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Patagonia Gear Review: Help Save Your Sport


GREAT GEAR FOR A GREAT CAUSE


Patagonia has racked up over $46 million in environmental donations to date. It's the best gear on the market, and it's helping to save the sport of fly fishing... Read More
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GREAT GEAR FOR A GREAT CAUSE


Patagonia has racked up over $46 million in environmental donations to date. It's the best gear on the market, and it's helping to save the sport of fly fishing... Read More
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Patagonia Fly Fishing
Gear for the Planet

Over $46,000,000 donated to date to save your environment

1% of gross yearly sales donated to save your environment

Iron Clad Guarantee on all your Patagonia products

Best Fly Fishing Gear you can buy...period!


We like to support companies who are saving our fragile environment. We like to support companies that produce their products with as little environmental impact as possible. We like to support companies who use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. In fact, since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. To date, that's over $46,000,000.

Of course you already know that Patagonia of Ventura, California makes some of the best fly fishing gear on the planet. You probably also know that all of Patagonia's fly fishing products are backed by Patagonia's famous Iron Clad Guarantee. It's pretty simple...if you're not satisfied, neither is Patagonia and they'll make it right for you. We just wanted to remind you.

You might not have caught a trout in Patagonia, but you've probably caught a Patagonia® trout. You see, a good deal of Patagonia's donated funds have aided the waterways and environments that support the fish we dearly love. Without fish, there is no fly fishing and without fly fishing, there are fewer magical moments for you to collect and share with others.

Think of it this way, with your thoughtful Patagonia fly fishing purchase, you're actually making a donation to save the environment, fish and experience you love for future generations. Oh, and you're also getting the best fly fishing gear available with your donation. Pretty much a win-win, we believe.

Furthermore, at Leland, we've taken the time to test Patagonia's best work and assemble a focused collection of fly fishing solutions that we personally use when fly fishing and would happily recommend to our neighbors. We feel we owe you the same neighborly service. So take a look at our best picks from a great company that's putting your money to work...Patagonia.

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Abel Super 5N Fly Reel Review
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Specifications
• Weight: 5.7 ounces
• Spool diameter: 3.500 inches
• Spool width: .750 inches
• Capacity: Standard WF 5 line plus 125 yards of 20 lb. Dacron backing or WF 6 plus 100 yards of backing
• Material: Spool, frame and foot machined from 6061-T6 cold finished
aluminum bar stock
• Drag system: Draw bar actuated cork disk
• Finish: Corrosion-resistant anodized
• Colors: High gloss black coral or non-reflective matte black, other custom colors available at an additional charge



A little history…

 
So, what’s this?? A beefy, brawny saltwater tough guy posing as a trout reel? Isn’t that a bit …well, overkill?
After all, in fly fishing, unlike conventional spinning or bait casting, we don’t actually use the reel to make the cast. In the old genteel days of trout fishing, the reel simply stored line until we’re lucky enough to hook something that took out more line than we had in our hand. I grew up using a stamped, Japanese import, then a stamped Pflueger Medalist, and finally graduated to a variety of die cast Hardy reels, the gold standard of trout reels in the early 1980’s. I treasured all of them in their time. Maybe it was the insistent buzz made by the clicker as a trout peeled off line, or maybe I felt the reel was my fishing companion, sharing in each new adventure.

Fast forward to 2007. Our “genteel” art has become, on many fronts, a slugfest. No longer are we satisfied plying our trade in bucolic settings fishing for small trout. Today, many of us travel the world seeking larger trout in New Zealand, Patagonia, and Chile. We fish the salt water flats for species such as bonefish and permit that swim much faster and pull much harder than their similarly sized freshwater cousins. Consequently, we’re harder on our tackle and have come to expect greater performance from our fly reels.

You’d think it wouldn’t take rocket science to come up with a little metal wheel with a brake that was dependable. But I’ve seen just about every brand of reel fail at one time or another. Whether it’s grit or grime, extreme heat or cold, component wear, or impact from a hard fall, if there’s a weakness, we usually find out about it exactly at the wrong time.

Enter Steve Abel. Although not a rocket scientist, he is an experienced aerospace machinist, who started selling his fly fishing reels in 1987. His motto then, and the company’s motto today is “to design and build the best, most dependable gear in the world and give world class customer service.” In the ensuing twenty years, Abel Quality Products has succeeded in carving out a niche in the increasingly competitive arena of high quality fly fishing reels and built a devoted following of end users. The latest offering from Abel is the Super 5 Narrow Large Arbor, a trout sized reel that boasts a robustness usually found only in its larger, saltwater brethren.

Features

The Abel Super 5N Fly Fishing Reel is the newest addition to the Abel Super Series, which have a large arbor design for faster line retrieve, reduced line coiling, and better drag continuity. The 5N spool, frame, and foot are cut from a solid block of 6061-T6 cold finished high molecular density aluminum. The spool and frame are aggressively ported (ventilated) to reduce weight, while maintaining great strength and rigidity. The draw bar, main shaft, pawls, and screws are machined 303 stainless steel. The drag is comprised of a large surface area, cork composite covered drag plate tightened against the inside of the aluminum spool by the draw bar. All aluminum surfaces are protected against corrosion by Abel’s proprietary hard anodizing process. The 5N is convertible to left or right hand retrieve. At 5.7 ounces, it’s relatively light considering its bombproof strength. The drag system is silky smooth, with low start up inertia, and based on a simple design that has proven itself over two decades. The spool capacity is suitable for 5 or 6 weight lines, making it ideal for large trout and small steelhead. Substituting smaller diameter gel spun backing in place of Dacron, one could pump up the backing capacity to over 150 yards for medium steelies, smaller bonefish, specks and reds. Overall, a nearly flawless, extremely rugged and reliable fly fishing reel for taking fresh and smaller saltwater species on light tackle.

