#FlyGearTopPick: Abel SDF 5/6 Fly Reel Review
Updated: Jun 22
With the introduction of the SD (Sealed Drag) series a few years ago, Abel finally entered the world of, well, sealed-drag fly reels. After building their legendary reputation with offerings like the still-awesome-to-this-day Big Game series and several others, many of us (me included) were elated that they finally had a reel family offering a maintenance-free drag system. While the SD series was indeed pretty great, Abel found a way to turn up the dial with the new SDF (Sealed Drag Fresh) and SDS (Sealed Drag Salt) reels. Both wanting and somewhat needing a new 5/6 reel, I scooped up a custom-colored SDF 5/6 for myself several weeks back.
Line Size: 5/6
Weight: 5.42 ounces
Diameter: 3.61 inches
Width: 1.12 inches
Backing Capacity (20 pound):
WF5F / 125 yards
WF6F / 100 yards
Drag: Carbon / Stainless (fully sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 5 pounds
Machined/Cast: Fully Machined
Easy Release Spool: Yes
R/L Conversion: Yes
Tested Color: Satin Slate / Blue III drag knob and handle
Reel Pouch: Yes
Spare Spools Available: Yes ($455)
Base Reel Price: $755.00
Price as Tested: $935.00
Basically a scaled-down version of the SDS series, these reels are built for years of flawless service. Fully machined with the utmost precision, the SDF series has larger arbor and spool diameters than the discontinued SD reels, new machined handle designs, upgraded drag knobs, new fully-sealed stainless/carbon fluoropolymer drag stacks, and each weighs almost an ounce lighter versus a comparable SD.
Appearance is obviously subjective, but I personally think these new reels look upscale, exotic, and downright bad-ass from any angle. Honestly, these are easily one of the best-looking reels on the market right now.....in my humble opinion. Yep, this new design just really does it for me and there's no doubt it's a substantial upgrade in the looks department over the SD.
I ordered my reel in the Satin Slate color with a Blue III drag knob and handle. The main color is basically flat, while the shiny blue provides just the right amount of complimentary contrast for a completely awesome look. Speaking of appearance, the machining, tightness, and finish of all parts leaves nothing to be desired. Top notch.
Thanks to the larger spool and arbor diameters over the old SD, line pickup comes at a pleasingly quick rate. The narrow spool width—something I've always loved about Abels—also helps with quick leveling of line. The new handle design also helps make line retrieval pleasant and easy. Machined from aircraft aluminum, the sizing is excellent and comfort level is high. The added porting and machined detailing around the circumference is a nice touch as well.
I tested the maximum drag pressure of my 5/6 SDF at around 5 pounds―not exactly impressive by today's standards, but wholly adequate. The system consists of an eight-disc carbon and stainless stack that produces seamless startup and feeds line out smoothly regardless of the drag setting. Both the drag and retrieve produce a mild clicking sound that doesn't sound cheap or hollow.
The new large drag knob looks aggressive and is easy to use thanks to its height and outer rim design. Now, I wouldn't say its reverse taper is the most comfortable to grasp, but it works just fine. As the knob is turned, detents are quite soft and it takes about two turns to run through the full range of settings.
Spool removal is done by unscrewing the center cap on the front of the reel. When taken apart, the center cap stays solidly attached to the spool so there's no worries about it falling off and going bye-bye.
Included with each reel is a pouch sporting an all-new design made with premium nylon and a fleece liner. Additionally, there's a large velcro closure, drain holes, and a small Colorado flag representing the new home of Abel and Ross Reels. Like the reels they protect, these pouches are a definite upgrade and really finish off the whole package nicely. Also of note, you can purchase one by itself for $50.
When buying an SDF reel, frames can be ordered ported (like mine) or solid. Besides my 5/6, other sizes include a 4/5 and 6/7.
If you want to spoil yourself in a major way, an SDF reel is a phenomenal choice to accomplish that. It's simply an outstanding reel and is our latest choice for #FlyGearTopPick in the reel category. 'Nuff said!