Monday, January 23, 2017

SHJ Reel Review ~ The Red Truck Diesel Fly Reel

Red Truck Diesel Reel
     Still working on Chapter 2 of The Art of Tying & Fishing Soft-Hackle Flies, to be posted sometime this coming month. Letting it cool for edits. But the writing mode creates momentum, & the weather is too shitty to work outside or fish, so I’m on a writing binge, & thought it might be good to fill in the long pause with a look at some gear I’m excited about.   

Been awhile since we reviewed any reels on SHJ. Way back there was the piece about the Pflueger Medalist. The one from my high school days. Then there was the write-up on the old Ocean City Wanita reels I scored at a garage sale. I don’t relish critiquing, so only review stuff I like. And I like gear that exhibits both workhorse functionality & timeless style. 

Function is first priority but, that covered, I admit an aversion to gear that makes me look like a spaceman (or stock car racer). We all have our quirks.  But you live with the gear you buy. You have to look at it while you’re using it. Aesthetics are important. So, not being a spaceman, I’m usually no consumer of fly reels that look like futuristic space gear. And, as makers compete for the ambiguous grail of lightness, some newer reel designs are so radically machined-out & spindly if you drop them once they are toast. So much for the future. You can only remove so much aluminum.

So maybe it’s time to have a look at a worthwhile contemporary reel.

Perhaps some of you have been considering a Hardy Marquis to match up with a fine bamboo or glass rod, or to add some class to a new graphite rod. Now, suppose it was possible to find a nearly identical reel of equal or better quality, same style available in five sizes, at a little more than half the price?

A neoclassicist’s dream? 

I like the zen simplicity, reliability & longevity of a click-pawl reel with a palm-able rim. I prefer click-pawl reels for all freshwater fishing, including steelhead & salmon. There is no drag system as sophisticated & intelligent, as capable of nuance, as the human hand, fingers or palm, set against a reel rim. A profoundly simple braking system, involving a challenging & satisfying skill set. And I admit the mechanical scraw of the clicker does add an element of excitement. In Scotland, on the River Spey, & on the trout streams, you see a lot of old click-pawl reels in use, many imbued with nearly 100 years of mojo, the original finishes nearly gone, worn to a proud patina.
True simplicity. Showing the Diesel's adjustable click-pawl
drag & bulletproof, precision, hardened & ground center pin. 

Like the Scots, I want a reel that will never go out of style & last 100 years while I happily wear the plating off of it.

I’ve always thought the Hardy Marquis to be “dead center”. The perfect blend of function & style. On a visit to Jack & Jen Mitchell’s Black Bear Lodge fish camp on the upper Columbia last summer, I was checking out the outfits lining the rod racks when a reel mounted to one of Jack’s Spey rods caught my eye. It looked just like an old Hardy Marquis, yet sized as a Spey reel. I picked the outfit out of the rack to check the reel out. Not a Hardy. The maker’s inscription on the reel’s smooth, gunmetal gray backside read: Red Truck Diesel. A brand I hadn’t heard of. The reel was beautifully made. Growing up machining in my dad’s tool & die shop I acquired a good eye for metalwork. No doubt, this was a quality reel. And yup, the winding knob was right, ample & well-shaped, not the too-small afterthought that ruins, imo, some otherwise good reels, including the Marquis.

 I asked Jack about the Red Truck reel, & he said he loved it.

We took it fishing, & it did behave like a thoroughbred, precision-smooth, no discernible spool run-out, no rattle or slop whatsoever. Even the pitch of the adjustable click-pawl drag was quality, well-tuned & pleasant, not raspy like some. And elegant. I couldn’t quit looking at it.  

The 100 year reel.        

A fairly new tackle company based in the San Francisco Bay area, Red Truck Fly Fishing Co. is owned and operated by savvy angler/designers committed to offering a quality line of elegantly designed gear that functions as good as it looks. I was stoked to learn that Red Truck offers the Diesel reel in five sizes, matched to appropriate line weights: 0/2; 3/4; 5/6; 7/8; & Spey.

Visiting their site, I learned Red Truck also builds a line of fine rods. In my next post we’ll take a look at the Red Truck 5110-4, 11’, 5wt (140-280grains), 4-piece, ‘Trout’ switch rod that matches the Diesel 7/8 reel featured in the photos. And you can check out the complete Red Truck line here: http://redtruckflyfishing.com/

7 comments:

  1. That's a fine looking Marquis clone. Nothing slack there. Nice case, too. Classy.

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    1. Spike, these are really nice. Nicer than the Marquis in my own estimation. Better winding knob, for one thing. The tolerances are unreal. Couldn't detect .001 thou of slop anywhere. That's real sheepskin top & bottom of the case, fur on the inside. For a little more than half the cost of a Hardy...

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    2. Steve, another great review, I really dig the one I use a real workhorse. I'll bet you could dive a 16 penny nail with it . Looking forward to chapter 2. Just jeff

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    3. Jeff, if I hammer nails with mine it'll end up looking just like the rest of my stuff.

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  2. Steve, hope all is well, started a savings account for the far-flung idea. Call me when you get a chance. Just jeff

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  3. From the Red Truck YouTube page:
    https://youtu.be/n45ap3OcryI

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    1. Bert! Good to see you! Just goes to show you never know who you might bump into checking the bargain reel department. Hope you're finding some steel this winter.

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