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Discussion Starter #1
Just wanted to air out some thoughts on two topics that have been of popular interest lately, because of how they tie in with one another - landing steelhead and reels. This came to my mind when I tried a few casts on another steelheader's outfit on the river the other day. When I went to strip line off of the reel I was pretty much astounded at the amount of drag being used. My immediate reaction was "Man, this is a sure way to lose a lot of steelhead!" This got me to wondering how many other people might be using such an extensive amount of drag, especially when I remembered the types of reels that were most often recommended whenever the question of what reels were best for steelheading came up - reels with high performance drags.
In my experience, trainstopping drags are a huge disadvantage when it comes to steelhead. The reason is because steelhead are unpredictable fighters. They jump unannounced, they run fast -away from you, towards you, allover the place - they can often be reeled in quite submissively and then when they are only a few feet away suddenly explode with furious violence. In any of these cases a heavy drag setting will result in a lost fish. The other option, fiddling with drag settings to accomodate what a fish is doing at any particular moment, is also a very risky procedure to engage in while fighting a steelhead. On the other hand, steelhead also sulk down deep, "post up" solidly behind midstream boulders, or just turn tail and slowly head down the river leisurely taking your line. At these times a very heavy amount of drag is necessary to tire a fish, turn it, or stop it. So what is the solution?
The fact is that there is no mechanical drag that is as sensitive, accurate, or quick to react as the human hand. In my experience, the best reels for steelheading are those that incorporate a feature that allows for additional braking to be easily applied with one's hand - meaning a palming rim - and beyond this have only enough drag to prevent overruns on the line during strikes and runs. Sure, you are going to lose some fish in the beginning of learning the skill of hand-braking steelhead, but once you have learned it no high tech mechanical drag will compare. Plus you will have immersed more of your personal efforts into the landing of each fish, and made your equipment a little less mechanical, both attributes that are more aligned with the basic premises of flyfishing in the first place.
What reels best fit this bill? Hardy's, Hardy's, Hardy's. Simple and dependable... and it doesn't take a second mortgage to get one. The ultimate? The hardy Perfect, whether it be the newer Bougle' or older edition Perfects, no other reel offers the totally clean (no handles to get rapped with) and large palming surface that the exposed spool face of this model of reel does. Drag can be applied onto the spool from the tiniest fraction of ounces all the way to full lock-up, with the tip's of one's fingers, instantaneously and on demand. I guarantee you that any steelheader skilled in the art of handbraking on a Hardy Perfect will land more steelhead and do so much quicker than the most expensive and high tech dragged reels in the world. Now, if only Hardy would make some salt-water edition Perfects. Anyone listening out there?
 

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EAT IT!!!
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Riveraddict, your comments that many anglers set their drags to tightly when steelhead fishing can be carried over to almost all fly fishing. It seems to me that about 85 percent of the time when I am handed set up that a friend or client is fishing with, the first thing I do is back off the drag. This has been the case while steelheading, trout fishing, and just about everything else. I try to set my drag, or clicker, heavily enough to prevent overruns and no more.
In regards to your comments about Hardy's. Yes, they are wonderful reels, I will be the first tell you that. Yet the modern salt water reels which are often now mounted on Spey rods, in my opinion, have a place for a few reasons. First of all, almost any modern machined disc drag reel will be far less impacted by its enviornment than a Hardy Perfect style reel. Steelheading can be very tough on tackle, and these newer style reels take dirt, sand, freezing, and the occasional bounce off of a rock better than a Hardy. Secondly, reels large enough for fishing two handed rods tend to be expensive. The cost of a reel can be more easily stomached if it will serve double duty, and a spey reel can become a Tarpon, or Striper reel by changing spools or lines. I would not wish such torture on a Perfect (though the sound of a Tarpon screaming line from a Perfect would be interesting.)
While most modern salt water reels have excedingly powerful drags, what sets them apart is how smooth these drags are. When turned down to a reasonable level, they allow a steelhead (or anything else) to take line when needed, and almost all of these reels have accessible spools to palm. In my mind, if the monster drag is not abused, they do an excellent job. I would love to place a Hardy on my two handers, but I have do not want to be purchasing new tackle if the chance to fish salt water comes up again. Therefore, I will forgo the pleasure of a Perfect and use a reel that for me, may be less pleasing to the eyes and ears, but is every bit as functional, and much more cost effective when the future of my angling is considered.
 

