Vintage Fly Reels

Most young guys fly fishing these days don’t have the time for any gear that isn’t shiny, new, and most of it being on the expensive side. I,m old school and base my fishing skills on experience rather than equipment, so I use a combination of fly gear, some new and some old depending on what I like because the market is limited in quality fishing gear.

Since the late 90,s most manufacturers have moved their operations to China where they make low cost cheaply made products and sell them in the U.S. market. In short, most of what comes from China is junk, that’s only my opinion, although I purchase few products these days made as well as they were 30 years ago. I love fly fishing, and for that reason, I shop for old reels I used years ago that were built heavy duty and hold up over a lifetime of use, and there is still a lot of these great old reels out there.

My father was an avid fan of automatic fly reels so I grew up using these reels fishing trout, panfish, bass, and walleye in the streams and lakes throughout North Iowa. In recent years I have purchased a selection of these older fly reels, many of them in good condition and ready to use. But like old older products, some need repair and I have become proficient at repairing these older reels and putting them back to work fishing the trout streams across Iowa. I read a post in a fishing blog that stated these reels either were not worth repairing or couldn’t be repaired, not true these reels still balance nicely on the new rods sold today and perform better than many new reels on the market. They will hold more backing and heavy weight line than a new Pflueger and they are better built.

When disassembling a South Bend Oren Auto-O-Matic reel you will find they are well-made in their day and all made in the USA by companies like South Bend, Pflueger, Martin, and more. I have several South Bend Oren-O-Matics and have completely disassembled and refurbished the reels where they operate smoothly with good spring return action. When taking the reels apart make sure the spring tension is fully released, remove the screw on the spring cover and carefully remove the spring cover, (do not let the coil spring come out of the cover when prying it off the spool shaft) or you will have to rewind it into the cover. Removing the coil spring cover will give you access to the spool, return gears, and spool shaft, keep track of each step when disassembling. Remove the screw on the backside of the case and the spool shaft will come out so you can clean it. After cleaning the grit from the spool case soak the coil spring in the cover with cleaning fluid, do not attempt to remove the coil spring from the cover as it is riveted to the cover. Lube the spool shaft with a light layer of white lithium grease and assemble the reel making sure the spring winder cover is replaced so it can catch the dog on the spool shaft and wind up the line return spring.

You will have a top-notch fly reel ready for smooth action when using these old South Bend reels for a fraction of the price of buying a new reel. They’re well balanced when used with 5 or 6 weight rods and fly line for fishing smallmouth bass, panfish, and trout and will hold up under the toughest conditions and made for heavy-duty use. I like these great American-made fly reels partially because they are a little banged up like me and have years of character scratched all over them.

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