Jan 10

TFO Large Arbor 375 – A review

UPDATE: My experience with this reel has, sadly, depreciated over time. On my trip to Andros in 2011 this reel’s drag started getting a bit chunky and by the end of the trip it was non-functional. I’ve been sitting on it for a year now, just not managing to send it back in for repairs. I’ll be doing this soon and I’ll let you know what the outcome is and how the repair process goes. The spool, at this point, won’t even release from the frame of the reel. It’s a pretty classic case of saltwater corrosion. I rinsed this reel after use in fresh water, but clearly it required more care than I gave it.

For my recent Bahamas trip I had some new gear(this from 2010).  My local , Off the Hook Fly Shop (no longer in business), wanted me to put the gear to use, see what I thought.  One such bit of piscatorial hardware was the Temple Fork Outfitter Large Arbor 375.  In a word, Ilikeit… OK, that was actually three words crammed together, but you get the point.

Hey, look… they make reels too.

I didn’t really know TFO made reels… I think of them as a rod maker.  Turns out they make reels too and a variety of price points, including some higher-end reels.  Their Terry Hayden reel is the classic cork drag style reel that several of the “Titans of the Salt” recommend.  The Terry Hayden’s are pretty comparable in price to those really expensive cork reels made by others (about $400).  So, this is where I started to turn my attention toward the TFO Large Arbor, still a damn good reel, but only $280.

TFO Large Arbor reels are machined from 6061 aluminum and offer a state of the art draw bar/carbon fiber disk drag. Three bearings give our reel its smooth as silk spin and a one way roller bearing makes it easily convertible from left to right hand retrieve.

From everything I’ve read, the reel takes center stage when pursuing bonefish.  The rod gets the fly where you want it, but the caster makes the lion’s share of the difference.  Once you have a bone hooked, whatever reel you have is going to get a work out.  Basically, this isn’t trout fishing.

I didn’t really get a chance to play with  the TFO Large Arbor too much before my trip.  I had back-up reels, but I put the TFO Large Arbor on my #1 rod, an 8 wt, rigged with an 8 wt. Bruce Chard line.  My first fish came on my first evening in Grand Bahama… tailing fish in failing light.  I hooked the fish and off it ran and my field testing began.

TFO Large Arbor 375 in Action

Here are my thoughts…

The reel purrs and conveys the very definite sense that it won’t be out-done.  It felt in control.  The drag was smooth, the start-up inertia unnoticeable/undetectable.  I loved this reel.  From the first fish to the last fish, I never had a worry.  At one point, with guide Captain Perry, I was casting to two bones coming out of the mangroves on a falling tide.  Captain Perry recommended tightening the drag to try and keep the fish from heading back IN the mangroves where they, and the magic fly one of them would have just eaten, would have been lost, thus leading to the fall of Western Civilization.  I tightened the drag, didn’t botch the cast or the hook set, kept the fish from the mangroves and landed the nice looking 5 pounder.  Western Civilization still stands… for now.

Basically, I believe in this reel and can’t  wait to find some more fish worthy of it.

From first fish to last, the TFO LA 375 rocked.

I didn’t get this reel for free, but I did get a discount… which is why you should have a relationship with your local fly shop and should not shop Cabelas.  There are probably other reels out there that will do the job, but I think this reel is value for money and quality for money.

(Yes, the fish in the pic is not 5 pounds, that was the first fish of the trip, not the one I got coming out of the mangroves.  Don’t think we took a pic of that fish, just sent it on its way.)

Jan 10

My Toolbox for GBI

OK… I have all my rods/reels/lines.  I’m ready… now the weather just has to cooperate.

Rods... not "poles." Never "poles."

The 7 weight
Rod: TFO Axiom
Reel: Okuma Helios
Line: SA Bonefish Line

The 8 weight
Rod: TFO Clouser
Reel: TFO Large Arbor
Line: Teeny Bruce Chard Bonefish

The 8/9 weight
Rod: Albright GP
Reel: Ross CLA 5
Line: Teeny Flip Pallot Bonefish

Dec 09

Getting Geared Up

My Bahamas trip is coming up… well, in a month, but still, I’m gathering the gear I need.  I’ve decided what rods and reels I’ll be sporting.  Here’s the deets:

Rod #1

  • 8 wt. TFO Clouser 8’9″ 4 pc. – My local fly shop (Off the Hook) is making me a deal on this rod and from the folks I’ve talked to it seems like a really sweet stick.  It is intended to throw big bugs and heavy lines, so we’ll see how it does with the Rio Bonefish line I have coming for it. I’ve read that the folks who have used it have not missed those missing 3 inches.
  • TFO Large Arbor – A sweet, sweet looking reel.
  • Rio Bonefish Line Bruce Chard Bonefish Line by Teeny– 8 wt – Have not cast this line yet.  I was going to fish the Rio line but talked to a guy who had his Rio line basically fall apart on him down in Belize.  So, I switched to the Bruce Chard line.

The reel is in the mail

Rod #2

  • 8/9 wt. Albright GP 9′ 4 pc. – I cast this rod a little down in Vallarta, but never with the line/flies that I’d be using on the flats.
  • Ross CLA 5 – I used this last trip on my 10′ 9wt. Good, solid reel capable of hanging in there with a dream-size bonefish.
  • Scientific Angler Bonefish Line – 9 wt. – Used this line last year.  It feels a little heavy for shallow water situations, but part of that may have been the rod.  We’ll see.


Now, I would have also brought my St. Croix Legend Ultra, but  it was stolen in Mexico… so… well, that makes it impossible to do that see.  I guess I could invent a time machine, but I’m kind of busy raising my daughter and tying flies.