Monday, March 08, 2021

Up or down?

Lumbland appears to be turning into a rod nerd blog! never mind, this is something I've had in mind for many years. Which is the 'correct' way to fit a screw locking reel seat?

Old timers will tell you that the thread should go at the top, towards the rings - down-locking. Some time in the 1990s this lead to Berkley bringing out a range of carp rods with DNPS reel seats which were fitted down-locking. I believe on teh advice of Terry Eustace who was connected with Berkley at the time.

However, DNPS reel seats are intended to be fitted up-locking, with the thread towards the butt end!

The up v down debate has raged in fly-fishing circles as long as I can remember, with both sides having their reasons. It's less of a burning issue in coarse angling but it does crop up now and then. This is my take on it.

Back in the mists of time when all reels were centrepins rods were held behind the reel to allow finger or thumb control of the rotating spool. If a screw reel seat was use then it made sense to have the thread at the top so the angler's hand rested on cork. This gives a more comfortable and firmer grip on the rod. Today the same reasoning applies for use with multiplier reels if a trigger reel seat isn't used.

As fixed spool reels are held with fingers either side of the reel stem, to my mind, it  doesn't matter which way round the reel seat goes as at least some of the hand will be resting on the reel seat. With a down-locking seat this will mean the thumb rests on the seat's thread, while with an up-locking seat the thumb will rest on cork. Having the thumb rest on a smooth surface is part of the design thinking behind DNPS reel seats, I think.

That's why, for me it's up-locking for fixed spool use, down-locking for multiplier use.
There are two other considerations. One is, as can be seen from the accompanying picture of two 10 foot pike rods, that up-locking reel seats reduce the overall length of a rod handle to position the reel in the same place. It might only be just over an inch difference, but aesthetically preferable to my eyes. 
The second benefit of an up-locking reel seat for use with fixed spool reels only comes into play when using some form of line clip on the rod and an open bale arm on the reel. It allows the clip to be placed more directly over the reel's spool. In the 1980s when it was almost universal that pike anglers tucked the line into a rubber band or piece of cycle inner tube on the rod handle these fitted neatly onto the cork in front of an up-locking reel seat. Gardner could be taped in place there and John Roberts line clips were designed to fit onto cork handles.
It might seem that the best all round solution would be a down-locking seat with a hood which covered the thread. In small sizes I find these an acceptably comfortable and aesthetic fitting. I have them on my Interceptors. The trouble is that when the tube bore increases so does the diameter of the material covering the threads, particularly with cork. I don't like the look, or the feel when used with a fixed spool reel. But maybe that's just me.

Occasionally it doesn't look too bad. I quite like this lure rod example on a rod I must get round to finishing off for myself sometime!

There is another drawback to these reel seats in that when the covering is cork it can crack and split when the fitting repeatedly overtightened. No matter how the cork is attached, if it is made up of rings/shives there will be some unsupported cork forward of the underlying hood. This is a weak spot.
Some manufacturers and rod builders have tried to overcome this by using rubberised or reconstituted cork. If Drennan rods are anything to go by it's not a great solution. I had to replace the grip on the Drennan float rod I use for bait snatching because it had started to come apart. This is why I much prefer to fit Duplon on this sort of reel seat. It might not be as pretty as cork but it's far more practical.
Up or down, there's no right answer!