May 13, 2015

Trout Spey Reels

Trout Spey Reels

Does one need a special reel for a trout spey rod? Absolutely! We must always be in pursuit of the perfect match of rod, REEL and line!

So what makes a perfect reel for a two hand trout spey rod outfit? While line capacity, drag performance and weight account for most of the answer ultimately we still get to make our own decision based on pure personal preference. It's hard not to like all fly reels. Machined aluminum, anodized colors and precision movement, what's not to like! If you're tired of standard issue offerings you can always spring for one of the many custom options including colors and engravings offered by many fly reel manufactures including Abel, Nautilus, Tibor and Bauer.

Just like in my previous line article (Trout Spey Lines - No Perfect Answer!), I'm not going to go into every little detail about fly reels but instead review the reels I have used, what I like and don't like about them.

Bauer CFX4 Spey

While CFX #5 and #6 spey reels are not new the Bauer CFX #4 size is new. Brand New! I bought the first two to ever ship from the Bauer factory. Summer 2014 over lunch with Jon Bauer on my travels through southern Oregon an idea came to me that I instantly shared with Jon. I told Jon that current spey and switch specific reels are too large for my trout spey rod needs and most of today's single hand fly reels are too light to properly balance my two hand rods. Not to mention they just don't have a soulful look. Now I'm not a retro reel enthusiast but I do love the look of a solid back reel and the extra metal adds the weight needed to balance a two hand rod. Jon Bauer understood my needs and agreed to do a run of CFX #4 with solid backs like the #5 and #6 CFX spey reels. He has some inventory of them and because the spool is the same as the standard CFX all color options are available including the inner drum and drag knob colors. At this time of writing we are currently the only Bauer dealer with this CFX #4 spey option on our website.

Solid!
Bauer reels are smooth operators with undetectable start up inertia.
It's one of the few reels that still uses hardwood handles, something that I like and find lacking on most modern reels. On the CFX model you will find the drag knob located on the crank side of the reel. This is an age old argument as popular as which hand should you retrieve with. I like the drag on the crank side, why would I want to reach around the reel to adjust drag and have to think about which way to turn the knob to adjust. Having the drag knob on the crank side makes it easy to adjust when needed and the design of the knob lets you reach in with two fingers to make an adjustment so as to avoid getting your knuckles whacked by the crank.

Specs - Bauer CFX #4
  • Diameter 3.75"
  • Weight 6.6 oz (scaled 6.6 oz) 
  • Capacity 330gr Airflo Switch Streamer + 100yds/20# backing
  • RIO Scandi Short VersiTip 320gr #5 + Rio Powerflex 0.024 running line + 100yds/20# (lots of room to spare)

The CFX #4 should handle any 3 and 4 weight spey/switch rods and lines and maybe have enough capacity for some 5 weight rods depending on your line choices.

Note about spey reel specs
There are so many variables in two hand reel specs that you really should take in consideration when choosing a reel size. How much backing do you want/need? What length and diameter of running line do you intend to use? What line or head system will you choose; (I.E. Skagit, Scandi, integrated or other)? I start out with 100yds of 20# backing. I consider that to be more than enough for the trout angler. Running/shooting lines are a pretty big variable. Are you going to use mono or a standard level line? How long do you need? 100' running lines are pretty much overkill and you could easily gain some reel capacity by trimming off the backing end to 70' or 80' and still have more than enough. Skagit heads need more space than Scandi heads...So you can see the many variables with reels. I generally find reels in the 6/7/8 weight category to be sufficient for 3/4/5 weight trout speys.

Tibor Light Back Country CL Wide

Not a "new to the scene" reel the Tibor Light Series of reels have been around for quite awhile. Modern in design but yet I feel they possess a look missing in so many of today's new reels.
I originally purchased my Back Country reel for my Sage Bass Series Smallmouth Rod but I had to try it out on my Winston 4110 Microspey. It is a perfect marriage! Balance, capacity and the soulful look is hard to beat. I'd like to get another in a different color and return the bass red to the rightful place on the Sage Bass II rod but until I need it for that purpose it's found a home on my Winston.
The drag is silky smooth and has done an excellent job of protecting lite tippet. I like the adjuster on it too. Do note that I retrieve right hand and that puts the adjuster on the forward end of the reel. This would be reversed to the rearward end for left hand retrievers. I've had various different 3 and 4 weight spey lines on it with no capacity issues. I have also run a mono shooting line on it and never once did it slip out of the frame.

Specs - Tibor Back Country CL
  • Diameter 3 5/8"
  • Weight 5.5 oz (scaled 6.5 oz) 
  • Capacity Rio #5-320gr Scandi Short VersiTip + Rio Powerflex 0.024 running line + 100yds/20#.

Sage Domain

Sage Domain - Full Caged Frame
I paired a Sage Domain reel to my Sage ONE 4116 with the idea that it would be lined with a mono running line and a scandi head. The full cage frame would keep the mono tamed and the weight would be a good balance. I did a risky gamble going with the 5/6 size but it worked out perfect! The stealth black look goes great with the Sage One. The drag has functioned flawlessly just like I have come to expect from all my Sage reels. If I had any complaints it would be that the spool is hard to remove but that's not really an issue considering I don't intend on having extra spools for it. The Domain is a nice mix of modern features such as large arbor and precision drag while including important two hand functionality such as full caged frame and enough weight for rod balancing. Capacity seems generous to the point that I was able to make the Size  #5 work for me with a mono running line and a scandi head but you would want to get the #8 if level running line and/or skagit head is in your plans.

