How big will you go with a click-and-pawl?

I spent most of the past few weeks fishing only with click-and-pawl reels. That was mostly just for kicks. I have nothing against disc-drag reels (What are you kidding? I love disc-drag reels), but every now and then I get into palming the reel myself. And let’s face it, a click-and-pawl reel sounds beautiful when a fish is tugging line off of it. I love that distinctive purr.

Let’s not avoid the other issue… click-and-pawls cost a lot less than the fancy drag reels do. It’s really hard to justify spending an extra few hundred bucks sometimes when you know that 99.99 percent of your reel’s practical function will be spooling up line when you aren’t casting it.

I’ve been fishing for trout for over 30 years now, and I honestly can only remember about two or three times when a mouth-hooked trout (not fouled) has shown me my backing knot. And that was mostly because of the fast currents I was fishing, if I remember correctly. Bonefish are a completely different story. And so are salmon and steelhead.

Which leads me to my question. I have a lot of friends who swear by click-and-pawl reels when fishing a two-hander for steelhead. I’ve done it a few times myself, and if you think the little brown trout reel music is cool, the steelhead symphony is better. But I’m a little more out of my comfort zone there.

If we want to catch and release, one of the most important things to do is to land your fish as quickly as possible. I’m not a big fan of super light leaders and tippets for that reason. But does the drag performance of a reel also factor into this discussion? How big of a fish will you risk hooking into with only a click-and-pawl? That’s not to pass judgment (I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, because I’ve seen people land big fish fast with click reels, and I’ve also seen people get free-spooled with a fancy disc reel).

I’m just looking for some guidance.

—Kirk Deeter

Comments

 
said on Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Kirk-

think this question is valid. You’ve pointed out some of the reasons we like to use click and pawl (they’re fun). But there’s another reason we love them... they have super low resistance in getting the action going (low startup inertia).

I’ve written more about this here: https://dryfliesforever.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/the-click-and-pawl-reel-not-just-for-clicques/

My rule for myself after fishing click and pawl reels extensively for large trout is this: I trust a click and pawl reel in any sutuation where I would fish a mayfly. That sounds highly subjective, but I think it’s a good rule. You would expect those situations to be light tippet, soft presentation situations and you’d be right in the wheelhouse of the click-and-pawl. Anything beyond that may find you in a situation where you’d appreciate a disc drag more. 

I routinely fish 6-7x and most all of my flies are size 18 and smaller (some much smaller). I don’t know if I would have had the same success with any other reel type over the last 4-5 years. I’m comfortable with a C&P with trout up to 22”. I think the C&P action has helped me to become a better angler, and it’s taught me how to land fish with more speed and less error. I break off significantly less often when using a C&P, and I think I have more fun, too. Some of the speed improvements  in landing fish come from having that sensitivity and ability to control the “brakes” manually rather than mechanically (by palming the reel) has resulted in many more fish coming to the net with good vitality left.

As you can see, I’m a huge fan. 

Thanks for the great article and thought-provoking questions.

-Ryan McCullough

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said on Saturday, October 28th, 2017

I fish the click and pearl reels exsclusively. I have used them from a 4wt to an 8 wt. The talent of a fisherman landing a fish is more important than the reel. The only advantage that the “Star Wars” reels have is the amount of backing that they can hold.

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said on Saturday, October 28th, 2017

I fish the click and pearl reels exsclusively. I have used them from a 4wt to an 8 wt. The talent of a fisherman landing a fish is more important than the reel. The only advantage that the “Star Wars” reels have is the amount of backing that they can hold.

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said on Friday, October 27th, 2017

I love the clickers too.  Nymphing is not the same with those disk drag units.  The feel is more direct once you learn finger placement rules.  I am so silly I even love my auto reels for pan fish and such--how's that for old?

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said on Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Generally I agree.  I fish trout, have for 50+ years, not steelhead and salmon, so it is a rare trout that can't be handled by a click pawl, especailly for someone experienced.  And there are some newer meaning better click reels out now, such as Ross Reels Colorado model and others.  As you mention, most of the times I have gotten into my backing it was because of, not a huge fish, but a good fish getting an advantage in current or rapids where really the line in the water is pulling more line out than the fish itself.

As you also mention and others mention, 99% of the time, the reel, especially its type of click or disc, is not the most important factor in landing.  However, what about that 1%?  Its that 1% that comes along rarely, and to land a really large fish, especailly in current, yes a click will do the job, but a disc is superior.

Because that 1% comes rarely and unexpected, I fish a disc so I have that advantage when needed.  I also carry a small survival kit in my fishing vest and hope that 1% emergency never comes, but I am prepared.  Same thing.  When that big fish takes, its too late to switch from a 99% reel to a 1% reel.

Joel Evans, Montrose CO

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