Over the last ten years or so I’ve seen an awful lot of fishing kit. Unfortunately these days much of it seems to be copies, re-launches or re-hashes of other products on the market and in truth I maybe don’t get as excited about new product releases as I used to. However, every now and again a product comes to the market that restores my faith in fishing tackle R&D and around two years ago I got my hands on a reel that I had a good feeling was destined to become a design classic.
Advances in carbon technology are driving the weight of modern rods further and further down, which is great news – why wouldn’t you want to fish a lighter stick? Rods under 2oz are now commonplace and it’s possible to go even lower if you wish. So caught up have the manufacturers been in the race to shave off the grams from the weight of their rods they have forgotten about the reels. Up until two years ago only Sage offered a machined aluminium large arbor reel that was genuinely light enough, the fantastic but slightly expensive Sage Click, and I wonder to this day how many anglers out there are using a super light rod with a reel three times as heavy strapped to the handle.
UK manufacturer Wychwood launched their River & Stream reel as the lightest aluminium fly reel on the market back in 2013 and the second I saw them I knew that their design team had come up with something very special. My order went in that day and two years later that little reel is still attached to my ultra-light Sage TXL-F 7’10” 4#. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. At either 50g for the 2/3 or 58g for the 4/5 these reels truly broke the mould for modern mid-end fly reel design.
Aesthetically it looks a little different to many reels on the market but these differences are critical to the weight saving design. The very short spindle on this reel may look unusual but a member of the R&D team told me that this subtle change saved as much as 10g of weight, 20% of the entire reel! The curvy and highly ported spool design is of a direct result of the shorter spindle and again gives the reel a different look and feel to most. I really love the curves on the River & Stream, to me it manages to be both ruthlessly efficient in design yet organic in its aesthetic – it’s a Stealth Bomber sort of cool.
I don’t usually go for gold reels (my hand was forced on the Tibors) but I find the colour of the River & Stream very pleasant. It’s a matt gold rather than bling gold – this is a reel that seems to blend in amongst nature rather than look like something Biggie Smalls might wear around his neck. There is of course no high powered multi disk drag system on the River and Stream and rightly so. The click check is just enough to prevent over runs unless you get far too excited, and if that big fish takes line from the reel then you’re using your palm and your wits to stop him instead of carbon disks – enjoy it! The adjustable click is made of soft durable plastic and is particularly inoffensive, but don’t expect any great range of clutch strength – that’s not what this reel is about.
My main worry for my little Wychwood was durability. I’m a liability when it comes to trashing kit – particularly reels – so the fact that two years on this guy is still going is testament to its strength and finish. I just spent a few minutes looking for marks on the anodising and there are none, the only sign that it has even been out of the plush sheepskin case is a mark on the spool rim where I slipped and ate riverbed hard in Wales. The marks on me were far more significant than those on the reel.
This is a reel for the angler who fishes light. Made in only two sizes – 2/3 and 4/5- Wychwood knew exactly who would desire a reel like this and came up with a product so unique and so perfect that they smashed the design brief out of the park. At less than £140 the River & Stream is cheaper AND lighter than any competitors reels – it’s also the sexiest of the lot. If you’re an angler who has shelled out decent money on a light rod for fishing rivers but you still have that crabby and clumsy 5/6 cartridge reel or the clacky and clunky old spindle reel from 1978 then do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a little dollop of 21st century design brilliance.