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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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What is a Bonefish
The bonefish has been called the “silver bullet of the flats” and rightfully so. This member of the Elopiformes order and close relative of the tarpon possesses lightning quickness and race car speed. In open water these fish have been clocked at nearly 23 miles per hour. This astounding physical ability has helped the bonefish survive 125 million years of evolution, solidifying its place among the earth’s most ancient species.
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desc::The bonefish has been called the “silver bullet of the flats” and rightfully so. This member of the Elopiformes order and close relative of the tarpon possesses lightning quickness and race car speed. In open water these fish have been clocked at nearly 23 miles per hour. This astounding physical ability has helped the bonefish survive 125 million years of evolution, solidifying its place among the earth’s most ancient species.
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Albula vulpes

Pieter Bleeker, 1859


“Bonefish fight so hard that they almost deserve to get away.”


- Pete Perinchief, former Director of Bermuda’s

Fishing Information Bureau, 1964





The bonefish has been called the “silver bullet of the flats” and
rightfully so. This member of the Elopiformes order and close relative
of the tarpon possesses lightning quickness and race car speed. In open
water these fish have been clocked at nearly 23 miles per hour. This
astounding physical ability has helped the bonefish survive 125 million
years of evolution, solidifying its place among the earth’s most ancient
species. The bonefish is also clever and cunning, its name, Albula vulpes, literally means “white fox.”



The bonefish was first discovered and named by famed Dutch
ichthyologist, Pieter Bleeker, in 1859. Bleeker’s contribution to the
study of fish was more than prolific during his 18 year stint as a
medical officer in the Dutch East Indian Army from 1842 to 1860; his
famous treatise Atlas Ichthyologique provides a laboriously detailed
account of his work in Indonesia and includes notes on the bonefish.



Bleeker’s bonefish are incredibly nimble and skittish creatures. Native to saltwater
flats environments, bonefish can be found in nearly every tropical body
of water on the globe. The recorded range of the bonefish is 45°N -
31°s, 159°w - 35°w. Yet, despite their common occurrence and widely
distributed range, bonefish remain a difficult set of silvery fins to
catch, owing to their selective feeding, nearly perfect camouflage,
360-degree eyesight, and flat out speed in open water. The unique
sporting challenge offered by bonefish has brought a host of eager fly
anglers to the tropics in search of adventure and the chance to catch a
silver bullet.



Bonefish are a curiously primitive looking species. Masters of illusion,
bonefish sport a highly reflective set of scales that function as an
array of tiny mirrors, reflecting quite accurately the fish’s
ever-changing environment. The narrow and muscular bonefish is also
built with a tapered nose, leading to an extremely powerful mouth. The
species uses this mouth to root for its food in the coral and on the
sandy bottom of the saltwater flats it calls home, crushing prey with
its hard palate.



Emerging on the skinny water of the saltwater flats during periods of
tidal flux, bonefish dine on a rich diet of clams, shrimp, and crabs,
and they will rarely pass up the opportunity to snare even smaller
critters such as saltwater worms, snails, and baitfish. Locally,
bonefish will vary their feeding habits, sometimes turning into the tide
to sniff out their prey and at other times following prey into the
tidal direction. Fly anglers should be sure to understand their local
quarry prior to stalking bonefish – a local fly shop or guide service
can be invaluable in the pursuit of these mirrored torpedoes.



Tropical saltwater flats are often only a few inches deep and don’t
offer feeding bonefish much protection or cover. When digging for their
meals, bonefish are often forced to expose a good portion of their tail
above the water. Subsequently, bonefish will often be found “tailing”
either in
pairs or in larger schools. To spot a tailing bonefish or group of
bonefish, look for their deeply forked tails just above the waterline,
flashing brilliantly in the sunlight. Saltwater fly anglers will tell
you that there is nothing more exciting than crouching near a thick
patch of turtle grass in the middle of an expansive tropical flat and
spotting the glittering flash of a school of tailing bonefish!



Despite the classic tailing give-away, merely spotting a bonefish can
present quite a frustrating challenge to a fly angler. Many saltwater
flats have sandy bottoms, but others are composed of the mottled browns,
greens, and gold of thick turtle grass, making it very difficult to
glimpse a well-camouflaged fish. Saltwater fly anglers also look for
“cruising” or “mudding” bonefish. When looking for a cruising fish or
school, watch for quick flashes and shadows along the bottom of the
flat. Mudding bonefish will produce clouds and wide plumes of gray sand
as they hunt and dig for their prey. Looking for such a mud spot will
often yield good results.



A good pair of polarized sunglasses with copper or yellow photochromatic
lenses will ease the strain of this challenge. (Experience in spotting
bonefish, or a guide perched atop the polling platform of a specialized
flats boat will also help!)