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RA
I couldn't agree more, especially as needed for steelhead and Atlantic salmon. A good click pawl drag with palming rim is all that's needed, and I prefer the control I have with palming for a lot of the reasons you describe.

When I read your post, I thought I'd do an inventory before responding . . . actually, the numbers are pretty embarrassing*. When I started all this over 30 years ago, I bought a Hardy Marquis (actually then, a SA System 5) — a well respected reel at the time — and not considered to be a very good reel by a lot of people now. The Lightweights were a little more expensive (I liked the palming rim on the Marquis) and the Perfects were simply out of my price range. I've always found the Marquis reels to be all I've ever needed (except for tarpon, where I use one of the expensive, super, silky drag, machined barstock, super anodized reels).

As I mentioned, IMHO the Marquis more than up to the task for salmon and steelhead. But I've also used Marquis reels for everything from 4" trout to bonefish, dorado (dolphin), roosterfish, false albacore, bonito, stripers, bluefish, mackerel, etc. No problems, ever. Yes, in salt water, I must be careful, but it's really not a big problem. Yes, I am impressed with the quality of many of the higher-tech reels. They are beautiful, there are several I'd love to own . . . BUT . . . I wouldn't have been able to afford all the options readily available (lines, lines, lines, lines) that I have at my disposal by sticking with reels I can afford.

*embarrassing inventory: Marquis 5 — 3 reels, 8 spools; Marquis 7 — 2 reels, 3 spools; Marquis 8/9 — 2 reels, 5 spools; Salmon #1 — 3 reels, 7 spools; Salmon #2 — 3 reels, 6 spools; Salmon #3 — 2 reels, 5 spools. The other part of the inventory I won't mention is all the fine flyrods and lines (there are even more lines that I use that are stored off of the reels ) I've been able to afford by putting my money where, for me, I feel performance matters.
Bill
 

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Good discussion

I also keep the drag just tight enough to prevent an over run. I feel it is much more fun and control of the fish when my palm controls the run. I also use my finger on the upper hand to control a lot of what the steelhead is doing. I can put a lot of pressure on the fish when I want to pump the fish in. I try to keep the steelhead either taking line or I am pumping the fish toward me. In this way you can land the fish quickly with less stress. Back in the good old days when I was a gear fishermen and there were lots of steelhead in the river I would experiment on how quick I could beach one. At that time we used the old direct reel with no star drag. With fast timing and agility I could have one on the beach in very short time. It is much harder to do with a 14 foot rod but I still fun to try it once and a while on a smaller hatchery fish. I learned to steelhead with the direct level wind reel with no drag and that carries over to my fly reel. The battle more personal to me this way. Jerry
 

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What's to add?

This is particularly true with 2-hander rods. All that line going through the guides adds a heck of a lot of 'drag.' Add this to what the reels doing .. you can get the picture.

My drag(s) are set just enough to counter 'spool spin,' and that's about all. If necessary, I'll adjust the drag after I've hooked the fish ... and am darned certain this is not one that wants to go 'airborne' on me.

A tight drag is 'bye-bye' time with that set of circumstances.
 

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fly on little wing
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good topic

i love the palming surfaces. indispensible. my drags and tippets are light this time of the year. i hooked into a very hot fish this weekend on 5x. she ripped off 3 nice runs and a cartwheel that i controlled by different pressure braking. there are no variable drags reels on the market.

i too have a vintage marquis 5 for trout. my steelhead reels are ross and redington. the fish i mention was subdued by the redington.

