Fly fisherman by nature are pretty big gear junkies. Personally, I don’t think I can go into a fly shop for a “quick visit.” I spend hours even in the smallest of outfitters looking at everything. There is always one thing I do think about now every time I find myself walking the aisles of a fly shop. Is this piece of gear going to be reliable?
I am fortunate enough to get on the water a lot. I hope to get a lot of use out of anything I buy. I have learned quite a bit about gear in the last year. One of which is the saying “You get what you pay for!” isn’t always the case.
You can usually find me hiking through the Catskills looking for trout. I had an incredible season in 2018 but I had my fair share of trout I lost. It’s hard to get angry when a fish breaks you off. Being surrounded by the beauty of the mountains and the sound of a running mountain stream really puts you at ease, it’s therapeutic.
I can really only think of a handful of times when I got mad on the water. I can think of one day in particular that really got me though. It wasn’t so much a big brown or brookie getting away that triggered me to have a momentary lapse of sanity that day but why the catch of a lifetime got away. It was the complete failure of a piece of equipment that got to me… a reel!
My typical trout set up in any given day is either a Moonshine rods 9’5wt Drifter or my go to Moonshine rods Epiphany series euro nymph rod. In this case, I was euro nymphing pocket water in a really sketchy section. The water on both sides of this pocket was running pretty fast but I had a plan if I hooked up. I didn’t expect to get a take as big as I did. In an instant I could tell it was one of the largest trout I had ever seen take my fly, a beadless hares ear size 14 tied on a heavy wire hook.
When it rolled, shook and then went airborne I think my heart skipped a beat. It was was a huge bow. I know people exaggerate but this bow was the biggest one I had ever seen in person. My rod was bent up like never before and I was instantly taken to the reel. My reel at the time was one marketed to have an incredible drag system, lightweight and made in the USA. The fish swam up to the surface again splashing around a bit and decided to head into the faster water taking line. My plan was working to get it out of the current and into another accessible pocket to net it. And that is when it all went downhill.
My reel jammed and my rod bent to a degree I have never seen before. The bow went airborne again unable to take more line. I was panicking but doing my best to maneuver this colored up monster into reach but it had other plans. The reel suddenly started working again for about 3 seconds and the fish ran. I felt the reel stop abruptly again and heard the line break. Everything went slack. I watched the bow swim off heartbroken.
When I went to retrieve my line it seems my $500 reel had seized up again and failed me when I needed it to work the most. My blood was boiling, steam was coming out of my ears. My friend told me the look on my face was one that told the whole story without even speaking a word. The day was over after that and led me to question everything I thought about reels.
Since that epic failure, I have been gone through an array of reels. It made me rethink a lot about what I was looking for in a reel. I had friends and fellow anglers give me a hard time over spending so much on a trout reel that ended up going back and getting fixed under warranty in less than a year when their $100 specials lasted them over a decade with no problems. I tried out a few brands before finally trying out Ross. I liked my first one so much that I very quickly gathered a few different models. They became a quick favorite and my go-to reel today is a Ross Gunnison.
I have a huge appreciation for the classic look of the Gunnison, the milling really takes it back to that vintage reel look. It may be a little heavier than some of today’s ultralight reels but I haven’t noticed any issues. The reel is pretty bombproof, it comes with me anytime I even think there is a possibility of fishing. I landed the largest brown trout I have ever caught using that reel. It took me to my backing so fast but not once did I ever have to worry about my Gunnison.
If you are into euro nymphing it pairs incredibly well with longer rod setups. The balance between the 5/6 Gunnison and my Moonshine Rods epiphany 3wt feels like they were made for each other. The drag system on the Gunnison and Evolution LTX are the same despite the reels looking nothing alike. This drag system has helped me put the breaks on some large steelhead but isn’t overkill for everyday trout fishing.
I do have a soft spot for a nice click n pawl reel and it just so happens Ross makes one that is very lightweight but is stronger than any other reel in its class. The video of Ross’s Bart Larmouth bouncing the Colorado lt spool off the concrete is no joke. I have seen it done and the spool has come out unscathed. You gotta love the sound of that reel too. It isn’t often on those small brookie streams that you get a fish that pulls a lot of lines but when you do that reel sings.
One thing I notice with the entire line of Ross reels is the craftsmanship and attention to detail makes them stand apart in an incredibly saturated market. The tolerances in the machining are super tight, you won’t find any unnecessary play or wobble in these reels. Ross Reels takes great pride in what they do and rightfully so. These reels are really “Made on the Water.”
Article and photos from Landon Brasseur, an avid angler based down in the south. He spends most of his time fly fishing the small creeks of the Catskills for trophy trout. Give him a follow on Instagram at @lbrasseur.