Part 1 – Basic Models

I don’t know about you but I value my solitude and privacy as an angler extremely highly because fishing has been my main escape from day-to-day life for many years and I don’t enjoy sharing it with anyone! That may sound unsociable, but at least I’m honest. OK, I do also enjoy fishing with friends, but only occasionally. I’m also lucky enough to have inherited some private beats on some very nice rivers and needless to say I keep them to myself.

So perhaps you can understand that I was somewhat reluctant at first when I was recently asked, pressurised even, if I would consider putting together a review or two with my thoughts, experiences and recommendations of affordable fly reels for this website. At the outset, I have to say that I am mainly a traditional game, coarse and salt-water fly-fishing angler although I also have more years of lure fishing under my belt than I care to admit – I also enjoy trotting for coarse fish and especially grayling.

As you can probably tell already, I’m an angler who likes to keep in direct contact with his quarry; that’s why I prefer a multiplier reel for my lure fishing and of course I use a centre-pin reel for trotting, after all, a centre-pin is just an over-sized fly reel really or vice versa.

So, being a traditionalist, I haven’t previously written articles or reviews for ‘The ‘Net’, just for local, European and international monthlies and the like. That said, when I do, I mainly write about tackle and methods and never about my venues or catches: selfish aren’t I?! Because of this, except for my commissioned and free-lance articles, I rarely take photographs and perhaps also that’s why I’m regarded as a recluse, and that suits me just fine.

I have to admit that although I’ve only had e-mail for a few months, I have already seen the huge potential of it and the Internet. And I have to blame the Internet and my email address for giving a very old fishing friend of mine the chance to put some pressure on me to do a review or two for this website – our respective grandfathers fished (and poached, and drank, heavily, I believe) together, so that set the precedent I guess and I could hardly say ‘No.’ In fact we’ve not actually fished together for a couple of seasons. Anyway, let’s hope the results of his coercing, my reviews, add to your browsing and surfing enjoyment, and of course your fishing!

Background to Reviews
Are you impressed by reviews of hugely expensive items of tackle that you can never hope to be able to buy and that you know have been given free of charge by the supplier to the reviewer – I’m not!

‘Just what are these reviews and reviewers trying to achieve?’ I often ask myself. Of course they’re trying to increase awareness and sales of the product. That’s obvious, but are they also trying to flaunt the expensive tackle in your face and to boost the smug writer’s ego? I sometimes do wonder, and I can’t be bothered with all that!

Basics are Best
Anyway, here goes with the first of a couple of reviews of some affordable fly reels that I have been using in recent years, beginning with the Leeda Rimfly and some other basic fly reels.

I won’t have a bad word said about Leeda’s long-time classic Rimfly reel: it’s been around for decades in various guises although basically unchanged if the truth be known. It’s one of those reels that’s so well-built that it really does go on for ever, or almost.

I still have my first Rimfly and indeed every other Rimfly that I’ve ever bought: I must have half a dozen or more by now: I’ve never really counted them all. And I’m not being big-headed because at around £ 8 in the old days and still being only £ 15 or so today, they’re such good value that it pays to buy a whole new reel rather than just replacement spools.

But before I go on to review the Rimfly reels in more depth, I must give a big mention to another supplier of basic but value-for-money fly reels and that’s good old Shakespeare.

Now it has to be said that over the years Shakespeare haven’t always been known for quality, mainly low price. That’s not being unfair, it’s just the way it was, and I emphasise the word was.

As far as fly reels go, Shakespeare have rung the name changes over the years, their quality has improved in quantum leaps and amazingly the price seems to have remained very affordable.

To my mind, Shakespeare have always been front-runners in taking advantage of the price and performance advantages of new materials and new technologies. Some purists turn up their noses at modern carbon fibre and graphite composites but I don’t.

How on earth do they do it for the price? Don’t ask me! Okay, so it’s nothing special; it’s a good, sturdy basic fly reel though, and that’s all you really need isn’t it?

Secondly, if it’s a lightweight aluminium alloy fly reel that you’d prefer, there’s the Zenith Fly and that still costs less than £ 14. Even the Deluxe versions only cost £ 18 to £ 22. You can’t say fairer than that!

Still very affordable is the Shakespeare fly reel that I use although in all honesty I have to admit that it was a Birthday present from a tight-fisted relative! No, that’s unkind!

Anyway, Shakespeare’s Graflite fly reel costs just £ 20 and that includes not one but two spare spools: now that’s my kind of price and I like the performance and quality that comes with it. Leeda
But now it’s back to the Leeda Rimfly series of fly reels: as I said earlier, the Rimfly has been around in various guises for years. When I say many guises, in fact it hasn’t changed all that much fundamentally over the years. It’s always been a good, sturdy value-for-money workhorse of a fly reel. The changes or rather improvements have been both practical and cosmetic.

The Dragonfly and Superfly versions are merely variations on an excellent well-tried theme, the basic Rimfly 175 Model. The only disadvantage with the Rimfly has been the fact that two spare spools cost more than the reel itself. This led Leeda to develop their neat Concept design that uses a cassette-style replacement spool system.

The Rimfly only has a basic click-drag which you can easily switch off completely if you want. For more efficient and variable drag mechanisms, you’ve got to move slightly up-market to the other models that I have just mentioned and, needless to say, they are more expensive but not prohibitively so, in my opinion.

One of the most recent and nicest but long overdue touches that Leeda have applied to their basic Rimfly 175 is the fact that it’s now available in a nice new non-reflective matt green paint job. Just make sure your rod’s the same!

So, there you have it from me: two brands and basic ranges of affordable fly reels that are of good build-quality and offer truly unbeatable value-for-money, and I’ll eat my hat complete with its smattering of artificial flies if you find that I’m not correct.

Now, I can feel a metaphoric full-Nelson arm-lock coming via email from my old friend, so I promise that soon I’ll be following-up this piece with another review of some more of my less basic but still very affordable fly reels including one of my other favourites for a rapid retrieve, a geared fly reel no less: ’til next time, enjoy your fishing. And don’t forget to Catch and Release, please.