Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fly Fish with Mel: How to Equip for a Trip to Maldives - Reels

Large Arbor or Small Arbor

With so many manufacturers coming out with large arbor reel designs, you would start to wonder if it really makes a difference. I sure did.

On my first fly fishing trip to the Maldives, I was using a Lamson 3 with my Sage RPL+. The combination was fine but when a few nice sized GTs and Bluefin trevallies took me into my backing, I had to reel really hard to gain line. After I got back from the trip and was planning another, I started to think that perhaps, I needed another reel to better handle the conditions and the fish.

Reading up on the subject, I came across the Ross Canyon series. It was one of the first large arbor saltwater reels back then. I received the CA2 just prior to my return trip to the Maldives. Packed with 120yds (110m) of 20lbs Scientific Angler Standard Backing, I was ready to do battle with the denizens of the flats. This time, I found that even when I was taken way up into my backing, I had a much easier time retrieving line. With lesser turns of the reel, I was gaining more line than I had with the Lamson 3's standard arbor. Combining rod work with relentless constant pressure from the superb drag of the reel, numerous bluefins and GTs were to succumb to me.

As good as the Ross Canyon was, it was heavy. It weighed in at 5.5oz(155g). This made it a little heavy to balance my 6 wt Winston XTR but used with my 8wt Sage RPLXi, it balanced out. This meant that I had to remove some of my backing to accommodate the thicker 8wt Bonefish taper.

On the flats, sand tended to get into the grooves on the inside of the reel and the Canyon need to be stripped to wash the sand out. This was time consuming and thus became frustrating espescially when the fish were on the bite.

Despite all these, the Ross still remains a good reel to use on the flats.

The Ultimate Saltwater Reel

In February 2005, 2 months after the Dec 26 Asian Tsunami, we planned another trip to revisit the Maldives. This was to be the trip that got me interested in another reel which I was to fall in love with and that has become my main weapon of choice on the flats.

Gerard and I paired up for most of the trip. He was using his Able Super 6 reel, anodized a brilliant red, yellow and orange; or 'Fire' as we call it.

Matching the the reel with his Winston XTR 5 7wt rod, he went on to subdue many a marauding GT and in the process, landed a whopping 29.5 pounder off the shallow flats. Not only was it's stopping power awesome, the simple design meant that the reel could be dropped on the sand and with dunk in the water, be ready for action again.

With only a single nut holding the drag knob, the whole reel comes apart to reveal 5 main seperate parts. The only real concerns are the nut, the pawl and two springs. As such, it makes maintenance in the field mere child's play, not that it requires much though. Sand got in the reel? Dunk the reel in the water and give the fly line a firm tug and the spinning reel will expel the invading grains in a flash. At the end of the fishing day, a short soak in some fresh water and up it goes onto the rack. No extra maintenance until you get home.

Despite a great blow to my pocket, I bought myself a Super 7 and used it to great satisfaction during my 2006 trip.

The Super 7's drag is a simple cork drag but boy does it pack stopping power. The way to use the reel is, upon setting the hook, let the fish take up the line to the reel. Once the reel kicks in, slowly turn the drag knob click by click until the fish slows down. if the fish slows almost to the point of standstill, you can start to pump the fish in with your rod. However, as you retrieve line, remember to loosen the drag when the fish nears you. You can count it to try and bolt the moment it sees you. It will take a while for you to understand your Abel reel but once you know its latent powers, you will start to really appreciate it as not only a thing of beauty but quality engineering.

Spoilt for Choice

Now, in the market, there are so many large arbor reels available for you to choose. It all boils down to what is the best you can afford. Most importantly, make sure that the reel you choose balances with your rod, for to fish all day, comfort is paramount.


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