Thursday, July 16, 2015

Vintage Fly Fishing Reels: Keep it or Toss it?

+20 years old DCA Lamson Reel.

The photos show an original 6wt DCA Lamson Reel, with a spare spool.  It is +20 years old and was made in the USA.  Years ago, while living in Anchorage, Alaska, a friend of mine by the name of Dan Heeter​ bought it as a used reel.  I think the original owner sold it because the drag (clutch) was broken, and he could not fix it because the reel was no longer in production. Recently, Dan gave me the reel as a freebie and told me the reel works, but the drag does not.  Since I rarely use a drag while fishing, I took the reel because it's of high quality and they don't make reels like this anymore.  I then called Waterworks Lamson to see if it was fixable; it was not because it was so old and the original Lamson Reel company had been bought and sold 2x's. However, the very kind and professional customer service representative told me to call Bill at Archuleta's Reel Works​  Two weeks later, for a grand total of $28.00 I have a working reel and a spare spool.  The 'take-away-message,' before tossing equipment, always call your equipment manufacturer and ask to speak to a product specialist or a customer service representative; you might be surprised with the results.  And always thank your friends who give your free, high quality equipment... Thanks Dan Heeter! 

Re-built clutch is seen in the middle, with gold ring around it.
Fixed and ready to fish! 

Why Click-Pawl and Click-Pawl-Drag Reels?

In other post and pages/tabs, I have written extensively about this, so I'll keep it short.

  1. I am all about rod-reel-line balance. I see too many anglers with light weight modern fly rods, with HUGE reels on them = this may create improper balance, may effect your casting stroke, and possibly fatigue you, or cause injury. 
  2. I prefer classic click-pawl reels for rod weights between 1wt - 6wt. Why? They can be significantly lighter than large arbor reels and I don't believe drags are necessary for this range of fly rods.   
  3. Based on my experience, unless your are willing to pay serious money for the highest quality large arbor reel, I find many large arbor reels do not balance well with modern fly rods.   

Where to Find Click-Pawl and Click-Pawl-Drag Reels?

For a decade or more, at your local fly shop, it was hard to find classic style click-pawl reels. 
Why?  The industry evolved and large arbor reels dominated the market/sales. Large arbor reels continue to be popular, but the classic click-pawl and click-pawl-drag reels are coming back into favor. Depending on your budget,  you may want to look at the following:

  • Orvis Battenkill -- $$
  • Abel Trout Series -- $$-$$$
  • TFO NXT Series -- $
  • Reddington -- $$
  • SAGE -- $$$
  • Hardy -- $$$-$$$$
  • Pflueger -- $-$$
  • LL Bean, Cabelas, and Bass Pro have their own labels -- $$

Note: You may find a few other, not so well known manufacturers, making click-pawl reels.  Online, I have seen a few that look good.  

Other Buying Options?

If your not in a rush, I would do the following because you might find a good reel for less $:
  • Shop garage sales.  
  • Ask to see your grandfather's (any family member) fishing equipment. 
  • Shop Craig's List and Ebay.

Special Note: Years ago, via Craig's List, I met a man who was selling his father's fly fishing equipment. The man was in his 60's, so his father's items were vintage/old.  Amongst his offerings, I remember that he had tons of Mustad hooks (in original packaging) and a Hardy reel.  He wanted $300 for the whole lot.  I asked him if he knew anything about fly fishing equipment; he said, "no, I don't fly fish, I found these items in my dad's barn."  I then told him to replace the Hardy click-pawl reel would cost at least $1,000 USD.  I also told him the Mustad hooks could easily be worth $1000 USD -- he had a lot of hooks.  In good conscious, I could not buy his equipment.  I gave him a few names of vintage dealers and said, "if your not desperate for cash, don't give these items away... make sure this equipment finds the right home."  

Final Word

I grew up fishing my dad's Pflueger click-pawl reel, on a Fenwick fiberglass 6wt rod (what an amazing combination of balance, smoothness, and feel).  When I finally could afford my own equipment, I switched to modern graphite rods and large arbor reels. Even with these high-end rods and reels, the combination of the two never felt as good as my fiberglass and click-pawl.  I still have/use modern rods and reels, but in some situations, they are over-kill.  If you're looking for a reel to match a rod between 1wt and 6wt, I would highly recommend looking at click-pawl reels.

Lastly, if your equipment is non repairable, vintage fly fishing equipment makes for great home decor.

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you on the water.


PS.  To feel the bend in your fly rod and to hear a click-pawl reel sing, has had a lasting effect on my life. Give it a try!