Gary
 

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Mr. Mom
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Riveraddict said:
In my experience, trainstopping drags are a huge disadvantage when it comes to steelhead.
Drags don't lose fish, people who don't know how to set drags lose fish.

I was recently faced with someone who believed that a bluewater reel was overkill on steelhead because of the drag. Yes you can lock these drags down and get into the teens of pounds of pressure. You can also do loops in DC-10, but in both cases that's not what the gear in question was designed for. This guys total and complete lack of experience in dealing with fish that take 100 yds in their run didn't allow him to consider that a drag that is silky smooth at 8 pounds (I've NEVER set 8 pounds of drag even on tuna) might just happen to be silky smooth at 1.5 lbs too. Pick up an Abel, Tibor, Evotech in working order set the drag as light as you want and pull. Smoother and easier start up than any click pawl will ever be.

"Trainstopping" "stopasub" and other terms like that are developed by marketeers to sell reels to people with more money than experience. I have an old Hardy Perfect and love it. Yes you only really need a dependable light clicker system for steelhead, but a smooth high end reel is a joy to use. It's not designed to have its drag set tight, it's designed to be smooth, consistent, and reliable throughout its entire range. If you set it tight, you're on your own...:tsk_tsk:
 

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Yes, Good Topic!

Hey RA, I'll just bet I know which reel you're referring to!! Attached to a Burkie? :eek: I wonder if they crank them down that tight for Tarpon?

I'll second Philster's last comments. I've seen two scenarios common with anglers new to winter steelhead flyfishing. One involves letting go of the line and swinging the rod toward shore with both hands. The reel sings, the steelhead shakes his head, and Adios Fishy!

The second seems more common, especially in winter. The Steelhead grabs, the angler clamps down on the rod grip (and line under his forefinger), the steelhead wallows to the surface and "POW" goes the Maxima!

Confession Time - all my favorite spey rods have Hardy reels. Favorites are my Marquis Salmon 1 & 2, but I think I've got about 5 - I do LOVE Hardys. Love the sound when the steelhead runs, the rim causing smoke to rise from my wet fleece mitts, etc etc.

But I do believe that drags, when set just strong enough to barb the fish without relying on educated hands to manipulate the line, will aid the beginning steelheader flyfisher in landing more fish.

My .02,

DS
 

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:>)

"Confession Time - all my favorite spey rods have Hardy reels. Favorites are my Marquis Salmon 1 & 2, but I think I've got about 5 - I do LOVE Hardys. Love the sound when the steelhead runs, the rim causing smoke to rise from my wet fleece mitts, etc etc."

Lordie, you do know your Hardies. Only have one and it's hanging in a place of honor on a bamboo spey rod. Look up and say Darn! Why??????

:confused:
 

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I also agree with Mr. Addict. I have a couple Marquis Salmons and I don't believe I could ever tighten their drags beyond simply preventing overuns.

But then it would be nice to find out sometime soon!

Leland.
 

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Thanks RA,

I have been picking up Bougle's for a couple years and last week finally bit the bullet on a 1920's 4" Perfect. My wife was not impressed with the price but now I can show her it means more fish to hand so all should be ok. :D

Oh by the way, I agree 100% on anglers over tightening their drags. A couple years ago on the Bulkley a buddy who was new to steelheading came downriver to announce the 5 pound trout he had caught. "5 pound trout" we asked, that was a steelhead. Nope says he, it never even took any line. I asked to see his rod and sure enough, his Redington was cranked down to stop a train.
 

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Indicators Anonymous
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Hmmmmm...

I would actually have experiences which would differ from the above as this summer I was was in an awful streak of 7 fish hooked...0 landed.

All but 6 of the fish were hooked with a rod using a Hardy...when I started fishing a rod to which I have an Abel 4.5N attached, I started landing fish! :razz: :hehe:

...hmmmmmmm!

