Published Dec 16. 2015 - 6 years ago
Updated or edited Jun 26. 2021

My Secret Fly Reel Fetish

If I had enough money (and space) I would indulge in an extravagant fly reel fetish

It's a reel, reel world! - I've tried quite a few reels in my time, but only few stood the test.
My current reel collection
Martin Joergensen

In our living room my wife and I have a small glass cabinet full of beautiful glass. Bowls, vases, bottles and dishes. Some bought, some found and some even home made.

If I had my way with money and space I would have a similar cabinet full of fly reels in my office.

I have a strong attraction to fly reels. They are the gems of our pastime. Some might feel that delicately tied flies have that role, but to me flies are dressed hooks, and even though I can see the beauty in a full dressed salmon fly or a nice set of framed flies, I find that fly reels are the ultimate fly-fishing jewelry.
Like armbands and necklaces they can be had in plain and inexpensive versions as well as extremely expensive and overly delicate and decorated versions.
Reels come in classic and modern designs, all kinds of materials and these days they come in all the colors of the rainbow - literally.
I have quite a few reels... like in 10 or 12 … make that 18 on closer inspection. That's way more than I need. I only fish one at a time, and even though I basically only fish one kind of fishing: my local saltwater fishing, I also have reels for light stream fishing, salmon fishing and pike fishing. And more than one for each kind of course. I fish these kinds of fishing now and then, and like to be able to equip myself with different reels with different lines - and I don't particularly like to borrow.

...handling a well made reel makes me happy

My reels have been bought and acquired in different ways over many years. Some have been objects of desire bought at a premium while others have been bargain bin offers or samples handed to me by dealers or manufacturers.
But if I had my way, I'd have many, many more. Not for only for fishing, but just to have.
I like reels, and handling a well made reel makes me happy. And many fly reels are really, really well made. There's a load of garbage on the market too, but it seems that many reel makers take pride in making their reels well. Function and design often meet at a higher level.

Danielsson/Loop Classic
Loop Opti
Loop Classic and not so classic
Danielsson - Loop

I like it when reel makers think out of the box, and make something radical. I don't necessarily like the end product, but I like the fact that they break the mold and start from scratch.
Like Swedish Loop, whose original designer Kurt Danielsson made some really different designs. I never liked them much as fishing tools, but man they are beautiful! The Danielsson Midge and Dry Fly reels are design icons, and beautiful to look at. They would definitely be in my reel cabinet. I just don't like the mechanical construction with the open bearings and strange drag system. But they are beautiful! Danielsson still makes reels, and some pretty nice ones, which I would definitely fish.
Loop's current reels on the other hand would not find their way to my collection. I don't like the extreme high arbor Opti design with the L-frame, and for the the classic S-handle look I'd buy a classic S-handle reel like a Bellinger - not the Loop Classic.

Ari't Hart
Ari't Hart
Vintage Fly Tackle

Other manufacturers make different constructions like Dutch Ari't Hart's fantastic reels or the odd and fascinating contraptions from Marco Fly Reels, who designs reels, which totally break with traditional shapes. None of these are made any more, but available used or as collector's items.
There's also the open construction from Norwegian companies Backwinder and Arctic Silver, which is not unlike reels seen from Loop or even Danish manufacturer Scierra a while back. On the subject of open reels I also have to mention Argentinean Pablo Dormisch, whose reel designs are out of this world. Just look at the wood reel, which seems to be a computer generated idea, but still is way different from anything else on the market. Pablo Dormisch used to make the Dormish-Absi reel together with Martin Absi, another radical reel design.
I would probably not add any of these reels to my virtual collection for anything else than looks, because when it comes to fishing reels I like the more traditional and proven mechanical constructions.
It's not like I don't like different or modern. I do.

Open designs
Dormisch - Scierra

I have a couple of Lamson reels in my collection. Love'em! My Waterworks ULA was a ground breaking design and is one of my favorite reels. I also have both a Hardy with no central axis and my trusty LAW reel, which also breaks with traditional designs in being anti-reverse, the same as my Swedish Bringsén salmon reel. All these are working reels, which are combat tested and have proven their worth in the field. And have proven that they can take my abuse, which it isn't all reels that can.

