel also makes a similar heavy duty zinger made of “6061-T651 cold finished aerospace grade aluminum” but it costs $50 too. I mean, really, $50 for a zinger?

Finally there is the pleasure of use which any great piece of equipment brings you. After all, $50 is a modest dinner for two (without drinks) or not quite a tank of gas, or any of a whole menu of ordinary life-expenses which we shrug off with more or less minor annoyance.

For me it was the trade off of repeated disappointment and annoyance for dependable joy of use. Hard to beat, in the end.
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  #1 (permalink)  
By chi flyfisher on 11-15-2014, 12:17 PM
Member reviews
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Value
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Overall
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10
Average 96%
Default Re: Abel Nipper

Here here! Love mine!
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  #2 (permalink)  
By fyshstykr on 11-15-2014, 12:35 PM
Default Re: Abel Nipper

Sometimes the need to spoil oneself is overpowering. My wife loved her Abel Nippers so much I had to have a pair myself. It's a very nice piece of equipment that will probably become an heirloom piece for a future grandchild, that seems to be the excuse I use nowadays to push my reasoning over the top when it comes to the more costly expenditures associated with our sport.

Great review.
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  #3 (permalink)  
By plecain on 11-15-2014, 01:10 PM
Default Re: Abel Nipper

I got mine from LL Bean. They were having one of their 20%-off-of-everything sales, plus I had a $10 gift certificate, so $30 with free shipping.

It just works. The hook punch is good, too, except for really tiny flies that have eyes that are too small.
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  #4 (permalink)  
By comeonavs on 11-15-2014, 02:39 PM
Default Re: Abel Nipper

I love mine, and fortunately for me I attend a ton of sales conferences. If not you can probably find a lanyard at office max for sub $10. The shop I bought mine from threw in a lanyard since I bought 3 sets and a Abel Hemo (couple of gifts). I gave the Abel lanyard to a buddy and hang mine on a trade show lanyard.

I will be buying the Abel zinger....well because like Vincent Vega said " I gotta know what a $5 shake tastes like, damn that's a good milkshake, don't know if it was worth $5 but its a pretty freaking good milkshake"
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  #5 (permalink)  
By bear 007 on 11-15-2014, 05:34 PM
Member reviews
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Value
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Average 92%
Default Re: Abel Nipper

It took me a long time but I finally broke down, they just work great.
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  #6 (permalink)  
By williamhj on 11-15-2014, 05:45 PM
Default Re: Abel Nipper

Nice review, very well written! Might have to get a pair of the nipper though I've never found my cheap ones lacking.
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  #7 (permalink)  
By biggie_robs on 11-15-2014, 09:27 PM
Member reviews
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10
Build Quality
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Value
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Average 98%
Default Re: Abel Nipper

I lost a blue pair on lower Rock Creek a few years ago due to a failed zinger on an LL Bean chest pack, so those of y'all out there keep your eyes open!

As I think the Brits say, it's a nice piece of kit.
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  #8 (permalink)  
By fly_guy12955 on 11-16-2014, 10:41 PM
Default Re: Abel Nipper

Love my blue ones. Might have preferred black,,but blue is OK and what i could get at the time. Simple, tough...nothing to not like about them.
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  #9 (permalink)  
By enolaeagle on 11-16-2014, 10:51 PM
Default Re: Abel Nipper

Quote:
Originally Posted by gfirob View Post
By this time (my wife pointed out) the cumulative nipper expense was about the same as if I had purchased the Abel nippers in the first place
Now that's hilarious! I'd imagine that Abel is secretly thanking women across the board...
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