Behind the Scenes of the New Abel Nippers

When Abel Reels announced they were ending production of their original nippers, the remaining stock flew off fly shop counters as anglers waited to see when the Montrose, Colorado-based manufacturer would release a replacement. Fast-forward to late-2021 and the first iterations of the newly redesigned nipper began to be spotted at trade shows and around insiders’ necks, generating plenty of buzz and discussion around fly shops counters, online forums, and Instagram comments sections. After seeing the reactions from the general fly fishing public, we decided we needed to sit down with Mayfly’s Director of Sales, Jeff Patterson, and their Director of Engineering, Rob Hauck, to discuss Mayfly’s latest, and most talked-about product.


Flylords: What prompted the redesign of the iconic Abel nipper?

Jeff: It’s hard to believe, but it has been over a decade since we introduced the original Abel Nipper. They’ve enjoyed an incredibly great run. I’m grateful to have been a part of several innovative product launches since starting at Abel in 1992. Our products change the perspective of what a next-level design can accomplish in the field. That’s our mission at Abel and it drives our design philosophy. Our entire team was honored to have it win the “Best New Accessory Over $50” award at the 2022 IFTD show in March.

Yes, most anglers generally know about the Abel reel, but not many people are aware that we also introduced the industry’s first machined pliers back in the mid-1990s. Taking a risk with an innovative, machined, and ultra-quality manufactured tool is nothing new to us. If it’s not the best, we simply won’t make it. We’re flattered at how many other brands have tried to make a nipper similar to ours.

Rob: On the engineering side, this was a chance to look at optimizing an already great product. Feel, weight, symmetry, cosmetics, and functionality were all on the table. We took years of market feedback and made multiple changes that we believe result in a nipper that feels perfect in your hands. We considered many details down to the amount of force to close the nipper, the total opening of the jaws, and the angles that make a good jaw cut perfectly.

We then designed the ability for user-sharpening, including an eyelet cleaner that is more robust and accessible. And of course the magnets – who doesn’t love magnets! The lanyard with anodized machined sliders and the color selections round out the whole picture. In the “form follows function” arena, the symmetric design improves the overall quality, precision, and reliability of the body.

Flylords: How long did the total redesign process take?

Jeff: Over a period of around five+ years while reviewing what we could have originally done to make the first ones even better. Realistically, we did listen to what both our dealers and consumers would have liked to have seen to improve the design. We also have numerous years of field use that allowed us to learn what was generally beat upon them the most, and what we could do to improve the next version.

Rob: We took several years of feedback and then turned that into an entirely new product. About a year of fine-tuning in CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and then months of manufacturing engineering is what it took to get to the nipper we have now. We’ve also integrated several new tools in our quality department to ensure consistency in the product that Abel is known for.

Flylords: What are your favorite features of the new Nippers?

Jeff: That’s a tough one. My favorite feature is how great it feels in my hand. It looks larger than our previous nipper, but it feels like a stout, precision instrument to me. It has user sharpenable jaws and a hook eye cleaner that can be easily replaced if it’s somehow bent.

We also wanted this to be a very “Abel” product and created a Build Your Own Nipper platform where our customers can currently design fifty-four different color schemes. The Nipper body is currently available in three different Type III anodized finishes for added durability, and eighteen different Type II anodized scales to provide that customization feature. One of the available scales is a hand anodized, licensed Grateful Dead Lightning Bolt.

Rob: No surprise from an engineering nerd here – magnets are awesome and always will be! The multiple benefits of keeping a fly or two on the nipper body or hanging it up on a metal door frame just for fun. The fact that we were able to get such a good spring effect is awesome and it’ll last forever assuming you don’t throw it in a volcano. Of course, just looking at the final product in all its colorful fit and finish is quite satisfying.

Flylords: What design features do you think will surprise anglers the most?

Jeff: It’s much lighter than you would optically assume. It’s a machined aluminum body with two machined aluminum scales and four magnets. Adding all that up along with the 440C stainless steel jaws it still weighs in at less than 1.4 ounces total.

Rob: It’s been mentioned before but most people that I’ve seen handle the nipper for the first time really appreciate the “feel” of it. We’ve made multiple iterations of the slight radiuses that result in how it sits in your hand. The amount of force to close the nippers is just right. One thing that is pretty awesome is that the bodies are Type III anodized. We’ve put considerable effort into our own in-house processing of the bodies that result in amazing color finishes that are going to last through those hard and fast fishing excursions.

Flylords: Tell us a little bit about the magnetic “springs” you’ve designed the Nippers around.

Jeff: One of the things we learned from the original nipper is that the center spring that created the bounceback as they opened up again could get “crusty” when exposed to saltwater over time if they weren’t rinsed off. We understand that not everybody is great about taking care of their equipment, but on a rare occasion, we’d even see a spring getting too much salt buildup to even open or close the nipper. The opposing magnets design we are utilizing eliminates that problem. The added bonus of the magnets is that they create a convenient fly dock when out on the water. That’s not a big deal when you are rigging large flies, but pretty cool when you’re tying on a size 22 BWO or using multiple fly rigs.

Rob: In technical terms, we’re utilizing the strongest permanent magnets we can get our hands-on. Nickel-plated NdFeB (Neodymium Iron Boron) grade N52 magnets result in a great spring opening force in a small and lightweight package that won’t corrode or degrade.

Flylords: When can folks get their hands on the new nippers at their local Abel dealers?

Jeff: The new Abel Nippers will begin shipping from our Colorado factory in mid-to-late May, and will be available through all of our authorized dealers that pre-ordered them last fall. New orders will be subject to about a 4 – 6 week lead time.

Rob: The sooner the better! It feels like we’ve been working on this project together for a really long time. We’re excited to get it out to the market for our customers to experience too.

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