Fishing the Little Gems

Above: Some of my reels that I frequently use and have refurbished

I recently fixed one of my old Meisselbach reels and am currently using it on one of my light trout rods and have come to love fighting fish on it. I fish an old Winchester raised pillar reel pretty hard as well and actually prefer it over an old Hardy Featherweight I use to use quite often. I suppose people in general are afraid to use these older reels for a few reasons. Frequently the pawl mechanisms simply corrode and fall apart. Or the pawl spring is either bent or broken and the reel spins freely. Another common reason is the spindle shafts are bent. The reel foot on most older reels such as Pfleuger’s, Meisselbach’s, Winchester’s, etc. were stamped brass or nickel plated steel. If you happen to have an old ring mandrel you can easily tap the foot straight as an arrow with a ferruling or jewelers hammer. Pawl springs are easy to make with the proper diameter spring steel wire, a pair of jewelers pliars, and a propane torch. Careful with the torch you can end up branding yourself with the shape of a pawl spring, the mark of a true die hard. With a few simple tools you can make your reels look and function like new.

I have a modest collection of older reels that I’ve refurbished myself using a mill and a metal lathe to primarily fix head and tail plates, revolving plates, pillars, and spindle shafts. These older reels are typically great for silk lines because they are well vented and the line dries quickly. I tend to like to use the old stuff as opposed to let it collect dust or trade it. I am not a collector of things but the stuff I do own is old and very well used. Occasionally I get a huge sparkly glint from an olde’ timer on rivers especially in Pennsylvania. They get all excited to see me using a favorite Meisselbach reel, especially when I bring in a fish with one that’s over a hundred years old. I had one old timer in Warren County a while back tell me “I bet your grandfather wasn’t even born when that reel was first used”, I replied “it fishes like it was brand new!” The reel was a Meisselbach Featherlight #260, a reel little gem.