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April 27, 2011 / flogginwater

Good, Old Reels

We each have one. A favorite reel. It could be a spinning reel, a fly reel, or even a bait caster. It could be an antique, or a space age, bleeding edge modern wundereel. Some of us may have retired that reel, others will fish with it until it falls apart.

My absolute favorite reel was one such piece. It was a wonderful little Orvis Rocky Mountain 3/4 cassette reel, that I bought back in late 1999, to replace the piece of shit graphite reel that came with my Cabela’s Three Forks 3 weight rod. That graphite reel really was a piece of shit, it seized up tight as a drum the first time I took it out to the back yard to test it out. I couldn’t even get the spool to pop off, and the line it came with was also junk. I threw that reel and line in the garbage, and set my mind to get something good.

There was a shop in Hillsboro called Fly Country Outfitters, they were one of the Portland area’s first Orvis outfitters. I went in thinking about maybe getting a CFO, but after talking to the salesman, and trying out five or six different reels – I settled on the Rocky Mountain. My girlfriend at the time wanted to get me an early Christmas present, and asked what I wanted. We visited Fly Country’s sister shop, North Country Outfitters in Salem – which was another Orvis shop. I picked out an Orvis Hy-Flote #3 double taper floating line, which the girl bought. She almost hit the floor when she saw the pricetag (I believe it was on sale for $45 back then) for “just a fishing line?”. That line served me many, many years until it finally wore out. I replaced it with a Cortland 333 DT floater which also served me many seasons.

That Rocky Mountain reel saw lots of fish with me – rainbow and cutthroat trout from my favorite small mountain streams, to panfish and bass in lakes and ponds here in the valley. We walked hundreds of miles of banks and stream beds together over the years. Then one day our relationship changed. While fishing a favorite plunge pool at the base of a water fall on one of my favorite streams, I lost my footing and fell. I landed in a three point stance, and dropped my rod. It landed on the reel handle, which snapped off. I was mortified! What would I do!

I called Orvis, because their gear is covered under a 25 year warranty. They would replace my reel for a nominal fee, as they no longer made or sold the standard arbor cassette version of the Rocky Mountain reel (if I remember right, the Rocky Mountain name now rides on a mid-arbor line of reels). I contemplated it – but then I decided to retire my faithful friend, and for a few years it lived either on my tying desk, or on a book shelf display with some of my other treasured trinkets. Right now it lives in a cooler with my other retired reels, as space here with Dad is more limited.

Those other reels include the remnants of my early fishing past – an antique Zebco 33 which originally belonged to my dad, an early 90’s Zebco 33 Classic, and a much larger, beefier Zebco 1L I bought for catfishing in the late 1990’s. Also in that collection is the Eagle Claw 402 spinning reel that belonged to my mother, which she paired up with her yellow Eagle Claw medium-heavy fiberglass spinning rod. I inherited her rod when she passed away. The reel, after sitting unused for many years after her original heart attack and strokes, was no longer serviceable for fishing. Instead of fishing it, and risking loosing or breaking it, I decided to retire it. That old Eagle Claw glass rod though, will be fished occasionally, a small way to remember the good times had with mom. That rod will see use with one of my much loved modern Shimano Sienna reels.

Also in the box of retired reels is the Penn level wind mom bought me for Christmas when I was 7. My dad and I recieved matching heavy, solid fiberglass boat rods for sturgeon fishing. Dad got a beefy mighty Penn almost the size of a bumper winch. I got a smaller Penn, with double handles. It’s an excellent boat reel – not the best for casting – but excellent for trolling or mooching. The only drawback – it’s right hand retrieve and since early adolescence I’ve been a left-hand retrieve kind of guy. Right hand retrieve reels just feel funky to me now. The big sturgeon rod now wears a big Penn, identical to dad’s.

I’m sure my box of retired reels will grow, maybe some day my Ross will reside on the shelf next to that Orvis, my Siennas might get hung on the ceiling in a man-cave eventually. For now I’m content to have such a small collection of retired gear – it means I haven’t gotten too old yet.


  1. Cofisher / Apr 27 2011 13:43

    You mentioned Orvis reels and my heart went pitty pat. I don't fish with any new reels. All mine (30-some at last count) are vintage Orvis branded, click-pawl except my new in the box Rocky Mountain 3/4. I don't retire them exactly…they sit in a reel display waiting patiently to be used. If there is a malfunction, I try to find a beater on ebay to use for replacement parts. Here's my collection:

  2. Mark / Apr 30 2011 19:03

    Is that Rocky Mountain 3/4 like mine – the standard arbor cassette? Or is it the newer mid/large arbor type?

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