I FIRST took up saltwater fly fishing over 20 years ago, and back then a decent saltwater fly reel cost an arm and a leg. And they were heavy brutes too, in no way comparable with the lightweight and very efficient models available in today's tackle stores.
My early attempts at saltwater fly fishing involved a Hardy Salmon reel. I distinctly remember that I could not, by a long way, afford a Fin-Nor reel (funny that; I still can't) and I recall setting up the big Hardy reel with a counter weight to offset the handle's wobble effect when things started to rotate quickly. In retrospect, the big Salmon reel certainly had the line capacity but it sadly lacked a decent drag. Ever tried to stop a tuna on a spring click drag?
A few years ago I came across the Fenwick F9 12 Large Arbor reel and it has filled the bill nicely, holding oodles of Bionic Braid backing along with an entire Scientific Anglers Striped Bass weight forward 10 line. The drag is both powerful and very positive, but being a bit of a tackle rat I was as keen as mustard to try out the neat VK79R.
This reel is brilliant to use. While not as large as big brother VK 910R, the 79R still holds an entire fly line (love those Striped Bass tapers) plus a full 350 metres of 50 pound gelspun backing. Incidentally, I set the reel up with around 60 metres of Dacron on which to nestle the braid on as well. So, while the 79R is not the largest in the range of new Fewnwick reels, it certainly has the capacity to tame the likes of tuna and mackerel when fishing from a boat.
I found the reel to be well balanced on a Nautikos 10-weight fly rod. The large drag knob at the rear of the reel is easy to use, the adjustments are quite precise, and the drag is a serious lock-up affair (when required). One of the best aspects is that the spool is very easy to swap for another if you need to change the fly line.
To compliment the VK910 and VK79 is the smaller VK57R, which is ideal for the likes of tailor, flathead, bass and similar sized fish.
1) The VK79 R and Scientific Angler's Striped Bass Tropicore fly line were great on mackerel like this one.
2) The spool of the new Fenwick VK79R can be exchanged in seconds, a handy feature for today's serious fly angler.Reads: 1936