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.
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.
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.
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.)