we spend a lot of time testing gear and writing shootouts to give you all of the tools to make your next trip a success. the competition was incredibly tight this year and we really put forth a lot of thought in order to declare a champion. of course it’s got a great drag with tons of power and adjustability, but it’s also got a super fast retrieve and the best ergonomics. we found that when fly line was on the reel, it shifted around too much to get consistent results. a great example of this is the hatch – it requires very little torque to set it all the way to max drag, and therefore 100% of its drag is usable. there are two types of friction: static – when the drag isn’t moving – and kinetic – when a fish is pulling on the drag.
if we’re using 8 lb test tippet, we now need to set our drag to a maximum of 5-6 lbs so that it doesn’t break the tippet. almost all of the fly reels we tested claim to be “large arbor”, but we discovered that there was quite a variation between reels. while all the reels we tested were “8-weights”, there is clearly no standard here. as all of the reels had quick change spools, we didn’t bother evaluating it this time around. we then dragged each reel along the pavement for a total of 9′ to simulate what would happen to a reel if you placed it on a rock to do some rigging. sight casting to bonefish with a size 6 gotcha is vastly different from blind casting patterns that are nearly the size of a chicken to apex predators.
the pursuit within fly fishing puts us in locations, environments, and weather situations which demand a lot from our gear. but, the reel which takes the most abuse and is asked to be the most “well rounded” is the 8-10wt sized fly reel. further, the result is generally a heavier fly reel (compared to machined) and also a lesser overall build quality. machined reels, on the other hand, are built from a single block of metal. this final process of powder coating vs anodizing can be a big deal. bonefish on the flats, striped bass off the beaches and rocks, snook in the rolling waves along the beach, redfish in the flood tide marshes…these fishing situations are exposing that reel to a lot of saltwater.
this can really test the coating and quality of the reel. for a majority of trout anglers, the need for a quality drag system is not required. plus, the class of fish usually targeted with 8-10wt rods can also be tippet sensitive. we put them on the back of bikes to get to those hard to reach spots, toss them in the back of the truck, bang them off the barnacle covered rocks regularly along the new england coast, sit them in the sand while unhooking/releasing a fish, sometimes fish them for days in the salt without rinsing them off…these reels see a lot. when you first hook into a tarpon, you want to have the best drag possible. in the case of giant trevally, this is a unique case and the percentage of anglers who are targeting gts is much less than bonefish, striped bass, redfish, snook, etc. so pound for pound, the 8wt reels are getting the brunt of the abuse.
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the reels are being submerged regularly, splashed by waves, bounced off the rocks, dropped in the sand, etc. this can really test the coating this means that all you need to do to switch from an 8wt reel to a 10wt is just switch the spools out. if you have an 8-12 weight rod arguably the most important piece of that gear is a good fly reel; bonefish on islands with palm trees, you might opt for a 7-8 wt., abel reels, fly reel shootout 2021, nautilus fly reels, 8 wt reel shootout.
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