I can still recall handling an original Abel TR many years back at my local fly shop in California. I couldn't afford one at the time, but I remember drooling over its smooth lines, flawless finish, and elegant wood accents. It was a thing of beauty then, and would still be a stunner even today. Classic is an understatement—every old school Abel was a straight up legend in my book.
Now over 20 years later, guess what? The TR series is back. Abel has reintroduced these reels with several updates and slightly more edgy looks to give them a bit more of a 2018-ish appearance. For the light freshwater angler that wants to keep things simple, these look like pretty incredible options. Lets have a closer look at the Abel TR 4/5!
The new TR reels offer a pretty epic blend of classic and modern looks along with Abel's famed precision and quality. Compared to the original series, there's more porting throughout and the holes are more of an oval shape compared to the old round ones. The back of the frame is now both flat and cleaner in appearance, with the top half being solid which makes a great canvas for that custom color you might want to order. On the inside of the frame, you'll find milled silhouettes of a stonefly, caddis, and mayfly for a truly custom touch—I just wish there was an option to get this on the outside, too!
The spool is now large arbor and features no outer counterweight thanks to an integrated spool clicker. The drag clicker is situated on the inside of the spool opposite where the outer counterweight would normally be, thus providing a counterweight that's out of sight from the exterior. That's a pretty cool design feature that adds just a little more cleanliness to the outside.
Fully machined inside and out, the new TR reels use only 21 total parts for the ultimate in simplicity. Fit and finish was immaculate as expected from Abel.
There's been a few references to simplicity thus far, and a big reason for this is because the TR uses an old school click-pawl drag system. Comprised of a small piece of metal (aka a "pawl") that clicks against a small gear on the inside of the spool, the system provides just enough resistance to help prevent bad spool overruns. With no adjustment available, your palm or fingers provide any additional tension you may want. This drag is great for light tippets and clicks quite audibly when a fish peels line. It's a ton of fun!
There is spool vibration/wobble when pulling line off the reel at a moderate or fast speed. This wasn't noticeable during actual fishing since the 2–4 pound largemouth bass I hooked into during testing didn't make any extraordinary runs, but catch something that runs faster and farther and you'll probably feel it. Perhaps a traditional spool counterbalance would've helped more here?
My tester came equipped with the walnut handle which was generously sized and very comfortable to grip. Retrieve speed was fair thanks to a decent diameter and large arbor spool. Click sounds upon retrieve were identical to the sound emitted by the drag....about a 7 out of 10 on the loudness scale!
The spool center cap is heavily textured and is easy to twist/remove when it comes time to get the spool on/off. There's zero issues when both taking off and re-seating the spool which is always a plus, especially when your hands are cold or you're in a rush to get your fly back in the water.
Made in Colorado, this is truly a premium reel at a surprisingly less-than-premium price....by Abel standards, anyhow! It would make an incredible tool for the angler targeting species like trout, bass, and smaller carp that doesn't require or desire a beefy adjustable drag system. The basic design also keeps weight down which makes the TR a perfect match for the lightest fly rods on the market.
TR reels come in the 4/5 size as tested, in addition to a smaller 2/3. I don't have any intel at the moment, but I'd love to see the addition of a 5/6 or maybe even a 7/8 in the future. How cool would that be? I'm definitely interested in buying one of these for myself perhaps next year, and a larger size would be a really interesting and more cost-effective alternative for certain applications. Are you listening, Abel?
Line Size: 4/5
Measured Weight: Approx 4.48 ounces
Diameter: 3.29 inches
Spool Width: .775 inches
Backing Capacity (20 pound): 85 yards with WF4F / 65 yards with WF5F
Drag: Click Pawl
Tested Max Drag: N/A
Easy Release Spool: Yes (twist off center cap)
R/L Conversion: Yes
Reel Pouch: Yes
Spare Spool Price: $237
Reel Price: $395
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