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The Victorians and Fly Fishing 4

Friday, 10 April 2015  |  Simon

The 1890s was a cathartic decade for fly fishing. George Kelson set out to determine exactly how improvements might be made to reels. The firm which continued the design of his reel was Farlow and Co., Ltd. Kelson’s reel later marketed as the “Patent Lever Winch”.

The other great reel of the era was Hardy's “Perfect”, introduced in 1891 and included most of the features fishermen had been asking for. It was narrow between the plates, deep in the drum, and had an adjustable check . The Perfect had a “foot” mounting, and a patent “revolving ring line guard”, both of which made possible the shooting of line. Unlike the Patent Lever, Hardy’s reel ran on ball-bearings and could be taken apart for easy cleaning. It was this ease of disassembly that ensured the Perfect’s success.

Before the Perfect, reel side plates were held together with screwed intermediate bars. If a reel that had grit inside it was a sheer hell to take apart. Because of the nature of its design, however, the Perfect lacked was an exposed rim, and if the Perfect had a fault, it was its poor drag mechanism. Above all, the Perfect marked a decisive break from the old-fashioned slow winding and wide barrel reels. Indeed, it was at the forefront of a modern generation of well-designed, fast winding, single-action devices which helped make fly fishing much more pleasurable.

 
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