Abel TR reels

Abel TR Light fly reel review on twigwater


Many years ago, back in the bronze age the fly shop I used to work at part time, the Australian Fly Fisherman, stocked three kinds of fly-reels. There were Hardys if you fished for trout in tweed, the Scientific Angler System 2’s if you were one of the very, very few who fly-fished in the saltwater or fished for trout but were to cool for tweed, and then a smattering of cheap stuff if you couldn’t be bothered with salt and didn’t have enough money for tweed.

Read the Twigwater review of the newly updated in 2018 TR reels:

Then everything changed with the arrival of Abel Big Game reels. They were well made and expensive beasts compared to everything else on sale. The machining work was like nothing anyone had ever seen before.

Our saltwater guys didn’t need much selling thanks to the incredible serviceable drags and heavy build, but the trout guys suffered a little tightening around the wallet region when looking at the trout sizes. Then along came the Trout series ‘TR’ model with it’s simple click drag, but still solid Abel build and suddenly things loosened up with the lower price. I bought one of the mid-sized models from the first batch to arrive in Australia and have been grinding away at it’s lack of corners ever since.

Abel TR fly reel twigwater review

In 1997 my original Abel TR1 went mainstream in the Australian media.

When I say ‘well built’ I don’t mean heavy and the TR is similar in weight to most other click-drag reels in their respective sizes, though they are a smidgen heavier than some of the ultra-lightweight stuff around.

But when I say solid I do mean solid, and with the exception of putting a slight bend in a foot on a TR2 after chucking a massive riverside tantrum and throwing a rod over my shoulder and fifty feet down river (long story—Australian bass—extreme heat—no beer left) I’ve never damaged one beyond scratches in the last twenty-plus years of hard use.

Abel TR Light fly reel review

Front & back of an Abel TR Light in the Slate finish on a Wellner 2 weight.

In my opinion, the 2.5-inch TR Light is one of the finest 2-/3-weight trout reels made for their classic good looks that don’t seem to date, simple functionality and the weight of three ounces makes them a perfect balance for a seven- to eight-foot 2-weight rod. The TR1, at 2.8 inches is for 3- and 4-weight lines and the TR2, at a smudge over three inches is perfect for 5- and 6-weights.

There used to be a TR3 model for 7- and 8-weight lines. It’s since been discontinued, but there’s still the odd one around secondhand.

The drag is a very simple single-spring and pawl-click in-and-out drag with some scope for adjustment that’s everything and more you would ever need for light trout fishing. The spools are easy to remove and available as spares if you use multiple lines.

Abel TR Light fly reel review

Inside the Abel TR Light frame and spool when new.

The specs say the handles are made of ‘DymondWood’, an engineered wood composite with the strength of high-density hardwoods, acrylics, plastic and brass—whatever the material or strength, it looks great. All the TR reels are made in America of 6001-T651 Aerospace Aluminium and are available with a solid frame or round ventilation holes (as in the photos) and in gloss, matte black and all the Abel custom colours and artistic finishes.

Abel TR1 in North East Victorian spring creek.

A TR1 is a good match on the back end of a Sage Circa #3.

There’s a really cool custom reel build page on the Abel website here where you can have a look at all the options and place an order with any Abel dealer. Prices range from $280 to $295 of standard finishes in the US.

It’s worth mentioning that Abel has great after-sales service in my experience and spare parts are easy to get for all models. For example, I’ve recently bought a new left/right convertible drag plate for long discontinued little Abel ‘0’ Big Game that I bought second hand. When that reel was new they were ordered in left or right hand wind and not reversible. The parts arrived a few days after ordering and the switch was easy.

The Australian Fly Fisherman is the Australian agent for Abel reels and the best place to touch base with them is through their Facebook page here: 

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