I suppose I could be described as something of a ‘Tackle Tart’ when it comes to Centre Pin reels. And whilst I own 2 or 3 ‘production’ reels (my favourite being a Young’s Purist) I’m a real sucker for the hand built reel. I have a couple of Paul Witcher’s finest, a Chris Lythe and a Richard Carter and whilst this modest collection pales against the numbers some collectors I know have accumulated, at least I can say they get used. A lot! I was particularly keen therefore to get my hands on the new Anglers' Net Centre Pin - especially after the rave reviews of some of the first people to see it.
The reel is built by Andy Cowler of G W Cowler Precision Engineers. Andy, otherwise known to devotees of the Anglers' Net Forums as Jigotai, after his love of Judo, no doubt, - (try putting 'jigotai' into Google to see what I mean!) sent me a prototype to try out. The reel is a 4½in narrow drum with no line guard and little wooden dowel handles. It looks modern and elegant and, whilst all the makers I listed earlier have tried to replicate a century old design and come up with a classic spoked aerial - Andy’s reel is stylishly milled from bar stock aluminium and has its own distinctive look. I think it looks neater and ‘cleaner’ than the Okuma’s. (I hate all those holes!). Andy plans to build this reel in numerous different colours: though I rather like the black one he sent me.
The first thing I did was weigh it!! Reel weight is an important factor for me as I have suffered from RSI in my thumb and tennis elbow in my right arm in the past - due to days spent trotting the river. (How I suffer for my sport!). 265g. This compares to 300g for my Young’s Purist, 246g for the Chris Lythe and 220g for the 1920 Witcher. The Purist hardly gets used these days (& never for whole day sessions) as it was the main culprit for my ‘injuries’. (The finished reel now weighs 260g - Ed)
The reel spins very well - and, especially for a ball race reel, appears to have very low inertia - the slightest touch sets it spinning. I love the mechanism for the ratchet - easy to use with one hand - though I wish the ratchet was set a bit stronger as I like to play fish on the drag. My only real concern was the ease at which I’d be able to get the spool off the back plate. I often find myself during a session removing the spool - to blow away a bit of crud that’s got onto the back plate and that is slowing the reel down. With most designs this is easy to do (I sometimes even do it ‘mid-trot‘), but this reel needs a screwdriver to take the spool off. Of course only field testing would determine whether crud actually gets behind the spool quite as easy as it appears to do with the classic ‘bicycle spoked’ aerials I’m used to.
How it Performed
The original plan was for me to give the reel it’s debut on the Itchen at the end of February. Alas, Andy’s couriers let him down and it didn’t arrive with me on time. So my first opportunity to use it was on the canal - actually a much better test for the reel’s capabilities. The fast flow of the Itchen would pull line off all but the most rusted up of ‘Pins. Would the barely perceptible flow of the Kennet and Avon take line from Andy’s masterpiece?
The answer? Not quite! When I arrived at dawn in a dead calm the float wouldn’t budge - It needed the gentlest of a down stream breeze to give it a helping hand! Perhaps not the fairest of tests as I’m sure there wasn’t even enough flow to pull line of a fixed spool reel with the bail arm open!
My first impressions on using it were how well designed the positioning of the ratchet button really was - right where I ‘rest’ my index finger on the back plate - making it easy to engage. My one ‘beef’ with this button is that it’s too easy to disengage. I like to make my rods up in a quiver - and the button kept getting ‘knocked off’, resulting in a birds nest around the reel as I carried my gear. It needs to be stiffer to stop this happening.
(The spring has since been stiffened, solving this problem - Ed)
I used the reel solidly for two days. After its debut on the canal, where I managed a nice perch of 2lb 12oz, I put it to more traditional use trotting for grayling and the ultimate test of a whole day session on the Kennet.
Overall the reel performed very well - I had no cause to remove the spool - so it obviously doesn’t collect crud as easily as my other reels - or perhaps it is more ‘forgiving’ if it does. (I haven’t taken the spool off to check!).The first two hours on the Kennet were spent fishing in the rain - and it continued to perform well when wet! The extra diameter over my usual reels gave me noticeably quicker retrieves especially as this is an easy reel to ‘bat’.
On the downside - I experienced more bedding in than I do with my wide drums. I only put around 40m of line on - much less than I would normally put on, yet still experienced the occasional problem especially after landing a fish. (This is more a wide drum V narrow drum issue and not a criticism of this reel).
The weight is a bit of an issue - I didn’t notice it on the short sessions but after 9 hours trotting my arm was somewhat sore. I didn’t have quite the same problems fishing with a lighter reel for a similar length of time on the Itchen a fortnight earlier. (It’s amazing the difference an extra ounce and a half makes!).
So, to sum up, an excellent reel - competitively priced. And I’ve probably been a little unfair comparing it to reels which have cost me several times what this will sell for!
If you’re in the market for a new centre pin and you’ve been looking at,say, the Okuma Sheffield or the Kennet, then I’d definitely look at this reel too (and Buy British!). If Andy irons out some of the minor glitches mentioned above in the ‘production’ models, then it’s really a bit of a ’no-brainer’!
Would “I” buy one? - Yes!! (I‘m not sending this one back! - Cheque’s in the post - Andy). Will this get used? - Yes! Probably not as much as my wide drums if I’m honest but for venues where I do a lot of LONG trotting - this reel wins for its quicker line retrieval. However Andy, if you’re ever considering building a 3¾in diameter, wide drum I’ll buy that too!!
Body & Spool: 4.1/2" Diameter Narrow spool made from aluminium billet and anodised black.
Ratchet Mechanism: Polished Stainless steel.
Reel Foot: Chrome plated Brass
Bearings: 2 Miniature ball races
Weight: 260 grms
CLICK HERE if you are interested in buying the Anglers' Net Centrepin Reel online.