Specs - Domain #5
  • Diameter 3.60"
  • Weight 6.2 oz (scaled 6.0 oz) 
  • Capacity Rio #5-320gr Scandi Short VersiTip + S/A 0.021" Mono Shooting line + 100yds/20# backing

Lamson Litespeed #3

If you're seeking lightweight it's hard to beat a Lamson Litespeed. While lighter than I prefer I have used a #3 Litespeed to do a lot of different line testings and it just works and looks great. Reliable effective smooth drag and large arbor for fast retrieves has given the Litespeed an incredible reputation as a highly effective fishing tool. I really have no complaints about any of the Lamson reels I own. Lamson actually has many great choices for the two hand enthusiast including the Speedster HD, ARX and Guru HD which are all full frame caged reels.


Specs - Litespeed #3
  • Diameter 3.75"
  • Weight 4.63 oz (scale 4.5 oz) 
  • Capacity - Rio #5 Scandi Short VersiTip + Rio ConnectCore 0.026 running line + 100 yds/20# backing
Lamson Speedster HD

Lamson Speedster HD #3

Modern, great looking, reliable and high performance are the words I will use to describe the Speedster HD Series of reels. Sure I love the soulful look of solid backs and hardwood handles of the more traditional style reels but you've got to respect the modern advancement of technology that comes with the Lamson Speedster. It's like comparing a 60's muscle car with a modern day Corvette. Both deserve our respect and what you choose is your choice and no choice is wrong! You certainly can't go wrong with the Speedster. I only wish they made it in black, (Hello Lamson: Hint! Hint!). While on the lite side of two hand reels I found my Speedster HD #3 to be in the ballpark of balance with the Winston 4110 Microspey.

Specs - Speedster #3 HD
  • Diameter 4.0" 
  • Weight 5.3 oz (scale 5.4) 
  • Capacity - Rio 325gr Skagit Max Short + S/A Textured Shooting line 0.032" + 100yds/20# backing...NOTE: This combo really packed the speedster but most of the line overkill comes from the S/A 120' of shooting line. You could chop that back to 90' and still have more than enough running line and get back lost capacity

Full Cage vs. No Cage

Caged (Lamson Speedster HD) vs. No Cage (Lamson Speedster)
Why use a full cage reel? The best reason to utilize a full cage is to help tame mono running lines. Mono running lines can be a love / hate relationship, you either learn to love what they can do for you or you end up hating how they can treat you. The advantages you get with mono such as longer casts have to be weighed out with the disadvantages such as tangling and coiling. One way to help tame mono is incorporating the use of a full caged reel. The cage part of the frame acts like a line guide and therefore removes some of the freedom a mono line has to coil around things or sneak out between frame and spool. In some cases a full cage reel can have an added benefit being that they usually weigh more than cage free designs thereby helping balance your two hand rod. So even if you never intend to use a mono running line you still might find a caged reel to be a weight benefit. An "easy to see the difference" example of this is the Lamson Speedster which is made in both caged and cage free models. The Lamson Speedster #3 (cage free) weighs in at 4.7 oz while the Lamson Speedster HD (caged) weights in at 5.3 oz. Although 0.6 oz is not a huge difference it is a noticeable difference in where your rod will balance.

To further this conversation about rod balance I'd like to point out a couple details of interest. First is,  I find reels that are too heavy to be more annoying than reels that are too light. When a reel is too heavy you are constantly forcing the tip of the rod down. Personally I find it easier to fish a rod that I have to pull the tip up. Second item is you can always add weight to a reel but you can't remove weight. Weight can be added to a reel simply by adding some tungsten sink tip or lead core line to the arbor of your spool. 200 grains of sink tip material is almost 0.50 oz. Keep in mind to feel the actual balance of a rod you will need to have a loaded reel attached with the line strung through the guides and the head part of the line outside the tip top just as if you are fishing to get an accurate idea of how the rod will balance on the stream. Balancing a rod is not an exact science. Too many variables exist that change the balance points such as where do you grip the handle or how much running line is out the tip as well as what type of line are you fishing with. You really are just trying to get in the ballpark with reel weight and as long as you're in it you will have a comfortable effective fishing tool. When an outfit balances well you won't even notice it but offset the balance and it will become quite clear on the stream. I have tried a couple popular 8 weight large arbor salt type reels on my trout spey rods and while the capacity is great the balance was way off particularly to the annoying side of heavy whereas reels that are on the "too light" side of balance seem to lean on the side of acceptable.

My guess is if you are getting into trout spey you are probably already a seasoned angler. You probably already have some reels in your collection that might work great or they might help you to determine what weight or capacity you need for your rod. Send me your pictures and tell me what you like. I really enjoy hearing about your experiences. Thanks for reading.

Lines I use on these reels - Trout Spey Lines - No Perfect Answer!

My two hand trout adventures - Trout Spey Chronicles


BassProGreg



Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist


"Fly Fish the World with Us"


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