Many years ago, I inquired of Rim Chung“What about a reel, do you have any suggestions?,” knowing that he was fishing with a Marryat Classic 7 (their smallest, lightest-weight and finest sized reel).

“The best reel that I have found for the price is this one,” he said as he pointed to the Marryat.  “It’s light weight, made with precision-tolerances in Japan, and balances well on my light rod.  It has an ultra-fine drag settings which allow you to use 7X tippet without breaking it, as a result of the reel’s fine action. But many companies make beautiful reels.  Some reels are very light weight, but it only have a click drag system.  I prefer a fine disk drag adjustment.  You are only limited by your pocketbook and your personal preference.  Choose one rationally.  The light weight and drag system of a reel should be your paramount concern.”

Most of my fishing life, I’ve heard fly fishers tell new-comers that “fly reels just hold the line.”  I have collected several of the Marryat Classic 7’s and 7A’s, to which I believe there are none finer for ultra-light weight fishing and the drag is important, contrary to public opinion and the advice of many veterans.  In addition, the silent drag is a benefit when fishing on crowded streams, so as not be screaming to others, “I have a fish on.”

However, other students of Rim’s have discovered that his first ultra-light weight reel was a Hardy Featherweight (I am sure the name alone was a selling point to Rim in those days where ultra-light was nearly unheard of) and favored it for that reason.  I have followed this experimentations by Rim and his students and I simply do not like the loud click drag it offers with minimal adjustments for the fine tension variations needed on larger fish versus smaller fish. Rim later purchased several Hardy Flyweights, which were even lighter in weight, but didn’t offer any drag adjustment whatsoever.

One of his pupil’s Ferenc Horvath, strongly prefers the  Tibor Spring Creek CL (which is also a pretty reel, has a fine drag, and Rim owns several of these as well).  I have experimented with the Abel light-weight reels and those of Sage (as has Rim).  The Abels do not seem to have as fine of an adjustment at the lower ends of the drag settings and the Sage reels just seem too light, even when paired with their 0-weight rods, so as to balance out the set up.  But there are so many new light weight reels on the market, including several lessor-known brands, that it is difficult to say with any authority which is the best value, best balance for your rod, or the best match for your style of fishing.

I can only tell you what works for me, given my experience with a fair amount of testing, but I am reminded of when I asked Nick Sawyer, the grandson of the late Frank Sawyer and legendary inventor of the Pheasant Tail fly what rod he preferred most of his grandfather’s and he replied something along the lines of, “I don’t know the brand or weight, I’ll have to see if it is written some where on it, I simply enjoy it the most of those I had available to me.”  Perhaps, we have fallen into the same category of a response, without having fully explored all  of the current options on the market.  So as Rim initially said, I think the best advice is, “find the one that suits you best.”

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One Reply to “Reels”

  1. I was introduced to flyfishing 50 years ago, and have been an avid flyfisherman ever since. For my 40th birthday 26 years ago I treated myself and purchased a Marryat CMR34 and an Orvis 5 weight Far & Fine. I currently own a number of high end rods and reels including a Marryat CMR56. My Marryats have seen a lot of fishing over the years and they perform flawlessly. In my opinion there isn’t a better reel for the money on the market.


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