Traditionally if you used a stick float for float fishing you would use either a centrepin, or closed face reel. The Abu Garcia 500 series, all made in Sweden were the closed face reels to own if you were serious about your stick fishing. They were simple in design, and to use, design for spinning they found a niche with the stick float anglers of the day.Being made in Sweden ( now in the far East) the quality was high, even though the mechanics were very simple. The bodies were made of metal and inners with cheap parts that at the time could easily be replaced, once worn. The 501 became a cult reel over the years and many say it’s never been bettered.
Old ones in mint condition fetch between £70-£100 today, when first made they cost around £20. The reel had a few downsides, particularly the clutch system that took some getting use to. However the stick men overcame this by taking out the mechanism so the reel could only back-wind. Remember these anglers were using a method (stick float fishing) designed for quantity, not big fish. So when a big fish did come along the 501 would allow the angler to backwind giving the fish line to avoid breakage. Many of todays big fish anglers still prefer to back-wind over a clutch, even though todays reels have wonderful clutch arrangement.
Abu Garcia in later years (like many UK manufacturers, Hardy for example) move their reel production to the far East, China, Thailand, and the quality metal bodywork was replaced with plastic. Lighter but not as long-lived. I doubt many of todays Abu reels will ever see two decades before they fall apart. The close faced reel had many advantages for the angler, especially in windy conditions. Centrepin reels came without a line guard in those days, so any wind could see the line getting behind the reel, very annoying and time-consuming. They also had the disadvantages of range, you could only cast so far with a pin! I love to use a pin but most of mine have line guards. The one that doesn’t I only use on still days, it’s just not worth the effort. Oddly these days anglers are just as likely to ledger with a pin, Barbel, Carp anglers especially.
I come back to the 500 series. The Match men of the day would only fill the narrow spools with 50/70 yards of very fine main line 2.6lb typically. This would help stop the bedding in of the line on the spool after a big fish was landed. After all, they were fishing for bites and big fish were the bonus of well thought out feeding tactics, another talent many of those men had. Hook-links could be as fine as 1lb or less, my mind boggles at the finesse. Hooks size 22/24/26 were common. Just recently I managed to pick up a little minter 501 that’s now with Jim’s reel shop having the anti-reverse pawn put back to its original state. The 501 is the only 500 in the series that this pawn helps the drag, and allows you to backwind with some resistance. A fish runs, the handle backwinds but with some measure of protection of the light hook-link.
The hot weather is still with use and proper fishing is limited for the time being. Stick with use as I’ve still got lots to say.