Einarsson from Iceland
Ross Reels

I'd love to add some Abel reels to my collection. I gotta say that I love their painted designs, in particular the fish skin ones done by artists like James Prosek and Derek DeYoung.
Bogdan, Bellinger, Charlton, more Lamsons and more LAWs would be welcome in my collection too, and I would be happy to squeeze in a Tibor or two as well. I have also been fascinated by the US Nautilus reels, and the Icelandic Einarsson reels look very neat also. South African Shilton has gotten some nice words from people who have tried them and look like very nice no-nonsense reels. And German Ralph Voessler's reels are also mouth watering. Or the Cheeky reels, which are... cheeky. There's also the Sabolos reel from Wright & McGill/Eagle Claw, which looks pretty sweet. And Ross Reels… and even Pflueger...
Or how about Hatch fly reels with their beautiful ornaments? But at 1,000 up to above 2,500 US$... ? Maybe that would give even virtually wealthy me some second thoughts.
Once we're moving into that range, the collection could also contain a Megoff titanium reel or two... they are after all pretty inexpensive compared to many other reels, like in the sub 1,000 dollar range...
...nah, I'll wait until I become a millionaire.

Nautilus reels
Cheeky reels
Cheeky reels
Wright & McGill
Wright & McGill reels
Wright & McGill
Pflueger Trion
Even Pflueger reels...

You see?
I could go on and on.

But unlike some collectors of wine who don't drink what's in the bottles or collectors of comics, who leave the magazines wrapped in plastic and never read them, I would be less extreme, and take my reels out fishing. That's after all what they are made for, and I would primarily – if not exclusively – put usable reels in my cabinet, wind lines on them and mount them on rods and go fishing.

But for now, I'll have to use what I have. It's been a while since I bought a reel, and my collection probably isn't going to grow significantly any time soon.
But I can always dream, can't I?

Ornamented Hatch reel

More reels

There are some excellent sources for reel information out there - and a few places where you can buy any reel you can imagine... almost.
French Fly Reel Mania is an almost complete listing of any fly reel ever made.

Classic Fly Fishing Tackle has both old an newer reels.
UK Vintage Fishing Tackle has quite a few fly reels - and not all are vintage.


RE: Your reel fetish...

Martin, you own perhaps one of the most coveted and difficult reels to obtain, a Waldron reel. Waldron's vises are easy to obtain by comparison. I venture to guess a lot of people don't know that he made a few reels also. Sadly I had a chance to buy one years ago and talked to Waldron on the phone. I was short on cash at the time and had to pass. I've been kicking myself ever since.

Tom Biesot's picture

My secret flyreel fetish...

When I was a millionaire Martin,I filled a whole "room" with cabinets full of Fly reels.
Love them and like to have them in my hands to turn them around and study them. I am also very lucky to have quite a few reels and take good care of them. Some reels I put in my cabinet and I don't use them anymore, because they are so special and I don't want to damage them by anything, some of them are the ones I made myself! Very nice artical!!!

Best regards,
Tom Biesot.

Tom Biesot

Martin Joergensen's picture

My LAW reel...


I'm aware of the rarity of my LAW reel. A very good friend has one and I do too, but we are probably the two only Danes owning such a reel. I have only seen a few others in my time. Dutch Hans Weilenmann had a few - one small stream size model and one none-anti reverse, which were both real gems. I even think I remember him showing me a large arbor reel of Lawrence's making too, but it might be my imagination. Apart from that I remember seeing my friend Richard Ross having one... and that's about it. They are few and far apart.

I treasure mine - and still fish it every time I have a chance.



It,s about 20years ago I bought a System 3 flyreel. Bad balance and brakes they told me in the shop and nearly gave the reel to me. Today still in mint condition and all package included. Outside the cabinet, in real life, I use Danielsson reel.

pjeversman's picture


Martin, I have to agree about the Lamson reels. I have a Guru model and it is very lovely and well made. I recently got an Orvis Hydros IV to use for saltwater. It is another great reel that I think Orvis is phasing out in favor of their Mirage line. The Mirage is a great looking reel and the price is good when compared to other heavy duty salt reels.


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