OK. I'm a gear junkie with a limited income. I owned and used both Medalists and Okumas, from the 1495 1/2 I purchased from Randy Knapp, to Airframe 4/6 and 7/9 and Sierra 10/11. All have performed well with no problem to date. the 4/6 Airframe, my favorite reel, has landed some larger fish including some a 4#bass, a 17# bright chum,dozens of Pinks and several dozen larger shad in the Columbia, and Black Rockfish off the groins in Westport. It's durable and fishworthy. The big Sierra has been tested well on chums this year. Nice drag, balances the spey nicely. In short, the decision is yours on what to spend money on but IMHO it doesn't always have to be expensive.
The problem with okuma reels is that they are not machined. For someone who puts over 100 days a year (see "zen piscator") on their reels, the okumas usually do not make it through a year, and the phluegars do. Im not gonna start with waders.
fyi there are several reels in the okuma line that are infact machined. example, http://www.troutlet.com/ProdImages/FlyReel/OKMH.jpg
the helios sells @ 120- 150$ id bet that in the next few years okumas will be expensive enough for all you big bad money spenders to show a little respect. the fact is both pflugers and okumas are made over seas both companies offer "machined reels" at a reasonable price. imho, its safe to say, buy a 400.00 reel if ya can. and be proud. that ingraved name should mean alot if ya payed 200.00 extra. as far as perfomance, maintain your reels, if ya don't fall on it, throw it , get a bunch of dirt in it, an okuma or pfluger should bring in plenty of big fish for a long time. :thumb:
All I use are US made traditional Pflueger Medalists with the adjustable drags. I sold off all my "quality" reels (Lamson, Ross, Hardy, Orvis) years ago in favor of the near indestructible Pfluegers. I own lots of them. In fact since I sold my 8wts, I have two excellent 1495 1/2s and one 1496 1/2 (custom reel seat on this one). You can have them for $26 each and I'll pay shipping.
I have two medalists (1494 and 1495 1/2) both dating from the sixties and I think they are well made reels although I would prefer a better drag system for the 1495 1/2 for fish like steelhead and salmon. However, the new reels are made in China not the USA. I recently built a fly rod for my son-in-law and equipped it with a Pflueger Medalist 1494 and was surprised to find it made in China.
I have 3 high-mileage Medalists in my house and will likely be outlived by all of them. They can look old & used but tend to keep working like day 1. I like alpine's advice..it's as forgiving as a reel can be but don't ever throw it. Sounds funny but how many golf clubs, tennis raquets, fly rods, etc. are broken because they were thrown..
I love the Pfleugers. I have a cheap "purist" on my 4wt, it's only a click pawl. I've had no problem on big bows up to about 4lbs and caught a 6.5lb smallmouth on it I'm looking to upgrade it only because it's a little too heavy to balance light rods--at least I think so.
I'm not sure you are doing yourself any big favor by hunting down an old US made Pfluger. When production was switched to Japan in late 70s / early 80s (?), it got hard to find the replacement screws that fit the US frames. While the Plugers are rugged, they do drop a screw occasionally and occasionally other parts break too - like the plastic cap on the quick release. Thus you might want to go with the newer products because of parts availability.
As for cheap reels I think you can do better than Okuma or Pflueger. Sth makes a great 8wt with a good drag system, and even better than that you can get a ross fly water 7,8,9 for about 60$ and I own one and they are badass for the price.
just my thoughts
Well, seeing as how this thread was resurected, I'll post my results. I got the medalist, took it to AK and fished it hard for Reds, Pinks and coho for three weeks. It never let me down and did everything I ever needed it to. Probably caught up to 20 fish some days, over the course of a few hours. All that to say, I'm happy with it, and I am thinking about replacing some other reels with Pfluegers.