The Mill Tackle Company "The Barbel Catcher" centrepin reel
by Glenn Smith
by Glenn Smith
JW Youngs are a well known maker of fishing reels and until recently still manufactured in England. Times change and having been bought by Masterline a few years ago, the old works were shut down and the reels are now largely made elsewhere.
A former employee of Youngs, Garry Mills took the opportunity of purchasing a lot of the redundant stock, engineering equipment and reel plans, and set up his own company, called The Mill Tackle Company. Garry now offers his services in repairing old reels, buying and selling vintage tackle, and also designs and engineers his own brand of centrepin reels.
The most recent of these came about in collaboration with The Barbel Catchers Club. They came up with a list of features they would like to see in a 'pin for serious barbel anglers. The result is "The Barbel Catcher" Centrepin Reel.
For the most part it's much like any other quality centrepin, but it has one rather special feature which I will come on to later.
It's basic form is a traditional style 6-spoke aerial reel, with the rear of the spool drilled to reduce weight.
It is a plain-bearing reel (which is very much my preference), 4.5" in diameter with a 1" drum width. There is the usual drag-facility on one of the spokes to allow for the reel to be slowed down when the ratchet is off. I suppose this could be useful if I was trotting but this doesn't strike me as a reel designed primarily for trotting and to date I've not found a need for it. The spool-release is on the opposite spoke. Garry's preference is to fit 16 pillars (line-pins) instead of the more common 12 on a reel of this size. This reduces the angle at which line bends round a pillar and therefore reduces the kinks you normally get in the line. A solid drum would alleviate this problem entirely of course but would make the reel quite a bit heavier.
While on the subject of weight, my kitchen scales measure the pin at around 290g. This is no lightweight airy-fairy trotting reel, it's a robust big-fish reel, built to be strong. That said, Garry does seem to have found the right balance between strength and weight so it's not overly heavy by any means.
The special feature I mentioned before is an adjustable ratchet. This has been seen on centrepins before - I believe the old Speedia Deluxe had a similar feature. Gary's design is exceptionally clever and while I won't bore you with the details of how it works, it's operation is simplicity itself. When legering with a centrepin you often fish with the rod in the rest with the ratchet on. When a fish takes, the reel will spin and give line. However, a heavy flow might be strong enough to pull line from the reel even with the ratchet on. On this reel, you simply strengthen the ratchet with the turn of a dial at the back of the reel. You can adjust it to just the right strength to counter the flow, but still allow a fish to take without too much resistance. On a river with no flow, simply turn the dial back again to reduce the ratchet strength. It's so simple, and surprisingly so useful! I use it when moving swims - it means I can leave the bomb on the line and the reel won't turn while walking. When I get to where I want to go, I just reduce the strength of the ratchet back to the way I want it.
One minor criticism of the reel as it stands is that the rim-mounted lever that turns the drag on or off is very stiff. I'm going to ask Garry to adjust it for me, which is in some respects one of the nice sides to Garry's custom service - you deal with Garry direct, rather than a call-centre somewhere inside a big tackle company.
This pin won't suit everybody - and let's be honest, centrepin fans are a fussy lot! It's expensive at around Â£300 but not overpriced. There will never be hundreds of these reels made, and it's only Garry making them on his own, plus you pay for that handbuilt quality. When I originally received it I thought it might be a little too large, preferring 4" reels, but now I've used it I've grown to love it.
When a good pole starts at Â£500 or more, a set of three carp rods and reels possibly approaching the Â£1000 mark, Â£300 for a purpose-built barbel reel doesn't seem all that bad.
Garry's delivery times are fairly short in comparison to similar centrepin makers - think months rather than years. You can choose between a couple of colours, decide on your handle preference, and the reel will be numbered. It is supplied in a wooden display box which, if yours is like mine, will never see the reel again!
Finally, the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. The other weekend I was fishing the Wensum. A big barbel took the bait and the pin played it's music to indicate the bite. I was led a merry dance up and down the Wensum and at one point the fish got into a snag. I managed to bully the fish out and landed my new personal best barbel of 13lbs 1oz. The reel performed beautifully.
Garry can be reached at the Mill Tackle Company on +44 (0) 1527 450335
The Mill Tackle Company: Fishing Reel Repairs, Ser
Glenn (walliswizard) Smith