Reels for bamboo fly rods


Active Member
A question for those who have preceded me on this oh so slippery slope of fishing bamboo rods. What reels do you like to use?

My general thoughts...

Weight - I am mostly interested in finding a reel with more weight than a modern reel so it will better balance my rods. My rods include an 8.5' 6 HDH, an 8.25' HDH and an 8' HEH, all medium/fast, so I don't need a large reel made of lead to balance a long, heavy rod, but a moderate increase in weight would help over a long day.

Vintage Vibe - I like the idea of vintage. Just seems to fit the whole bamboo culture thing.

Sound - I want to hear my reel sing when I tie into a good fish, so a Pflueger Medalist just won't do it for me.

Drag - Want enough to control a good fish but I don't need to protect a 7x tippet. A good click/pawl is fine if I can palm the spool.

Cost - $100-150 may be OK, $50-75 would be great.

I know this is a deal where everyone has their own preference. What is yours?

Greg Armstrong

I like to fish reels that match the time period when the rod was made.
For me, that usually means the 1920's through the 1940's. The best reels made back then were made in England and Scotland. Almost all had "click-pawl" checks - they sound wonderful when a fish runs!
Most people think of Hardy, but I prefer those that were made by Farlows, Young and a guy named Dingley ( a genius at the workbench - he made some of the finest, most beautiful reels imaginable, even to this day).
You can find some of these reels in the price range you mentioned, however I have a particular fondness for the ones with a red agate line guard as shown in my avatar. Those cost a bit more - but they're special! Have fun looking.
The bamboo rods I showed you at Pass all had vintage click & pawl reels. My favorite (avatar pic) is this large arbor 20's Hardy St George 3 3/8", also a 3 3/8" '57 Hardy Perfect and an early 30's click/pawl 1494 Pflueger. The Hardy's are in the $200+ range but balance bamboo very very nice! Can't beat the sound! But we're talking about trout, not bonefish so 95% of the time I strip in my fish. Way too many fish lost due to trying to get them on the reel just so I could hear the reel scream, the split second I stopped stripping and started reeling slack line....gone! Watch out, the vintage reel bug will bite you next! :eek:!


Active Member
Steve - Darn, it already has! Seems like a modern reel just looks strange on the bamboo. In your opinion, would a System 7 or Marquis 6 be heavy enough for balancing the bamboo? I might be able to swing one of those.

Greg - I saw the cool Youngs on Ebay. They might be the way to go. I had never heard of Farlows or Dingleys. Wow, those Dingleys are ultra vintage. Love them all. And affordable. Any estimate how much one of the Youngs might weigh? Thanks!

Greg Armstrong

I don't have weights available, but they made a lot of models ranging in size from 2-1/2" diameter up to and over 4".
Some were ported (holes integrated into the design to save weight - see Steve's Hardy St. George in his avatar, above), and some were not. So there's a wide range of reel sizes/weights available.

Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
The Marquis 6 at 3 1/4" will comfortably hold a standard 5DT. Its not a heavy reel by standards of its day. It won't balance a rod over 8ft and if balance is really important to you might reduce that to 7'6".



Active Member
Young's reels are mostly cast, not machined. They are usually a little heavier than machined reels. There are plenty of reels to use and 'not have to spend a bunch. Hardy light weight series will be at the top of your budget. Sage had the 500 series reels (503-509) made by Hardy but with a bronze anodized finish. I really like Abel's TR series reels. Trying to think off the top of my head redington and there are some other's that make click and pawl reels. I like the old reels for the history and nostalgia, but take an the Abel TR and compare quality to any of the vintage reels in your budget. It is not hard to see the difference in quality and it is not close. I also can't justify having a $500-$1000 leaded agate perfect on a rod I am fishing.

Greg Armstrong

Some folks appreciate vintage cars from the days when pride in production was a part of the equation.

Same goes for some of us with the rods and reels we choose to use.

