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The Pete Reading Barbel Centrepin

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The Pete Reading Barbel Centrepin

by Jon Berry


Four months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing this reel for Barbel Fisher magazine; it was very much a 'first impressions' appraisal, based upon a handful of trips, a small number of barbel and one enormous grayling. This is an update on my initial thoughts, incorporating its experiences with more than a few more sessions in flood conditions, and some significantly bigger barbel.

The PR barbel 'pin is one of very few reels marketed solely at the barbel specialist; its big rival would therefore be Gary Mills' superb Barbel Catcher reel. That said, they are wholly different animals. The BC Pin owes a great deal to the classic Aerial design, while Pete Reading's is far closer to the much-missed Dave Swallow Centrepin so beloved by Wessex barbel anglers in the 'eighties and 'nineties.

Those who have used the old Swallows will know, in part, what to expect. This is a 4.1/2 inch, 7/8ths diameter reel in hard anodised olive brown solid aerospace aluminium, and visually is almost identical to its black predecessor. The spool is generously perforated, allowing it to spin freely enough for trotting, while the back plate is engraved with the reel's name and unique edition number. The ratchet is operated by a lever check, and an optional line guard is available for those who prefer them. Two high quality ball bearings produce a smoothness to match that found in any bespoke reels. It is, by the definition of the purists, therefore not a true 'pin�the presence of ball bearings might have some recoiling in horror, but their fears are ill-founded. So, let's ignore such fundamentalism for now - it looks like one, acts like one, operates like one, and can be Wallis cast like the best of 'em.

In the hand and on the rod, the PR reel feels robust; its delightful aesthetics notwithstanding, the reel is a solid-feeling workhorse, perfectly capable of handling the exertions of large barbel but sensitive enough when trotting. It is marketed, as stated, as a barbel reel, but would equally be at home in search of chub, dace, roach and other river species. I used mine on opening day float-fishing for tench on an estate lake, where it encountered a 9lb bream, some double-figure carp and even a few tench without mishap.

Despite its aesthetic similarities to the old Swallow reel, this new incarnation also offers a centre drag, which is engaged by a quarter turn of the reel hub - this is less awkward than it sounds, and enables the angler to fish in silent drag mode without risking over-runs from fast takes, and to apply a little extra resistance in flood conditions. In short, it is far easier to use than it is to describe, and I can vouch that it works admirably.

The Pete Reading Barbel Reel is a genuine British-made limited edition - there are approximately 90 left for sale, and no more will be produced. The reel's maker, Hans Juhkental - who was also responsible for the last of the Swallows - sadly passed away in 2006. The man was a talented engineer and true perfectionist, and these centrepins are a fitting testimony to his considerable skills.

The centrepin market is a healthy one at the moment, and the barbel angler can choose from impressive mass-manufactured reels (Youngs, Okuma etc) and those of the bespoke hand-made artisans. The PR reel fits comfortably in to the latter description, at a price more in keeping with the former. For this reason, it is worth serious consideration from anyone shopping for a new 'hamster wheel'.

Summary :

Build : 9/10 - Solid, reliable and built to last. Time will tell whether the centre drag is as sound as the rest of the reel, but Pete assures me that it is.

Design : 9/10 - My preference has always been for 4" pins, but this nevertheless felt right.

Cost : 10/10 - This reel compares favourably with some of the best 'hand mades', and to improve on it you would have to spend £100 more and join Chris Lythe's waiting list. Those looking for class on a budget will be more than satisfied.

The reel costs £225-00 plus £5 p and p, and comes with a two-year guarantee. Contact Pete Reading direct for details, on 01202 733110 before 9 p.m., or see Richard at Ringqood Tackle, sole agents, who are at 5 The Bridges, Ringwood Hants, tel: 01425 475155.

Jon (Floppyhatter) Berry
June 2007
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