Old-fashioned reels are the subject for the Dorset Bard this month, as he extols his love of a certain model that’s been a regular in his armoury since 1989!
When I started out in match fishing, the rod and line ruled and if they were fl oat fishing, the majority of anglers would either ‘dab’ or ‘ping’ before they cast out! I know what you’re thinking… “What’s the idiot talking about this month?”
Well, unlike today there wasn’t a massive choice of reels available and I reckon in a competition around 90 per cent of the field would be using either a Frenchmanufactured Mitchell Match or one of the Swedish Abu closedfaced models, the 501, 503, 505, 506, 506M or the bigger 507. I’d go as far as to say that during the 1970s and 1980s everyone who match fished would have, at some point in time, owned one if not more of these reels!
Now, all these reels had something in common: you didn’t have to manually lift the bail arm to cast. The Mitchell you dabbed, and just like when a mouse touches the cheese on the trap (although I’ve found a dollop of peanut butter equally attractive!) the bail arm would ‘thwack’ over, releasing the line. On the Abus, depressing the front button would make a lovely ‘ping’ sound, causing a similar result. I can clearly remember an old advert in the angling press back in the 1980s for the Mitchell Match, stating that using its finger dab would save a second a cast, which would in turn equate to minutes gained each match to catch your prey!
Now being the confirmed tackle tart that I am, you’ll know that I had at some time or another examples of all of these reels. My first was a new-fangled Abu 506 that I bought from a friend who just couldn’t get on with it, before upgrading to a nice deep blue Mitchell 440A Match, which I bought from my mum’s ‘club book’ or Littlewoods catalogue and paid off weekly with the earnings from my paper round! Although both highly effective in the right hands both reels had their ‘faults’. With the Abus the nice close line control, quick casting and protection from the elements was offset by a slow retrieve and poor line lay, which meant that the line wouldn’t always peel off smoothly while trotting. This and the friction over the internal mechanism would also cut down casting distance a little. As a result several engineers custom produced shallow spools for them, to get over this problem.
Now the spools weren’t the problem with the Mitchells as they had possibly the first massproduced shallow spool, which meant the line lay was excellent. The line flowed off it brilliantly for casting and trotting; the problems occurred when you had to get the bail arm back over! As you couldn’t get it back over manually, you had to turn the handle, which always resulted in a bit of slack line, meaning Mr Roach would have a chance of slipping off the Mustard 90340 barbless hook!
There was a remedy for this, but it was quite extreme; of course, knowing me, I did it with all of my Match models. You had to strip the reel down, hold it in a vice and, using a blowtorch, heat up the metal stem and carefully bend the spool towards the foot, closing the distance you had to reach to trap the line while striking. Now when you turned the handle the bail arm would pick the line from the back of your finger, meaning the 90340 had a better chance of staying put!
So with these Heath Robinson modifications to both of these models, you think they’d both be the perfect river float fishing reels, and I’d still be using them. But I’m not, because something else came along which I think has become a modern classic, a reel so unique that no other manufacturer has come close to it, and is still available in its original form some 25 years after its first release!
So please step forward the Daiwa 1657DM, take a bow, and once you’ve finished, please join eight of your close friends that are attached to my rods in my ready-made rod bag!
The 1657 in the M and the DM variants (the DM being the deluxe model with a one-touch folding handle and extra ball bearing over the M’s single one!) were Daiwa’s attempts to modernise Mitchell’s finger-dab concept, and feature a composite body, skirted spools, rear drag ( but being a dinosaur – a chaveysaurus – mine are always graunched tight as I back wind!) and smooth retrieve thanks to the massive spec of two ball bearings, but also its best feature, the ability to get the bail arm back over manually! No longer were those roach or bonus chub sticking two fins up to you as they bumped off the hook and glided back to tell their chums that eating those lovely bronze maggots wouldn’t be such a smart thing to do!
Some of those eight 1657s that I own are the originals that I bought back in around 1989 (so they could be older than some readers!). But if I feel the need to own any more, incredibly Daiwa still has them in its catalogue! How many items of tackle can you say that about?
Their cult status has made them a must-have for serious river anglers, and the re-emergence of natural-water angling will, I reckon, see their popularity grow, which may put a stop to my need to own the world’s share of them.
You see, over the past 10 years or so I’ve been stockpiling them thanks to eBay. Maybe it’s the commercial boom and the need for everything to be powerful and shiny new that has seen their owners list them on the popular auction site? Up against the brightly coloured modern reels, featuring 10-plus ball bearings, thick hollow bail arms and line rollers, the 1657 looks, like me, a little prehistoric. It doesn’t even have a line clip, just a little hole to poke your line through when not in use! Although, like the spare spool supplied, I don’t often use it as all my rods and reels are left ‘made up’.
See I’m not that old fashioned! If there was an angling ‘Hall of Fame’ I might even send one of these reels into it, although it’d be one with a dodgy bail arm spring and sounding like a coffee grinder when winding in fish – I’m not that generous! So if you fancy getting back on the rivers and saving a second every time you cast out, give the Daiwa 1657DM a go.
As I said earlier, Daiwa still makes them, so they are available in your local shop, but if you’re bidding for any on eBay and the highest bidder at the time is a certain ‘chavey67’ please don’t outbid me!