It sounded to me that the OP is more in this camp based on his questions.

I'm not saying old is "better" than new. I just get more satisfaction and have more fun using some of the older gear. A lot of it is available for less $ than the new stuff, and tends to hold its value too.

A couple photos for you;
A Dinghley "Perfect" clone w/phosphor-bronze line guard;

A Young 15A ;


And a Young "Marvel" ($150-$250) on an FE Thomas 8' (circa 1920's)

8\' FE Thomas 5wt Young Marvel.JPG


aka Dave Hoover
If you need a small but fairly heavy reel for a shorter rod. Try a Stuart. You can usually corner one for around $50. Attached is my all silver one which balances perfectly with my 6- 2/3 ft Horrocks-Ibbotson Buddy solid glass rod. I should also mention that it has a fairly limited capacity. It'll hold an entire WF7F line but very little backing.
IMG_5013.JPG's a black one


Active Member
Greg, beautiful reels and great photos too. Photography is my other major hobby and I'm impressed. Your landscape/Marvel shot is great, and your shots of the Dinghley and Young look like they used some type of macro lens for that level of closeup detail. Very, very cool.

Greg Armstrong

Para adam, Thanks for the compliments, but I just used a little point & shoot Panasonic (model TS1) for those shots, two of them on macro setting.
If you are interested, there is a recent book on the history of JW Young reels written by Elwyn Attwood. It is, to say the least -comprehensive. Lots of great old as well as contemporary photos of hundreds of their reel designs, as well as cool old photos of them being made at the workbench.
I prefer the older pre-WW2 reels myself, and after catching countless steelhead and salmon as well as trout on them I have never had one of my JW Young reels fail in any way.
There have been a lot of great (and still usable) reels made over the last 120 years by a lot of co's , let us know what you decide on.

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
para_adams, While the model 1494 and larger Medalists only hum a bit and don't really ever sing, my 1492 1/2 is a real vocalist. Its heavier than my LL Bean "Pocket Water" clicker reel, which is a newer "retro" reel, and actually kind of light. I'm not sure if its heavy enough of a reel for your rods, but the 1492 1/2 has two clickers, and they can both be engaged at the same time.

When lake fishing, I use my 1492 1/2 for trolling with a 4 wt clear intermediate line on an 8' med action 4 wt graphite rod. Trolling makes it easy for me get the fish on the reel, since I have no slack out when the fish hits, and a good strike will often sound the alarm! As in, "Man, that hit was a real screamer!" as I'm dropping my paddle and grabbing the rod.
I use my LL Bean "Pocket Water" reel on the same rod with a dry line.

I am looking for an old clicker/pawl reel that can carry a tune and will match up with my mid-60's era Fenwick ff80 6 wt.
I was using a Medalist (1494 or my 1594) on it, but those reels only produce a low key hum.

Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
If you are interested, there is a recent book on the history of JW Young reels written by Elwyn Attwood. It is, to say the least -comprehensive. Lots of great old as well as contemporary photos of hundreds of their reel designs, as well as cool old photos of them being made at the workbench.quote]

+2 on Elwyn Attwood's book. There is no better reference for Young reels.

Ron, here's something to think about when choosing a vintage reel; do you reel left or right handed? Most vintage reels are right hand wind. I reel left handed, but when buying vintage reels, left handers are way more scarce and more expensive. I now reel with both right and left hands depending which reel gets to come and play that day! Some "newer" vintage reels can be wound in both directions like 60's Hardy lightweight series, but reels with agate line guides are built for one way only. I have a couple of LRH's and a 3 3/8" Uniqua, they're on the light side for 6 wt bamboo rods (my opinion) where the Perfects and St Georges balance my bamboo better. Check out Young's Beaudex or Pridex, heavier reels in your price range. I have several of these and some you can reel both ways. And to repeat myself....early Pflueger Medalists have click and pawl drags! But once again like my 1494 it's right hand wind only.

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