In the 90s, anti reverse fly reels were all the rage in the fly fishing industries. Their market was booming, and every other angler tried to get their hands on them. But two decades later, we rarely see any ani reverse fly reel. Only a few well-known brands are still producing them.
So what was it that made anti reverse fly fishing reels so popular back then? And to what they owe their downfall? I’ll walk you through every detail I’ve gathered about anti-reversing fishing reels in this article. So sit back and relax, as I tell you about their story from the beginning.
What Is an Anti Reverse Fly Reel?
An anti-reverse fly reel has a reel handle that does not move when a hooked fish makes a run in the water.
You may have often experienced this while playing a bigger gamefish. The fish takes on your bait, and you are slowly reeling the line in, but out of nowhere, the reel handle starts rotating in the opposite direction at full speed!
What do you get? Beat up knuckles and a fish lost in the river.
That is how a frustrated angler came up with the idea of anti-reversing several years ago. They lock the handle so your knuckles can thank you for them.
How Do Anti Reverse Fly Reels Work?
Anti reverse fly reels have a mechanism that involves a roller-clutch bearing. This bearing does not allow the spool to turn in the wrong direction. It locks the inner spindle of the reel to prevent unwanted handle movement.
The anti-reverse roller-clutch bearing has a tiny spring that allows the spool to move forward by compressing. But when there is backward movement, this spring pushes the roller against a retainer and locks it. And since this roller moves the spool and reel handle, locking it won’t move either, and your hand will be safe!
What Are Anti Reverse Fly Reels Used For?
Who doesn’t love their hands? Anti-reverse reels are not only good for your knuckles and fingers but are also effective against big gamefish. So there are plenty of reasons why some people use them to date.
Here I’ll list a few;
1. For Fewer Bruises On Knuckles
Yes, you’ve read this many times, but could you hear it out for one last time? I regularly fished at more than one fishing spot in Alaska during my teens and early twenties. My target species were mostly salmon and steelhead.
As soon as I felt comfortable while reeling my line back in, the fish always decided to make a run back to deep waters. The handle of my direct drive reel moved backward at lightning speed, and before I could take my hand off it, my knuckles got hit more than 20 times. Ouch! Now you can imagine how many times I must have had bloody knuckles and an almost broken thumb.
That is when I decided to try the best anti-reverse fly reel, and boy did it make my life easier! Whenever the fish and my reel handle conspired against me, the anti-reverse mechanism had my back.
2. For Preserving Hands
Do you know why these reels were called the SURGEON’S REELS? If an angler is a surgeon, doctor, painter, or musician by profession or simply makes his living solely out of his hands, whacking their fingers against a rotating handle might not be such a great idea.
The anti-reverse reels are great for preserving hands because they minimize the risk of injury while letting you enjoy the sport as well.
3. For Bigger And Faster Fish
While playing a giant gamefish like tuna, salmon, or other seawater species, you cannot keep worrying about getting your fingers snapped. You need to focus on the fish only. An appropriate saltwater anti-reverse fly reel helps you take your mind off the reel handle, so you can only think about fighting the big fish. Learn more about the best saltwater fly reels here.
Also, when a fish takes the bait and decides to run, you don’t have to leave the handle so it can take the line. Rather, you can keep holding the handle.
4. For Commercial Fishing
If your livelihood depends on catching big fish, anti-reverse reels could save you a lot of your day-to-day trouble. Someone angling a few times a month may not find these reels very attractive for the advantage they offer. But someone who does it daily will find them very useful.
Related Post: Best Automatic Fly Reels
Why Are Anti-Reverse Fly Reels Not So Popular Now?
After the advent of anti-reverse fly reels, several anglers gave them a try. But their popularity soon died out, with only a few loyal users remaining now. So what are the factors that didn’t quite live up to the expectations of a common angler? Here, I’ll list a few;
1. No Need To Override Drag
When an anti-reverse fly reel locks its handle, you cannot move it again within your preset drag setting. You’ll have to change the drag setting and then come back to rotating your handle. It seems like double the work to most anglers, and like me, they decided they are better off without it.
2. No Contact With The Fish
When you cannot feel your handle moving at speed like the fish, you don’t feel in contact with the fish you are fighting. And fly fishing, if you ask me, is all about that feeling! Also, you need to know about the fish’s movement to catch it efficiently. The anti-reverse feature will delay your decision-making time.
3. Heavier And Smaller Spool
The anti-reverse roller-clutch bearing has considerable weight due to its many parts. So, a reel that houses is usually heavy. Hence, you’ll have to compromise on the lightness if you plan on getting an affordable anti-reverse fly reel.
Also, since there are limited options available in the market, most you’ll find won’t be one of those fancy gigantic arbor reels you get from popular name brands. Instead, almost all of them are standard arbor ones, and you’ll have to compromise once again.
4. Less Thrill Of The Game
Many people say that anti-reverse fly reels aren’t technically fly reels. Rather, they resemble spinning reels more and won’t satisfy your fly fisher soul if you have one.
To be honest, the adrenaline pump you get from the sound of the line ripping out and the handle whooshing in is worthy of a few bruises! Also, the more you practice your angling skills, the better you’ll get at avoiding hand injuries while fishing with direct drive. Learn more about best fly reels here.
Also Check: Most Expensive Fly Reels
Anti Reverse Fly Reels: FAQs
Not all fly reels have an anti-reverse bearing since it makes them heavy and messes with the drag setting. A few reels, such as the Tibor anti-reverse fly reel, feature this bearing.
Infinite anti-reverse fly reels do not need a slight backward jerk to lock. Instead, they exhibit no reverse movement at all in their handle.
There are a few brands that make a couple of anti-reverse models. Three such models are:
* Abel anti-reverse fly reel
* SW anti-reverse fly reel
* Pate anti-reverse fly reel
You cannot override the drag setting to retrieve fly lines in an anti-reverse fly reel. If you wish to increase the drag once the fish takes the bait, you will first readjust the drag setting and turn the handle. Finally, change the drag setting again for lower tension in the lines.
I’ve tried the anti-reverse fly reels myself for some time, but now, I reserve them only when I’m after a big fish but am not in a mood to fight really hard for it. Usually, they are a no for me because I cannot actually enjoy fly fishing with them.
You can check my articles about fly line backing, leader, and tippet for reading about fly lines.