Abort Abel and finish with Fin Nor, says Mike Daunt. Old reels are the future

Whether they make him eccentric or a “bloody old fool”, Mike Daunt chooses his classic reels as his best bit of kit.

Find out what BASC’s Director of Firearms would never be without in the field, read my favourite bit of kit: Bill Harriman.


“Keep your rod tip up and walk slowly backwards,” I instructed. It was the end of a long fight with a very big salmon, well over 30lb and possibly 40lb. I was on one of the best beats of Tweed in October with an extremely lucky young rod who had only caught one fish previously. He had played the monster to exhaustion and now, as he walked backwards, it wallowed towards my waiting net. Suddenly, as salmon often do, it righted itself and lunged towards the current. I didn’t hear the reel scream as it was one of those expensive, ultra-light, silent ones. All I could see was the line and then the rod tip came into view until it was almost parallel with the ground. There was a crack like a rifle shot as the leader broke.

I turned round and looked at the young lad, who was almost in tears. “What the hell happened?” I demanded brusquely. “I tightened the clutch,” he said, miserably, “to make it easier to get it in range of the net.” Kindness reasserted itself and I said no more. I had seen it all before and it is why I never use quiet, weightless, ridiculously expensive, modern reels with clutches. I, who was fishing before the death of King Harold, do not want to have the problems of adjusting and fiddling with the clutch when playing a salmon.

Mike Daunt

The writer isn’t sure whether his choice makes him eccentric or a “bloody old fool”.

I know my friends describe me as eccentric and my detractors as a “bloody old fool” but I really detest modern reels. The reel is a device to carry the line and backing as simply as possible. I have been lucky enough to catch many a large salmon, a fair few over the 20lb mark, and I always use the palm of my hand to control the run of the fish. I can tell precisely the tension needed from almost unmoving to the lightest of touches. However, what gives me the most pleasure is the joyous, ecstatic, almost sensual scream made by the Hardy Salmon #1, #2 or #3 classic reels. I know when the fish is running whereas with a silent reel I have to look at the spool and it is yet another thing to detract from concentrating on the fish. The orgasmic clatter of The Hardy Perfect gives such joy that it is possible to have it as an alert on a mobile phone but this, for me, is going a little too far. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I would be searching instantly for a landing net or a place to beach the fish even if I were in the heart of Chelsea. The other delight of my old reels is that if one of my friends borrows one and insists on a left-hand wind, I can change it over and rewind the backing and line without needing a degree in engineering and an electrician’s set of tools.

I am pleased to see that there are many “eccentrics” like me as, by popular demand, Hardy is now selling a modern version of its old reels that (and tell it not in The Flyfishers’ Club) are made in China and are rather better manufactured than the originals. So, abort Abel, turn away from Tibor, opt out of Orvis, finish with Fin Nor, leave Loop and return to the simple, cheaper, aesthetic joys of the ancient Hardys and your ears will rejoice again to the primaeval scream.

Mike Daunt is a journalist and writer; his autobiography, The Bounder,  is published by John Blake Publishing