And I think Philster and I may finally agree on something as he is, IMHO, 100% correct when he says:

Yes you only really need a dependable light clicker system for steelhead, but a smooth high end reel is a joy to use. It's not designed to have its drag set tight, it's designed to be smooth, consistent, and reliable throughout its entire range. If you set it tight, you're on your own...

btw-I do not blame the Hardy for the poor landing ratio I was experiencing this past summer.
 

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Mr. Mom
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Sparkster! You finally decided to come down on the right side of a topic! Good for you!:p

BTW my 4.5N is one of my favorite pieces of equipment I've ever owned, and I'm alot older than you. Seen more tuna than a woman on an Atkins diet!:hehe:
 

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lite beer and drags

i too have learned my leson the hard way to go lite.throw in a tight drag with a fishing dragging aound a 500 grain sink-tip and he be gone.
 

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Riveraddict,

I agree wholeheartedly. Too many drags are set too tight. And too much connection is lost when you ask a piece of cork or delrin to do the work of flesh and bone.

I only wish that left hand wind Perfects were more readily available. I'm right handed, and a die-hard lefty winder. That business of switching hands on single handed rods between the acts of casting and winding always seemed completely absurd to me. I kept my left hand habit when starting out on spey rods. Since I usually fish right hand on top, it remains practical to wind with my left.

I've heard that some people can wind more rapidly with their dominant hand, which is why some advocate using a "dominant hand" wind on big game. After years of lefty winding I'm far more adept that way, which keeps my muscle (right) arm attached to the rod, and hence to the fish.
 

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drags

I always bite on this topic¨!!! I have to agree with my Addict friend.I will add that I dont palm the bougles.I use a light nylon glove on my rod hand(right) with two half fingers. it is simple,easy and takes suprisingly little pressure of the line against the rod cork to clamp down on a fish for the hook set and for those times during the fight when the fish is moveable.drags cant think,cant change quikly!!!BEAU
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Nice! Love all of the responses to this - all great. By the way, I don't want everyone to think that I hate reels with sophisticated drags. Whenever I find myself hooked up to an ocean-fresh Chinook, or ocean-fresh chum larger than 12 pounds, I am usually wishing that I had a bit more drag capability on my reel. In both cases such a heavy amount of drag must be applied for such an extensive amount of time that my hand muscles are begging for relief well before the battle has been completed. Chinook and large chums are heavyweight back street brawlers, and don't "burn themselves out" like the more "gentlemanly" steelhead.

However, the main point that I was trying to get across is that for steelheading one does not need to invest in a sophisticated or expensive reel. Of course, if one expects a reel to be used in several capacities besides steelheading, then the other factors must also be taken into consideration.

I certainly would not deny anyone the choice to use whatever level of reel they feel is necessary for steelheading. But, I think that often times in this modern world of flyfishing, that too much "hype" is presented when it comes to what is "needed" in order to partake in flyfishing. Much of this hype, in my opinion, is actually steering the sport of flyfishing away from its roots of mechanical simplicity and its requirement that the SKILLS of the individual angler be the most important ingredient in the accomplishment of the sport.

Anyways, to better illustrate where a large part of my line of thinking comes from, I started flyfishing when I was 12 years old - in the late sixties - back when Trueblood, Brooks, Wulff, and Haig-Brown did much of the writing that was about flyfishing. Their writings encompassed a whole lot more than just "how to catch 'em" like most modern-day articles. These anglers touched heavily on the "spiritual" and ethical aspects that they believed made flyfishing in fact flyfishing. A prime example of the character of these anglers - Lee Wulff caught the first sailfish on a fly. He did it CASTING from a SKIFF that was DRIFTING in the ocean (not trolling, no teasers), and landed it while using a SINGLE ACTION fly reel with a PALMING RIM and ONLY A CLICK AND PAWL drag. Now THAT"S a flyfisherman!

WRKE - your experiences sound fascinating to me. I have often wondered whether or not it was feasible or practical to pursue bonefish, dorado, roosterfish, false albacore, bonito, mackerel, etc., on a click-pawl reel. Perhaps someday I will have to experience it for myself.