Bonefish are particularly aware of the perils of the thin water in which
they feed. Such heightened awareness renders these fish extremely
skittish at the slightest sign of danger. Fly anglers must take extreme
care not to frighten feeding bonefish. This means maintaining a low
profile, keeping rod tips on the water, and being prepared to make long, directed, and accurate casts in a number of challenging conditions.



Saltwater flats fishing requires a confident cast, tight attention to
fly presentations, and a good working knowledge of local water and tidal
conditions. Bonefishing requires all of these along with a heavy dose
of concentration. Fly anglers chasing bonefish will most often be sight
casting for their quarry. When sight casting for bonefish it is
extremely important to understand the delicate mix of water and wind
conditions and distance to the fish. If the wind is high, an angler may
need to use a shorter leader and a heavier 9 weight rod and line to turn
over the fly and lay down a sixty foot cast. If conditions are calm and
the saltwater flat is glassy, a 14 or 15 foot leader and a lighter 7
weight rod may be necessary to avoid spooking the fish during
presentation of the fly.  However, if you were to choose just one fly rod to tackle all conditions, it should be a 9' #8 fly rod.  Our favorite bonefish fly rod is the Loop Cross S1 Flatsman 890-4...controlled distance, accuracy and strength.



Because bonefish are so wary, it is important to understand how the fish
is moving and where to place a cast. Saltwater flats anglers will often
lead a feeding bonefish by a generous 15 feet or more. The key to
presenting a fly to a bonefish is to make the fly appear to be moving
away from the fish. This may sound difficult, but can easily be achieved
with a simple hook cast or reach cast – both well-practiced casts in
the arsenal of trout and freshwater anglers.



Stripping line after such a cast is also important. Experiment with
longer and shorter strips with different pacing; pause and give the fly a
slight jerk and then strip in more line. Local guides will have a
favored technique and will tell you just what to do when you’ve spotted a fish and placed that perfect cast.



Hooksetting should also not be overlooked. Be sure to set the hook
firmly with a confident strip set as soon as you feel the subtle tug of a
bonefish at the end of the line. Freshwater anglers making the
transition to salt commonly make the mistake of lifting the rod tip
vertically to set the hook. This technique may work on Montana’s great
and storied Madison for big browns, but it won’t hook a bonefish. (Too
many anglers have bought their guides rounds of drinks back at the lodge
for lifting the tip instead of using a solid strip set. Don’t be a
statistic!)



For efficient fly delivery and better hook sets, the proper fly line is very important when bonefishing.  The Airflo Ridge Bonefish fly line
is the best fly line on the market today for saltwater flats fishing. 
With a patented coating of polyurethane, which is impervious to bug
repellant and sunscreen, this particular fly line will last many hard
seasons.  All other fly lines are constructed of PVC material and don't
react well to the likes of bug spray and sun screen.  The low-stretch
core of the Airflo Bonefish line provides more efficient casts.  And,
when "strip-setting" on a bonefish, this low-stretch core makes for
solid hook sets. 



Bonefish will readily take a well-presented fly, and will make several
long runs, usually taking a fly angler 150 yards deep into the backing.
Generally a bonefish will make about as many long, straight runs as its
weight in pounds. A 2-pound fish will make 2 long runs and a 4-pounder
will take you and your reel for a spin about 4 times. This is not by any
means a hard and fast rule, but something to keep in mind when it’s
time to strip set the hook and play that fish!



A raft of creative fly patterns has arrived on the tails of the bonefish
craze. Synthetics, foam, and flashy materials offer fly tiers a new
world of possible creations to toss into the salt. Crazy Charlies and
Bonefish Candy are effective patterns from Christmas Island to Los
Roques. One of the hottest and most productive bonefish flies around is
Bonefish Bitters, a modern epoxy-headed crustacean imitation developed
by Craig Matthews in the 1980s. Classics like the Gotcha and the
Bonefish Scampi as well as myriad crab patterns will also yield good
results on the saltwater flats.



Bonefish have provided fly anglers of all stripes and backgrounds with a
new and salty world of mystery, information, and excitement. Freshwater
anglers have enjoyed the challenge of learning new rigging, casting
techniques, and traveling to warmer more tropical destinations.
Saltwater anglers have enjoyed advancing the sport of fooling bonefish
with a fly and pushing the limits of saltwater flats fishing. Bonefish
are special creatures, and according to fly fishing legend, Lefty Kreh,
if left with only one choice, the bonefish would be his target. That’s
quite a bold marketing pitch, and one we’re hard-pressed to disagree
with. 





                                                                       - Evan P. LeBon

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