Written by: Steve Kaye
Published in BC Outdoors Magazine/OP Publishing
Through out southern British Columbia and Vancouver
Island The center pin reel is dead giveaway to an avid Steelhead
fanatic. Who else after all would fish with a reel that is quite
honestly less efficient and more costly than a good quality level
wind reel than an angler who has the Steelhead fever in a big way.
Center pin reels have been with us for many years, in fact anglers
were fishing in England over 100 hundred years ago with these reels.
would an angler choose a reel that is more expensive and less efficient?
Well the first reason is that the angler is looking to get everything
possible from his or her day of fishing. You just cannot beat the
feel you get from a center pin when you hook up on a fish. There
are no gears to help you out, this is a one on one experience you
feel every move that the fish makes. Center pin reels also lack
a drag system; most are just equipped with a simple clicker much
like a fly reel that can be engaged when a fish is hooked. When
a fish runs you are the drag system you hand must palm the spool
of the reel to keep the pressure on but not to tight or that loud
snapping sound will be your line breaking, and that will be the
last you get to see of that particular fish! For many anglers the
attraction to these reels is there beauty. Center pin reels are
pleasing to the eye. They are machined works of art and many anglers
have become collectors of these reels with their collections attaining
values in the thousands. There is also a certain amount of prestige
involved in fishing a center pin reel, it says to the world that
I am a committed angler and I will spend the money on my gear to
Center Pin reels come in many styles and from many
different manufactures. These reels can cost any where from about
$250.00 to over $600.00 dollars depending on the model. When choosing
a reel you must first decide where your budget is, as these reels
are expensive. Center pins are all very similar they are a very
simple design basically what we have here is a large fly reel with
the ability to free spool line so we can cast and make drifts while
fishing. Some center pin reels are equipped with bearings and some
have a bushing drive. Bearing models are the most widely produced
at present as they spin faster and longer right out of the box,
however do not count out a good quality bushing reel. They may take
longer to break in but once they do thy will run smooth as silk
for years of use. Most center pin reels now come offered in a variety
of anodized finishes this is a nice feature and enhances the look
of your investment, black, gold and silver are the most popular.
many anglers are looking to purchase a center pin reel they often
make the mistake of thinking that this is a reel that they can use
for all of their river fishing. While you can use these reels in
several different applications you will soon find out that center
pin reels are for the most part designed for specialty situations,
most common is float fishing in small to medium sized rivers. The
main feature that makes a center pin reel so much fun to play fish
is also its downfall as far as versatility is concerned. The one
to one ratio you get from this reel is okay when you don't have
to cast or retrieve a long distance, but if you are casting long
distances all day a center pin will wear you out. Also you will
not be able to cast as often thus making you less efficient in covering
water and you will show less fish your bait. This is the reason
that center pin reels are better suited for use on small and medium
Sometimes in life, to move forward, we have to take
a step backward in order to get a new perspective on our situation.
Fishing with a center pin reel is much like this. There are dozens
of modern reels on the market that will quite honestly outperform
them. Yet if you visit our local rivers you will see many anglers
fishing with center pin reels. For me a day on the river spent chasing
steelhead is as much about how I fish for Steelhead as it is about
catching Steelhead. In a days fishing you can certainly make a lot
more casts with a level wind and cover a lot more water quicker.
Fishing a center pin reel forces you to be more in touch with your
gear and your surroundings. You cannot beat a center pin when you
are hooked up on a good fish; it feels like you have a direct line,
just you and the fish. Sometimes we can forget that fishing isn't
always about the newest reel or the fastest retrieve ratio. Sometimes
a few less casts with more attention to detail will catch the fish
that others have overlooked. Fishing a center pin forces you to
slow down and pay more attention to details, attention to detail
is what separates consistently successful anglers from those who
only catch the odd fish. Will a center pin help you catch more fish?
Probably not, but the mind set that you have to adopt when fishing
one certainly can. Because of this, fishing with a center pin reel
is the approach that many anglers are looking to adopt for a day
spent on the water chasing there favorite fish.
Center Pin Evaluation
While there are many different center pins available
on the market both old and new, I have chosen three that I feel
represent quality and value. All three reels are very functional
and each has its own unique style and features. These reels are
not rated as first to last but as individuals as each is an excellent
example of the best that our marketplace has to offer. Retail prices
are based on m.s.r.p. So this may vary in the marketplace.
This center pin reel is the least expensive of our
trio. The Ruston retails for around $250.00. This is an excellent
reel for an angler looking to buy their first center pin. This reel
is both well made and attractive. The spool is bearing mounted and
is 4.25 inches in diameter and has plenty of line capacity for any
application. This reel is anodized in a light steel blue color with
wood handles. The Ruston also comes with a neoprene reel pouch.
This is functional, affordable and very pleasing reel to look at
and fish with a very good choice for any angler.
Raven Vectra SST
This reel is definatly the Hi Tec option. The Vectra
SST come to us from back east and the great lakes steelhead fishery.
This reel has a unique 4.5-inch large arbor design bearing mounted
spool. The Vectra SST is also designed for use with left hand retrieve,
finally a reel designed for all you lefties out there. The Vectra
SST is one of the most attractive and unique reels on the markettoday.
Silver, black and gold anodized finishes are all available, this
reel retails for around $425.00 and is and excellent choice for
the angler looking for a modern Hi Tec quality center pin.
When you hear about Islander reels you expect premium
quality, the Islander Steelheader is no exception. This is one of
the most popular and prestigious center pin reels on the market
today. The Steelheader is available in gold or black and has a bearing
mounted 4.5-inch diameter spool and comes with a rugged neoprene
pouch. This reel is beautifully balanced and extremely well finished.
The Islander Steelheader reel retails for about $400.00 and is a
classic example of a fine center pin reel.