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Thread: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

  1. Default Sealed drag vs non sealed.


    What do you prefer? Sealed or non sealed? What's the benefits/cons to both? And does sealed really means 100% sealed?


  2. #2

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    There are fundamentally four types of fly reels: 1. Reels with spring and pawl "checks" that prevent over-run but offer little to no "drag", classic Hardy's for example. 2. Draw-bar reels like Abels that have a threaded bar and coil spring that adjust pressure between a plate mounted with a compost cork or other material like carbon and the flat inside of the spool. These are not sealed but are easily user maintainable and strong. 3. Increasing popular stacked drags alternating synthetic polymer or carbon discs with stainless steel in a "sealed" housing. These use both side of the discs and, depending on size, use several discs thus offering strong, efficient, compact drags. How truly sealed they are is questionable but they require far less user maintenance than draw-bars. Hatch, some modern Hardys, notably Fortuna and Orvis Mirage would be examples of this design. And, 4. "Hub" drags. This category, the majority of reels, is diverse but involves a drag assembly concentric with and either at the base of the spindle inside the reels' housing or in a hollow recess within the spindle itself. These can be strong and sealed as in Nautilus NV or smaller surface area, un- or partially sealed as in so many reels. I noted on Ross Reels web site that just about every model has a variation on this theme and each a seemingly different design! Some are flat some are cone shaped but most are relatively simple compression designs not unlike spinning reel drags.

    A saltwater or steelhead angler may feel the need for a powerful smooth drag and gravitate to one of the draw-bar models or stacked drag systems. A trout or bass fisher may like a drag to more quickly bring his quarry to net for safe release but rarely will be setting his reels' drag to a potent level so is fine with most any drag design including the finger palmable click check type.

    When comparing drags, pay attention to smoothness, start-up energy, linearity of setting and fine-tunability. All reels should be kept lubricated as specified by the maker...which may include NO lubrication, should be stored clean and completely dry and with their drag setting at zero. Quality reels will have minimum surfaces that can entrap an errant coil of fly line, tight tolerances that won't suck tippet into their gaps, spool aspect ratios that promote easy and intuitive uniform retrieval of backing and line and virtually no flex in their spool/housing assembly. The spool release mechanism should be stout and as failure proof as possible, I have grown to favor the treaded captive nut type. A good fly reel need not cost a fortune but won't be inexpensive either and, properly treated and maintained, will last a lifetime.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Arlington, TX

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    Not much more to say other than nature doesn't like anything sealed. I lean more to draw-bar drags because I can see everything that is going on with them. Sure, they are not sealed but that doesn't really matter. The drag on my Abel is just as smooth completely submerged and soaking wet as it is bone dry. Yup, sand and other junk can get inside the frame but not really inside the drag surfaces due the the tension the drag surfaces are held together under. They do have one draw back though, they are not for people that like to ride things hard and put them up wet. They do like a little maintenance from time to time.

    As far as sealed drags go, there are some sweet reels out there now. So many to choose from that it's almost a blindfold dart throw choice kind of affair. In my experience, none are completely sealed and all have failure modes sooner or later. Most engage the drags with an internal one way bearing that can and does get wet. Not being able to monkey around inside means you can't tell if said bearing is getting a little rusted. I don't like stuff I can't fiddle with. That being said, I do plan on buying a Bauer for my 7wt in the near future. Just for kicks I guess.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    Grouch, Remember we once lost a Space Shuttle and her crew to a failed "O" ring. A more costly seal than on your average sealed drag reel. Any reel that you convert from R to L wind by flipping a clutch bearing does NOT have a sealed drag system.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    Not much more to say other than nature doesn't like anything sealed. I lean more to draw-bar drags because I can see everything that is going on with them.
    It's funny, I remember early on in my fly fishing being terrified that the inside of the reel (Crown C&P) was open and I didn't know what to do with it or any of the parts. There was no internet to look at and I didn't have a manual or papers. Years later I realized that you shouldn't have both pawls engaged.

    Now, I like them open, click & pawl and draw-bar drag reels. Abels make up the majority of my reels now followed closely by old Sage 500 series reels. I have a couple of reels that I can't see the inside of the drag, a Lamson, a Loop Opti and a Galvan. I trust those drags less than I do the ones I can see inside and maintain and fiddle with. Complete change from where I started. I just bought a new reel for a new 9 weight - I was torn between a couple of reels. I went with my gut (and heart) and bought another Abel. So simplistic, yet so effective for my purposes.


  6. #6

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    If you go to a bonefish camp in the Bahamas with a common rod rack with dozens of rigged outfits on it you will almost certainly find more Abel and Tibor draw-bar reels than all the others put together. This is not a style contest; it is a statement about what performs solidly and reliably in the harshness of intense salt and insidious marl where stout drag settings and long, screaming runs are a daily event. Yes, I have successfully used Hatch, Nautilus NV and now Hardy Fortuna bonefishing but the anglers who frequent these camps have been using draw-bar reels since Fin-Nor and Seamaster introduced them in the 1950's.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetandsalt View Post
    Grouch, Remember we once lost a Space Shuttle and her crew to a failed "O" ring. A more costly seal than on your average sealed drag reel. Any reel that you convert from R to L wind by flipping a clutch bearing does NOT have a sealed drag system.

    I'm not sure that is an absolute. If the clutch bearing is within a casing sealed with "O" rings I would argue it is sealed.

    One could say that a watch in which you pull out the crown to change time/date is not sealed on this basis....or indeed change the battery, but they still manage 200-300m even more.

    Likewise my old Nikonos camera which I used only this last week on holiday, the back opens to allow changing of film, lens come on and off and as long as you are careful, it is good to 50m. Far more than any reels are rated to.

    Next I image we will see reels being marketed with depth ratings, like watches, with the inevitable mine is bigger than yours when you get to the 3000m (9842ft) models!!!
    Regards Gerard

  8. #8

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    Hi Gerard, Very few reels are built like your Nikonos. When I have the battery replaced in my Timex, even though they strive to re-seat the seal, it usually takes on moisture anyway. Yes, Nautilus NV has a sealed drag, if you wish to covert wind direction on an existing reel you must obtain a new module from the factory. Anyway, sealed reels are in style and will get better and better.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Northwest Territories

    Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    This may be a stupid or naive question, but is it really that important to use a sealed drag reel in saltwater (or fresh for that matter) if you're careful to rinse it off and otherwise maintain it? For my first bonefish trip last March I brought a Ross Momentum 4 which worked fine--all the drag I needed. I rinsed it off every day when I came in and never had a problem. When I got home I soaked it in tap water for a day or so and let it dry completely.

    That said, I'm considering getting a Tibor for my new 9-wt saltwater rod, for the reasons Sweetandsalt discussed.

    Last edited by duker; 07-27-2013 at 10:51 AM. Reason: wrong size reel!

  10. Default Re: Sealed drag vs non sealed.

    I have to admit that I'm scared of open drags. I have no idea how to maintain them. Yes a little grease here and there, but springs, screws and bolts?
    Too scared that I will break the reel

    I'm a saltwater angler. That's Scandinavian saltwater, not tropical saltwater. What would really be the best for those conditions?


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