Fly reels - how to look after them
- by Steve Abel

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.

Steve Abel about fly reels

abel fly reels
Steve Abel with fly reels

Steve Abel has been making some of the World’s most reliable fly reels for a number of years. The quality of Abel Fly Reels is legendary Steve's advice on looking after a fly reel.

How Steve Abel looks after an Abel fly reel.

When you are on a trip don’t worry about your tackle. Usually anglers wash their reels after every day, you do not have to do that with an Abel reel. If you want to that’s fine but after the trip I get home and take my reels out and I will rinse them in fresh water and if I have a bunch of reels and I have been gone for two or three weeks I might put them on the floor of the shower and take a shower.

Then rinse the reels of in fresh water. Water is not going to get the salt and minerals out of a 90 degree corner, like the nooks and crannies like where the foot meets the frame and the handle post meets the spool and the counter weight meets the spool. The drag knob has knurls in it so there is a lot of little sharp edges there and little nooks and crannies so you wrench it off, shake it out and set it on a paper towel or a towel and let it dry even dry it by hand or I just let it sit overnight. The next day I take WD40 and spray the whole reel liberally and then I take an old toothbrush and spend one minute or thirty seconds where the foot meets the frame, the screws the counter weight the handle post I just hit the whole reel and the WD40 will not hurt your fly line, backing or mono. Then I just wipe it of with a paper towel and that reel will look new for a hundred years.

How long will the drag last?

abel reel

Abel reels, knife and pliers

We have never actually had a drag wear out. People say hold the cork I need a spare drag if I catch a big fish and that corks wears out. I spoke to a guide the other day he had clients in Key West, Florida. He called me to say his client had bought two brand new reels brand X. The client hooked a 100lb tarpon and the reel failed. He said “that’s okay I have another reel” and then he hooked another 100lb tarpon later in the day and the second reel failed. Finally the guide gave him his Abel number 3 that he had used for tarpon for fifteen years. Many clients borrowed it and he never washed it unless he hosed off the boat or it rained. Well the client hooked another tarpon and landed it on the Abel number 3. The client said “I have to look at this reel and see what it looks like inside”. He took it apart, the guide had never had it apart! They were so amazed, it looked brand new, it looked like it was polished on the inside too and there was no cork residue and no dust nothing, it just looked brand new. They called me and told me how nice the set up was after using it for fifteen years. Hundreds of people have used my Abel reel to catch all sorts of fish on a daily basis and the drag remains perfect.

The only thing you have to worry about the drag is that cork is a natural material; it is the bark of a tree. It has a certain amount of natural oil and enhancing it by impregnating it with Neats Foot oil really helps a lot. If you put grease or any petroleum distillate on cork it will react with water and slip, just like when there is oil on the highway and it rains, so I recommend Neats Foot oil. We can supply it or you can get it in most hardware stores, it’s the same thing you put on baseball gloves or shoes and leather. If your drag ever squeaks or if your drag doesn’t feel as smooth as when you bought it just wipe of the back of the spool because that’s where the cork meshes up to. Clean the back of the spool and you can use Scotch Bright on the back of the spool because it puts fine little scratches in it and cleans it perfectly. Then you take a toothbrush and alcohol and clean of the cork if the cork gets contaminated with a little grease as centrifugal force throws it out of the ball bearings. Clean the cork especially if the cork looks black, that means it got grease from the bearings, clean it with a toothbrush and alcohol and let it dry. That only takes 5 minutes as alcohol evaporates very fast and then when its dry put 10 drops of Neats Foot oil and smear it around with your finger and let it soak into the cork maybe another 5 minutes and dry it with a paper towel so there is no excess on it. Put it back together and it will be like new but you might never have to do that.

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.