• Large arbor, narrow spool design for quick line pick up

• Machined from 6061-T6 cold finished aluminum bar stock

• Impact resistant spool rim and frame

• Smooth, reliable cork-draw bar drag system

• Durable, hard anodized finish

• Custom colors, handles, and engraving available at additional charge

Materials, Fit, and Finish

Fly fishing reels machined from a solid bar of metal have the greatest rigidity and strength per weight, but in the long run, are more costly to produce than stamped, or die cast reels. Over thirty years ago, American companies such as Seamaster and Fin Nor pioneered the construction of machined fly reels, primarily for a small following of hard core salmon and saltwater fly enthusiasts. The increased popularity of fly fishing, coupled with political and economic expansion of the Far East in recent years, has led to an influx of many reasonable quality, less expensive machined imports primarily targeting entry and mid level customers. Many U.S. makers of good reels have folded under this pressure, and the majority that have remained, like Abel and Tibor, have done so by directing there efforts at top of the line products.

Although you may find some custom $2000-$10,000 titanium reel models on the Internet, aluminum is the choice for mere mortals. Abel uses 6061-T6 cold finished bar stock in all of their reels, which is the strongest, densest, most corrosion resistant aluminum for this purpose. The spool, frame and foot of the 5N Super are cut from this, and the mainshaft and drawbar from 303 stainless steel, on Computer Numerical Control lathes and mills. In fact, every machinable part in the reel is made in the Abel factory to insure utmost quality control, right down to the stainless steel screws. The only non-metal parts are the cork drag washer, a neoprene o-ring, and the laminated, sealed wood handle.

The overall weight of the reel is significantly reduced, while retaining structural integrity, by precise, aggressive porting throughout the spool and frame. All parts are hand de-burred, hand polished, cleaned and inspected and aluminum parts are protected from wear and corrosion (and colored) by Abel’s unique hard anodizing process, which penetrates and bonds to the metal. Two sealed waterproof ball bearings on the spool and one on the drag plate provide near frictionless rotation.

Abel currently employs 28 production workers and 7 support staff in their Camarillo, California facility. They offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects for all their reels. Although you’re not likely to need that warranty, it’s nice to know that Abel, due to their success, will probably be around to back it up if you do.

What a drag

In a nutshell, there are two basic types of fly reel drags; the classic spring and pawl, popularized by Hardy Brothers of England well over a century ago, or one of many variations of the more modern disk drag. Most anglers, and manufacturers today overlook the click pawl, unfairly in my opinion, in favor of disks for all fly fishing. Actually, the click pawl, if well constructed, is very reliable for smaller trout and is the lightest, simplest, and least expensive to build. And as it works, it creates that sweet sound that many of us find synonymous with fly fishing.

As we seek fish that pull harder and faster and fight longer, our fly reels are progressively subjected to greater amounts of what most often kills them; heat. A disc drag slows the spool by friction, applying pressure between two or more discs, usually one on the spool and one on the frame, or within a hub mounted on the frame. A great number of variations of this seemingly simple concept are available today, each one claiming superior performance.

However, the big game fly reels that have been the most successful in landing fish over 100 pounds, and, therefore, operate smoothly and survive the greatest amounts of stress, have draw bar drags. This simple system has two center mounted disk shaped brake surfaces that meet when the spool is attached, and drag is increased as the draw bar tightens the frame against the spool through the central shaft.

Although most newer disk drag systems use synthetics such as Rulon, Delrin or carbon fiber, as the brake material, natural cork (ground and mixed with a polymer), is still considered by many to offer the best balance of durability, low start up inertia, stopping power, and adjustability. This cork composite, unlike the synthetics, is compressible, providing for its smoothness. The Abel 5N Super has the largest drag of this type of any 5 or 6 weight reel I’ve seen, and the “open” design dissipates heat rapidly into the rear of the spool and throughout the reel frame. “Closed” or completely sealed drag systems offer the advantage of low maintenance, but generally can not cool as effectively.

Cork must be lubricated occasionally to replenish its natural moisture, usually with pure neatsfoot oil. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions, as petroleum products or solvents may harm the cork, and back off the drag tension when not in use. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the draw bar drag is that it does not allow for quick change spools, as some disassembly is required. Choose another design if this is a priority for you.

According to the International Game Fish Association, Abel reels where used in setting the greatest number of new world records for 2006. Though you may not land a world record, you will at some point encounter that fish of a lifetime. The Abel 5N Super Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel, with its impeccably machined strength and superb drag, is as likely as any to get the job done. 

Pros

Rugged, beautifully machined and finished trout-size reel with a very smooth and reliable drag system usually found only in larger, saltwater fly reels.

Cons

At $550, the Abel 5N Super is much more expensive than some other very serviceable trout reels and is an ounce or more heavier than others with lighter drag designs and frames. The draw bar does not allow for the convenience of quick-change spools. Open design requires occasional cleaning and lubrication.

Bottom Line

The Abel 5N Super, compared to other reels of its size, is most likely to withstand extreme conditions, and the one you’ll probably hand down to your grandchildren.

Reviewer. . .

Having been in the fly fishing industry for over 25 years as a professional guide, fly fishing school director, writer, and manufacturers sales representative, I’ve been fortunate to fish with a wide array of equipment from almost all of the top makers.

Check out the Abel Super 5N Fly Reel

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