Here you go: one actual positive to come from the government-assisted assassination of the Australian automotive industry.
Ashleigh Dunsmore, a fitter and turner and CAM programmer by trade and fly-fisherman in nature, has turned his busy hands and even busier mind to making fly reels instead of just auto parts and what’s coming out of his small factory unit south of Melbourne is nothing short of world-class.
The man is living, flat-out, hard-working proof that Australia is and can remain competitive in manufacturing despite all the bad press otherwise.
And yes, Ash works hard. On the day I visited the workshop he seemed to be doing half a dozen things at any one moment, yet still had time to explain the start-to-finish process of reel making and even stop for a second for the odd photo.
I’ve been following the progress of Harfin through social media, and I will admit that it’s hard to keep up. One minute Ash is cutting wood for his ski/fishing lodge River Stone Lodge in the NE Victoria and the next he’s harvesting grapes somewhere. In the middle is some hunting, fly fishing and family stuff. At the same time, reels seem to be flying out the door of the workshop and posts from happy customers are growing like the weeds in Nimbin.
Ash has designed every part of the reel using a combination of his fishing and manufacturing skills and his attention to detail really shows. Looking up close at the reels for the first time, I am amazed at the quality of the fit and finish.
A Harfin reel starts its life as a hunk of 6061T6 aircraft-grade aluminium bar stock that Ash tells me is the same stuff all the good reels are made of. Then around 70 percent of the material is turned, milled, drilled and buffed off on some very high end German CNC machinery. All the off-cuts and scrap is sent to recycling. There are around 30 to 40 man hours involved in it’s manufacture from start to finish and a lot of the process is done one part at a time.
316 marine-grade stainless is used in all steel parts of a Harfin and the main shaft is also machined from bar stock for ultimate strength. All models are saltwater safe, though there’s two weight classes with the LR78F, LR90F and LR94F being built with lighter weight as the main consideration and the LR100, LR110, and LR110W all featuring larger drag hardware for big stopping power. The drag unit itself is a fully sealed unit that uses stacked Rulon and stainless steel disks. It’s a very smooth drag with low start-up resistance that is fully serviceable at home or in the shop if needed. The number and size of the discs are unique to each model.
If colour is your thing, there’s 7 standard colours. Black, Satin Silver, Burnt Orange, Lime Green, Gunmetal Grey, Cobalt Blue and my favourite, Forest Green.
As all the anodising is done in house, custom colours are also available as is custom engraving.
At present there are five models of the LR range that run from 3-weight trout models to 11-weight saltwater bruisers.
Also on offer; Harfin makes a range of reel seats with rare and unique timbers and nickel-plated aluminium hardware for freshwater rods and titanium models for saltwater. Both can be ordered with custom-coloured anodised parts as well. They’re priced between $40 and $150 depending on spec.
Given the rise in ‘do it yourself’ rob building I can see these being very popular.
It’s hard to directly compare reels these days as there’s so much on offer and so much to separate them in terms of features, design and purpose, but Harfin sits comfortably with the top-end American reels on build quality and finish, and given Ash’s dedication to the design and build quality as well as his seemingly endless energy, I can easily see them becoming a big Aussie flag-waver around the world.
Of course, Ash isn’t the first guy to make a fly reel in Australia and maybe not the last, but like those who have gone before, there’s a certain amount of feel-good factor when handling one of these knowing they’re made here and not overseas. It’s also nice to know the guy making them is as passionate about the sport as most of us are.
The reels are available directly from the Harfin website at www.harfinflyreels.com. And if you think you can keep up, you can find Ash on Facebook.
This article originally published in Flylife magazine.