One last interesting observation of mine. "Smoother" can actually detract from the "thrill" of hooking fast-running fish. I bought my Bougle' when that model of reel first came out. Those first models had a problem with the wooden handle swelling up and becoming completely immobile during wet weather (translation for Washington steelheaders = eternally immobile). I replaced that handle with TWO synthetic ones positioned so that they would counterbalance one another. The result - no more "wobble" when a fish ran. This has, for me anyways, actually reduced some of the excitement of a fish running . No wobble = less "feel" for the situation.
 

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Hey River Addict...

I certainly would not deny anyone the choice to use whatever level of reel they feel is necessary for steelheading. But, I think that often times in this modern world of flyfishing, that too much "hype" is presented when it comes to what is "needed" in order to partake in flyfishing. Much of this hype, in my opinion, is actually steering the sport of flyfishing away from its roots of mechanical simplicity and its requirement that the SKILLS of the individual angler be the most important ingredient in the accomplishment of the sport.
I couldn't agree with the above post more. Well said "RA".
 

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Cool - I get to come down - albeit gently - on the other side of the arguement. While I heartily agree on setting the drag light - only to prevent an overrun, there are some good arguements for high tech large arbor reels.

The aforementioned "bomb-proof" nature of sealed bearing high tech reels is certainly one. As well, the large arbor gives unmatched speed of pick-up when chasing a fish, but mabe more importantly the low inertia start-up of these reels allows that extra cushion when a fish bolts on a short line.

While I do my fish fighting with my hand on the reel, as I agree with Ed - nothing beats the human hand. There is a situation where a high tech, easily adjusted drag is almost a necessity. Now, as a salmon guide in the Queen Charlottes I "go nuts" on guests who even think about adjusting a drag while they are playing a fish. However, in this situation I will do it.

That is, when I have waded deeply into a run and the bottom is treacherous - like lets say John's Rock or Martel on the Thompson. When you hook a fish in these places the first order of business is to survive the initial run and get things more or less under control. Then you need to get to the beach!

This involves serious wading with a wading staff in one hand and the rod/fish combo in the other! Here I will normally tighten my drag a little (this is where the awesome, dependable and minutely tuneable drag of my Loop Evotec or Ross Saltwater V earn their keep), so as to be able to control the fish/line beter while I try not to go for a swim.

Once back to the beach I will back off the drag to my pre-set "normal" position. Once again the Loop is superior - as it has an adjustment (set with an allen key) where you can choose and set your minimum drag - a very sweet option - not found on old Perfects.

All this said, I am turning 50 this May and I am starting to drop hints that an old Perfect would be an awesome gift :cool: (I know Sandi will read this - so this is a none too subtle hint...)
 

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Mr. Mom
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Riveraddict said:

Lee Wulff caught the first sailfish on a fly. He did it CASTING from a SKIFF that was DRIFTING in the ocean (not trolling, no teasers), and landed it while using a SINGLE ACTION fly reel with a PALMING RIM and ONLY A CLICK AND PAWL drag. Now THAT"S a flyfisherman!

AND
I have often wondered whether or not it was feasible or practical to pursue bonefish, dorado, roosterfish, false albacore, bonito, mackerel, etc., on a click-pawl reel. Perhaps someday I will have to experience it for myself.
I hate to break it to you, but those acts are no big deal. Down in Baja I've done practically all my fishing from open 20 to 22 foot skiffs (pangas they are called). A couple trips ago I brought down an old 70s era Pflueger 1498 for sh##s and grins. Landed 3 dorado to #25 pounds and called it a day for the reel. It had proven itself, and I had no intention of breaking it for fun.

I'm not claiming to be super-fisher either. If you go where those fish are, you will catch them. Fly selection actually can be critical, but if you can cast over 45 feet controllably and consistently, and you can catch stocked trout in lakes, you will have no trouble with Dorado, most tuna, etc. Okay Roosters are another story, but they need ridalin...:hehe:
 
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