casting reels

With the days growing longer it’s hard not to feel the itch to fish.

Spring is just around the corner and it’s high time to start going over your tackle and making plans.

I’ve had my tackle-buying eyes opened a few times in recent weeks. On a fishing adventure in warm southern waters, I got to try several casting outfits with the low-profile reels mounted on the latest rods.

I’ve been using casting reels since the days before spinning reels were even seen on the U.S. market. Call it more than 60 years since my first meeting with bluegill in a pond. I couldn’t cast the blooming things without a snarl or backlash, but even my elders weren’t much further along in reaching distances with those old “coffee grinders.”

Over the years I got better, as did the reels. By the time I was old enough for a beer to be legal, I could cast further with a casting reel than a spinning reel and I used almost nothing else.

Sure, I got the occasional backlash when distracted by the promise of a steelhead or bass on the next cast, but my experience overcame the limits in anti-backlash technology.

Not so my wife!

She’s had a love-hate relationship with casting reels. In her hands they were trolling reels and halibut reels, but no casting allowed. She hadn’t made friends with them growing up, and repeated attempts convinced her that only spinning reels were made for casting.

A few weeks back I finally got the chance to try one of the low-profile reels often seen in use by pro bass anglers on television. Mounted on a medium-weight graphite casting rod, it was a delight to handle.

Being so small and light and sitting so low on the rod, it nestled into my hand with no torque or tendency to twist when casting or jigging. And best of all, it seemed just about impossible to backlash.

The reel design was so close to perfect, I just had to give it one more test.

I handed it to my wife.

Oh, my, was that ever a mistake. I spent the rest of the day using a spinning rod as she refused to relinquish the casting rod.

I can assure you that there will be an array of the new casting rods and reels in our house come summer. Due to the fine diameter of modern braided line, they’ll be smaller and lighter than spinning rods, too.

What’s the big deal with casting versus spinning?

They’re immensely accurate any time you need to hit in exactly the right spot. They’re also much easier on hands and wrists over a long day of casting.

But most of all, their drag system and overall handling when fighting big fish beat heck out of spinning rods.

Forget any past reservations you might have about switching from spinning outfits to casting.

The new casting rods and reels loaded with braided line are game changers. Though not revolutionary, there will certainly be an evolutionary change in the halibut gear on our boat this year.

I’ve written in the past about how much we enjoy light tackle for halibut fishing. But I’ve also written about how the halibut have been deeper and deeper in recent years.

We’re going back to heavier halibut tackle, in spite of our love of the lighter versions. It’s not that we want to return to catching bigger halibut so much as the greater depths and heavier weights needed to catch halibut of any size.

I’ll stick to my preference for reels with fast retrieve ratios, but I’m going to larger reels for even more line recovery with each crank of the handle. I’ll also be going back to stiffer rods that will lift better as I pump heavy weights back to the surface.

I’ll certainly continue to use braided line, but I don’t intend to put on 600 or 800 yards of the expensive stuff just to fill the spool completely and take advantage of the high retrieve ration.

Instead, I’m going to fill the reels to near capacity with bulky and less expensive 80-pound Dacron line, then add 100-150 yards of the very thin 80-pound braid on top. I can have all the advantages of braided line in the water without the expense of filling a large reel with the stuff.

And speaking of new lines, the advances in technology don’t stop there.

There’s a whole lot to look forward to in the things you tie onto the end of your line.

New lures crop up every year, and this is no exception. New models and colors should be appearing on store shelves over the next few weeks, and I’m willing to bet that some of them will perform better than any you’ve tried in the past.

And some may not be “new” at all, even if you’ve never tried them before. Why not try some alternate gear this year, whether new to you or not.

Jigs for silver salmon in rivers and lakes are the perfect example. Last fall a friend used jigs to pin back my ears along with several other fly fishers and guys nearby using spinners or roe. He hung light marabout jigs below bobbers almost like a roe fisherman, then slowly worked the gear downriver on the current. He was almost, but not quite, embarrassed by the number of silvers he caught while the rest of us stood by without hits.

Days later another friend visiting from steelhead rivers to the south did the same using little pink plastic worms. He reported that the little plastic worms are almost standard gear now on some rivers, while it was the first time I’ve seen them used on Kodiak.

See what I mean?

If you look around the country you’ll see all sorts of tackle and techniques in use to catch fish. They’re not used on Kodiak simply because no one has tried them yet.

We fall into the habit of using the same stuff each year because it’s worked in years past. But in doing so, we might be missing a lot of potential in new gear and techniques.

This is a new year too in the world of fly fishing.

Manufacturers are turning out new fly rods at both ends of the spectrum. Improvements in economy rods have been remarkable, while the rods at the premium end of the scale are better than ever.

You can grab a new model rod at any point in the range of prices with assurance that it’s going to cast better than you could manage with the same money last year. They’re that new.

I’m casting a new premium rod right now that makes me shake my head and smile in wonder. It’s the lightest, smoothest and most accurate fly rod I’ve ever handled. Yes, it cost a lot of money, but for my experienced hands it’s worth every cent.

I’m not saying everyone should dash out and buy a new premium rod, but if you can afford one, the rewards are great. Just remember that if you can’t afford a top model, those waiting further down the price scale are great, too.

Not to be left behind, the makers of fly lines have been making advances in their products, too. New coatings and tapers make for easier casting, while new non-stretch cores improve sensitivity and fish fighting.

I wasn’t so sure about the claim of more sensitivity until I started detecting subtle strikes the moment I changed from my favorite rod with an old line to the new rod with its new line. There is a difference.

We have a lot to look forward to over the next few months as new tackle appears in stores. Even if you don’t embark on some new adventure as I plan to do, you’ll find the options much better as you replace old worn rods, reels, lures and lines.

Spring isn’t too far down the road, and it’s time to start getting ready. 

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