Automatic reels [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Automatic reels

04-11-2004, 05:57 AM
I got to fish (for trout) with an automatic reel this week, and it was kinda fun. Why are there so few of those made today? Are they somehow considered unsporting? Does anyone know where to get a decent-quality automatic fly reel?

04-11-2004, 09:42 AM

I've used Automatic fly reels for a couple of my 5wt rods for quite a few years. A friend of mine got me using them when I watched him quickly pick up his line when moving from pool to pool on some small West Virginia streams. I was often left behind cranking in my line while he was ahead catching fish.

The disadvantages I've found are the limited backing capacity (30 or 40 feet) and the lack of adjustment on the drag. If there is a decent chance of having a fish pull me into my backing I use a traditional reel with an adjustable drag.

I've purchased my automatic reels from Ebay. The Perrine No. 51 matched well with a 5wt for me and can often be had for $20 or less in lightly used condition. I think Perrine (aka Aladdin Labs) is no longer in business so used is the only option for those. I like the Perrine reels better than the ones you can pick up at your local store brand new.


04-11-2004, 11:36 AM
I grew up on those things. The only advantage i can see to them now is if you are fishing pan fish from a small boat and keeping slack line out of the way is a problem. And for that, a bucket will do the trick very well, thnk you. They are heavy, have limited backing capacity, extremely small arbors, no drag, except the spring, which gets tighter as more line goes out. Need any more reasons why no one uses them anymore?

Get a single action, large arbor reel. Maybe even over size the reel. And to take in a lot of line, quick, forget the handle. Just give the palming rim a good spin.

04-11-2004, 08:39 PM
JD makes some very good points.

The reels I have used are indeed quite bit heavier than a traditional reel. I don't consider them a fit for fighting any fish of significant size. For me their place is as an inexpensive line storage device that allows for easy line pickup. They work well for me when I'm targeting fish that I'll strip in as opposed to getting them on the reel.

04-11-2004, 11:22 PM

I also grew up with them and I will never go back to one, ever! The lack of backing capacity, the weight of the reel, the lack of drag, and the constant need to loosen the blasted spring tension when you are not going to use the darn thing for a while are aggrevating to say the least. Also, they don't llke to get dunked, which tends to cause the spring, bearings, and release trigger to corrode.

I quit using automatic reels way back in 1961 at age 8 when dad bought me a cheap South Bend single action with click pawl drag. It was far better than the automatics. and I never had to worry about inadvertently hitting the rewind trigger and having the line zip back into the rod, or my fingers when tying on a fly.

04-12-2004, 08:45 AM
Hasn't anybody (re)designed one of these in the last 20 years? My guess is most of these comments would apply to 'regular' reels from that vintage, too.

John Desjardins
04-12-2004, 09:34 AM
Josko, I have vague memories of seeing something online about a modern automatic reel a couple of years ago. Very pricey & maybe from Italy, is about all that I remember.

04-12-2004, 10:55 AM
Leave it to the Italians. :smokin: Actually, there is, was, a fly reel that was kind of a semi-automatic, if that makes any sense. It was mounted vertacally, like most fly reels and had a lever that when pulled with the pinky finger, would take up about a foot of line. No springs, just geared to the spool with a ratchet mechanism. The line came out the side of the reel kind of like a closed face spinning reel.

I'll stand by my method of just "fanning" the palming rim of a large arbor reel. You can take in a lot of line, real quick, that way.

04-12-2004, 11:10 AM
There is a new Italian fly reel that was introduced last year at the fly show; it bears a strong resemblance to an automatic but it isn't in the sense that you trip a lever and all your fly line comes flinging at your face.

Rather, on this reel you wind line in by using a lever (controlled by your little or ring finger) to do the winding. There is no winding knob, just the lever. You depress the lever over and over to retrieve line. It seemed to be a faster retrieve than by winding, but it struck me as being pretty gimmicky... however, for small stream application, I can see that the apparent higher retrieve speed would be attractive.

Wish I could give you the company or the reel's name, but the impeccable filing system in my office has once again let me down. I think I tossed the catalog as I wasn't interested in the reel, and I can't find mention of the company in the directory--- although it could be Giorgio Benecchi's Products.

I remember the name of the reel as Varivas or some variation. At the time, it seemed fairly expensive for what it was.


04-12-2004, 08:09 PM
I found the "semi-auto" fly reel. The only thing that some what impresses me about it is that spools can be changed. @ dan-bailey.
I still wouldnt touch it though.

