Perhaps I’m just having a late-life crisis. I went through the mid-life crisis years ago, but I’m starting to look at old vintage tackle on ebay. What’s worse, I’m bidding on it as well!

I have two cane rods already, a Sealey Octopus 11ft float rod that I bought cheap to do-up as a project and the other was given to me by a neighbour as it had been sitting in his shed and doing nothing for 30 years or more. The latter is a Peter Stone Legerstrike and because I met and got to know Peter a little, it brings back lovely memories of him. The Sealey I finished, but somehow the ferrule between middle and tip sections isn’t straight and there’s a kick to the right, probably only half a degree, but it still works.

FM members from long ago might recall an article I penned about the old ABU closed-faced reels – https://www.fishingmagic.com/the-abu-closed-face-reel-a-love-affair/

More recently, I was talking to a mate on the phone and he was looking for a 501. I’d noticed a 506 going for a lovely price in an auction but I waited until close to the end expecting the price to shoot up as it often does, but it didn’t, and within the last minute I made a bid of £23.00. I won, but the price had only gone up to £19 – BARGAIN! Ok, so there was £4.00 post to pay but I didn’t mind. When I received the reel I found it in very near perfect condition ie: no severe marks or scratches, and the mechanism worked perfectly.

This fired me up and soon I was on the look-out for a 505, a reel I had owned for nearly 30 years and had so stupidly sold. One came onto ebay with a ‘Buy it now’ of £30.00 and, looking at the photos, it too looked to be in near-perfect condition. And what do all the antique experts say on TV? “condition is everything!” ‘CLICK’ and I’d purchased it hoping that the rider “but is it in fully operational and functions as intended.” was true: sadly it wasn’t.

The outside casing, handle, star drag and spool cover were immaculate as shown in the photographs. You can see on the red spool cover just one very tiny chip – almost like a pin prick – and when the cover is put on correctly it’s at the bottom and out of sight. However, the rotor, or ‘bell-housing’ as some call it, was jammed on, cross-threaded, and wouldn’t come off. I didn’t want to send it back because ABU reels of this age and  condition are as rare as hen’s teeth. I wrote to the chap expressing my disappointment and said that I would try to fix it but that it would be at my risk.

Fortunately, I did free the rotor and when it came off there must have been around 3-4 metres of  line of about 1½lbs bs wrapped around the spindle and threads, probably why it had gone on cross-threaded in the first place. The seller said that it was his grandfather’s and he didn’t know anything about reels or fishing for that matter (shame on him!) He must have thought the rotor came off with a right-handed thread, whereas loyal ABU users know it’s a lefty!

Once that was off it was easy to see the other faults in the spool-housing and the main gear area. Lots of what I think was dried ground-bait was in there but it was easy to remove. I de-greased it all and applied some nice fresh clear stuff with Teflon, plus oil where required. I even took the handle and drag system apart and noticed that the holding screw at the end is also a lefty: watch that if ever you get one.

I got it all back together again with every piece accounted for, unlike a mate who bought a cheap Mitchell back in the 60s and took it apart on the way home. When he put it back together again there were three pieces left over – but it worked!  How?

This ABU 505 does work now and quite satisfactorily, but I’m not sure that the QA people at the old Swedish factory would have passed it; there’s still a grinding sound at times when you fast wind it. The only thing to do was to try it out…

So last Wednesday I went to one of the club’s ponds that holds different species including  carp that go to around 10 lbs. I rigged up a Preston 11ft float rod (because of overhanging trees) and put the 505 into the reel seat. Oh boy did the years slip away!

Once I’d cast out it was like 1969 again. It was like having a girlfriend or just some bird you fancied back then and you’d just met up again. She hadn’t changed one bit and in your own mind, neither had you. A young lady called Jackie O came to mind. She was as fit as a butcher’s pup and worked in our fashions department at the CWS. She wanted to become a model and had every attribute she could wish for – and in all the right places . But I digress.

I caught a few small carp to 2½lbs but that was enough to test the reel and it worked like a dream. It was carefully placed in a velvet bag for transportation and I was very careful not to put anything heavy on top of it. Even in use when I had to put the rod down, I placed it so that the reel was over my tackle bag and nowhere near the ground where it might get scratched. Member and former joint editor on here, Geoff Maynard, once described me as ‘anal’ (whatever is meant by that term) towards my tackle [re-phrase – Ed] I’ll take that as a compliment: I like to look after my gear.

Some day soon during the river season I will give the 506 a go. This too has been fully taken apart, cleaned, re-greased and now it ticks like a Rolex watch – not so surprising given ABU’s origins as watch and clock manufacturers. The simplicity of the engineering inside their reels is amazing, but the new Chinese made ones are not a patch on the quality of the older Swedish models.

Both reels will remain with me for as many days as I have left on this Earth and the next time they leave this house permanently will be long after I’ve been placed in a long wicker basket. Perhaps now it’s refreshed my memories of Jackie O I’ll have some very pleasant dreams at night, but in the meantime, how much should I bid on a Richard Walker MkIV Avon rod?


Jeff Woodhouse