The year 1999 was a special one. Sure, I graduated high school which was great and all, but that's also the year Abel released their Super Series fly reels! Unlike Abel's Big Game Series reel offerings, the biggest feature of these new reels were their large-arbor designs. While the Super Series underwent some small changes over the years, 2017 marks a major refresh for this iconic lineup. Having owned several reels from both the Big Game and original Super Series, I was curious to see what my 5/6 tester was made of—so let's go!
Line Size: 5/6 weight
Weight: 6.23 ounces
Diameter: 3.650 inches
Spool Width: 0.825 inches
Backing Capacity (20lb):
WF5F+120 yards / WF6F+95 yards
Drag: Cork (not sealed)
Spool Release: No tools needed
R/L Retrieve: Yes
Colors: Standard black + MANY custom options
Reel Pouch: Yes
Spare Spool Price: $395
Reel Price: $655.00
Like all Abel Reels, the new Super Series 5/6 is American-made and constructed with surgical precision. Fully-machined from 6061-T651 anodized aluminum, the reel's appearance is clean and defect-free both inside and out. While many black fly reels can look a little boring, I've always loved the standard gloss-black finish Abel equips their reels with. It looks understated yet upscale, and has an extremely smooth feel to the touch.
Compared to the outgoing models, these latest versions showcase some noteworthy cosmetic and design upgrades. The biggest news by far is the addition of quick-release spools. No more carrying a coin or screwdriver to remove the spool and no more loose bits to drop in the river!
Other big features include some newly-shaped components like the center hub and counterbalance that are more rounded-off, a change in handle taper, larger arbor size, and the reel model designation is now shown on the reel foot rather than the drag knob. Inside, the double pawls are now both located on the top instead of both the top and bottom, allowing the reel to be machined-out a bit more for less weight.
The addition of a quick-release spool is a MAJOR and much-needed upgrade to the Super Series. While taking the spool off an old reel wasn't exactly complicated, it still required carrying something like a coin or tool to remove the rear screw and you had to watch out the resulting loose parts weren't dropped or lost. Trying to do this on the water was a dangerous inconvenience!
To remove the spool from one of these new reels, simply back off the drag knob enough times and the spool can be pulled right off the shaft/frame. Note that the drag knob will not actually stop turning or become detached from the frame itself. Holding down the silver center "button" on the front of the reel was helpful for me to feel the little tick when the spool had fully disengaged during this process. To reattach the spool, seat it onto the shaft/frame, firmly hold the same little button, and give the drag knob a few turns to connect everything together again.
While this new setup is definitely better than the outgoing model, I just wish there could have been a simpler and more intuitive way of spool removal/attachment.
Removing the spool was a snap for me, but I didn't always succeed in reattaching the spool to the frame on the first try. Also, after I'm done fishing for the day, I always completely back the drag off my reel before storing it. With this reel, if I back off the drag knob too far the spool may detach, so I had to remember to be more careful and not go so far.
As for drag performance, there's a hint of startup inertia present when line is first pulled off the spool. Once it starts spinning, line flows smoothly overall with a little inconsistency noted at the highest settings that most anglers will likely never need to use anyhow. Remember, this drag isn't sealed so it's best kept clean for optimal functioning. Personally, I've fished these old school open Abel drags for YEARS and have never been disappointed by them so long as I kept them clean. Although they might seem a bit ancient by today's standards, I really have a soft spot for these simplistic cork discs.
The maximum drag setting produces excellent power and roughly three full turns gets you from the lightest to the highest setting. Along the way, there's unmistakable detents throughout the range. The drag knob's size also makes it easy to grab onto with or without gloves.
Cranking on the reel brought a smile to my face. The new handle shape (our tester was Walnut) is really comfortable and the bigger arbor combined with the narrow spool allows for quick line retrieval. I loved the way the old Super Series reels sounded and this one is no different. There's a stout, high-quality clicking sound when winding-in line, however the drag is a little more mellow sounding when line is pulled off.
I was really surprised to see Abel release these new reels as I had zero indication of a redesign until seeing the pics popup on social media. Overall, these are a successful upgrade over the outgoing models and suffer no performance losses compared to those good old reels I spent so much time with. Each new Super Series reel comes in the standard Gloss Black finish and can be had with your choice of a Walnut, Ebony, Zebrawood, or Rosewood handle. Many custom finishes ranging from mild to WOAH! are available which can be configured on Abel's very cool Reel Builder.
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