(edited by moderator...we don't allow non-sponsor DIRECT links. thanks for understanding)

04-13-2004, 08:25 AM
So he can't tell me where to get this reel unless the guy selling them is a sponsor???

04-13-2004, 08:46 AM
Josko, he recomended dan baley. I left that information in his post so that you could check it out. I only eliminated the non sponsor link. Information is free on the Forum. Hot Links are reserved for the sponsors that help keep us on the net. Seems fair to me.
This is outlined with the user agreement that all Forum members have committed to when they registered.
So not such a big deal. Maybe a little closer to you, LLBean also sells automatic fly reels(with an excellent warrenty).
I suspect that there is a reason that Forum sponsors don't sell automatic fly reels;)

04-13-2004, 09:28 AM
I was referring. Franco Vivarelli is the company, and I forgot that name because I didn't see a lot of application for that reel, and considering the price at DB's, $239, I don't see it catching on here.

In fairness, though, it was well made and seemed to be well designed.


04-13-2004, 09:37 AM
I understand these reactions but we had some discussion on this that some of you might have missed. It's good to go over it on occasion so thanks for bringing it back to the top ;)

As stated in the details of sign-up for free membership, the privilege of commercial promotion on this resource is reserved for sponsors. We decided it's disrespectful to accept sponsorship funding in one hand (see our awesome sponsor list) and allow free promotion to non-sponsors on the other. If this was allowed, then the value of sponsorships to our supporters would be nil. By commercial promotion, we are talking about direct hyperlinks or spam primarily, although the underhanded attempts abound by those seeking to benefit, believe me. We deal with it all the time.

Now if the promotional info comes from a member, then we ask that the member send an email stating in their own words why they think the company should sponsor the forum. One of us follow-up that email, and in many cases this has led to new sponsors. Once that email is received, the links will be allowed back on the post. But we will not permit direct links to businesses in posts without that email.

Unfortunately many cases involved people with commercial interests posing as members, so we can't divide 'church and state' by allowing members to provide links while business interest can't - the fact is we can't tell who's really holding an interest.

I know one thing, I have put way too much time and money into this site for no pay to be spending a lot of time auditing it. I am deeply grateful to the moderators who have volunteered to help out. So what may seem like an unreasonable audit is really a simple policy that we try to stick to, and frankly since no one gets a penny for the time and trouble we like to keep it simple.

If anyone has any suggestions on how we might manage this situation better, please speak up or volunteer to be involved. We could use the help.


The French guy
04-13-2004, 03:42 PM
I have the semi automatic Franco Vivarelli reel since 1999. I just love it and this is all I use as a freshwater reel from 3-6wt.
The line picks up with ease and fast. It is great to fish the creeks or any stream densely vegetated. The reel is super light. It does not have a rim for palming though and also there is a need of a Allen wrench to adjust the drag.
It is very popular in France and in Italy and costs much less there (under $100).
I use that reel here in South Florida for Peacoks bass (up to 7 pounds), regular bass, small tarpons (up to 10 pounds), gaars etc. Works really well and never had one of these fish getting me far to my backing.
Overall, I am very satisfied with my purchase.
Serge in Miami

04-13-2004, 05:03 PM
What happened to Old Florida? :devil:

Seriously, I would not consider a reel that can not be palmed or requires tools to adjust drag for saltwater fishing or salmon / steelhead, or just about anything I would bother to fish for in earnest.

If my 'regular' reel had a quick wind button that I used when changing spots or leaving for the day, I'd like that. but with a fish on, the last thing I'd want to do is leave the retrieve up to a spring.


The French guy
04-13-2004, 05:39 PM
:D I will never use anything else than Old Florida for my SW fishing. This is a fact.

For Freshwater species, I use the Vivarelli.
There is not springs in the mechanism, the lever just demultiply the reeling in. It is pretty well engineered.
When I fight the fish I mentioned, I would not reel in the line or backing. I would just pick up the line with my hand. Now, if there is too much line on the ground, I just reel it into the reel by actioning the lever twice. You do not need an handle on the spool for the fish I mentioned. The reel is just to store the line, not more. If you need a FIGHTING reel, this is not the reel you want.
If you are looking for the reel to manage and store FAST the fly line, this is the reel you need.

Again, do not get me wrong, I am not using that reel for long running fish, or as a fighting reel, this would be suicidal.
I have to admit it would be good to have a palming rim though, but by putting my finger on the side of the spool, I slow it down pretty will. These fish won't smoke my fingers.

Serge in Miami

04-13-2004, 06:44 PM
Thius sounds interesting. I'll be in Rome and Genoa next month - do yoiu know where I might go to get one over there?