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The Waterworks ULA Force 4

an ultra-modern large arbor Spey reel

"You'd better get moving."

    Imagine standing 1/2 way down a 300 yard long pool and watching a big steelhead clear the water just above a set of heavy rapids 150 yards below you. And imagine that this fish is on the end of your line, your reel is spinning and the fish shows no sign of stopping. Add to this the fact that you'd just landed another fish not 10 minutes before, put all of this together with your immediate location--the banks of British Columbia's Thompson River, home to the world's toughest steelhead-- and like me you'd start to resign yourself to the very real possibility that this fish will never see the beach.
    So when Tyler Kushnir clambered up beside me and watched the fish head into the whitewater he knew there was only one thing to do. "You'd better get moving," he advised, and turned back upriver to continue fishing his way down the run. We'd seen this sort of thing before on the Thompson, and he knew that if I managed to follow the fish down through the rapids and into the next pool I'd be gone a while.
    Well, I did manage to hang onto that steelhead, thanks in part to the short shanked hook I trailed behind a tube fly, but most of the credit for allowing me to land that 38-1/2" buck goes to the reel I was using, a Waterworks ULA Force 4.

on_the_thompson    I don't mean to gush here, but the Waterworks ULA Force 4 is a piece of art. Machined to extremely fine tolerances and flawlessly balanced, the ULA Force in the 3.5 and 4 will complement any two-hander. The Force 4 is a great size for your largest Speys--your 15+ ft 10 -12 weights. The Force 3.5 is suitable for everything else. 
    ULA stands for "Ultra Large Arbor" and it is that; this puppy eats line like it's going out of style. The test model Waterworks sent me is the 4,  and for most of the fall I fished it with a custom 160ft extended belly shooting head line system and was still able to carry nearly 200 yards of 30# Dacron (for longer bellied Spey lines I would be inclined to stop at 150 yards as the 8/9 Accelerator I had on there over the summer was getting pretty close to the frame). If you need even more backing, gel-spun poly will give you miles of line. In other words, capacity is not a problem with this reel.
    The Force series is machined from solid high grade bar stock, utilizes titanium hardware to reduce weight, and is backed by a killer drag system that is certainly waaaaayyyyy over the top for steelhead or Atlantic salmon, but excellent for those who plan to have the reel do double duty as both a Spey and saltwater reel. The drag is sealed to prevent any hydroplaning when the reel is wet and it certainly shut down every Dean and Thompson steelhead I had on this season. The drag system is super hi tech stuff and I won't go into all the details mostly because I don't understand much of it other than to say it works--I'm just a humble high school guidance counsellor and you pretty much have to be an engineer with an understanding of advanced alloys and polymers to understand it--but if you want to delve into this visit the Waterworks website and navigate to the Force series info--it's all there.

force4

    Other features include an open spool design and a large drag adjustment knob on the back of the frame. The reel has an audible "click" that you can disengage, but I kinda like the sound it makes so I've left it alone. The reel comes with a neoprene case that is great for protecting it from the flying rocks and general road crud that gets dumped on my tackle while I charge around Spences Bridge with my rods strapped to the hood of my pickup.
    A few traditionalists who've seen the reel shudder at its ultra-modern lines, but I think it looks pretty neat, plus I really like the thinking behind the reel: a little touch like integrating the counterbalance into the design of the spool itself is a slick way of dealing with the issue, and gives the reel its sleek appearance.
    The only thing that troubled me a little about the Force 4 was its tendency to reel itself back up again over a few hours of casting. Like some other precision reels I've fished, there is little resistance when retrieving line. This makes it easy to haul a fish back in, but makes it just as easy for the spool to turn slightly with each cast. If you aren't paying attention to this you'll notice your casting has really improved over a few hours of fishing--what's really happened is that the reel has reeled in several feet of line for you. This is not a big deal--my Ross does the same thing--but something to be aware of. I counteract it by stripping out a few inches of line every1/2 dozen casts or so.
   Needless to say I love this reel. It looks cool, and it performs as good as it looks. Anytime anyone thinks outside the box I like it, and the ULA Force 4 is a unique original that will see a lot of water time next season.

special thanks to Shannon Robinson for making this reel available for review
reel image copyright waterworks, used by permission