Sunday, August 2, 2009

2009 Galvan Spoke Fly Reel

Choice in the world of fly reels is somewhat of an understatement. Looking at the reel case of my local dealer, sometimes I am reminded of Brian Regan’s comedy piece on refrigerators.

“Look at this model; it keeps your food cold for $300 dollars.”

“Follow me over here; this one keeps your food cold for $1200 dollars.”

While few dispute the need for quality in saltwater and big game drag systems, the debate tends to rage around what makes a great trout reel. When entering the game, requirements are simple: Something to hold a fly line. As casting skills improve and we spend more time on the water, balancing a rod well allows for decreased fatigue at day’s end.

Trout are not known for testing a drag, yet this season a big hen rainbow sizzled 125 yards of backing (out of an available 150) off my reel. Without a quality piece of equipment I never would have landed that fish, so performance does make a difference when it counts.

I tend to rate reels based on weight, engineering, price point, and design.
  • Weight: The reel should be light enough not to overbalance my rod after backing and line are installed. Ideally, I also like to use a single reel body on at least 3 rod weights by using different spools and adding/subtracting backing as needed.
  • Engineering: Changing from left to right hand retrieve should be simple, as should the removal of the spool. The reel needs to be low maintenance. Good drag systems are smooth, offer sustainable resistance, have solid detents to avoid accidental adjustment, and are consistent at various settings.
  • Price: How does the reel compete in all categories against other models in the same range?
  • Design: Let’s face it, a sexy design is appealing. If you are going to spend money, ugly is not first on the agenda.

My ideal trout reel is a large arbor design that will span rods from a 9’ 4-weight to a 9.5’ 7-weight. There are precious few offerings that can pull this type of duty without overbalancing the 4, or leaving the 7 tip heavy.


The newest model to meet all these requirements, and do so with one of the most eye-catching designs on the market, is the 2009 Galvan Spoke.

Galvan is known for very light reels, but the Spoke is their lightest offering. The S5 weighs in at 4.45 oz, compared to 4.8 for the popular Torque T5. The T6 is light enough to balance out my 4-weight Sage SLT perfectly, but is not too light on my 7-weight with a full load of backing.


Switching the reel from right to left-hand retrieve is easy, and completed by inverting the pawl which is held in place by a retention ring. Spool removal is a snap -- the center is a button that both frees the spool and offers an audible click when re-seated.

The drag system is derived from the Torque, and is solid. Operating the reel results in a subdued, single-pawl click that is nicely muted and unobtrusive. Knob detents are noticeable, and unlikely to be adjusted accidentally.

Personally, I love numbered drag systems that have easily repeatable settings, and this is the one area that I think Galvan’s adjustment design could stand some improvement. The knob makes 2 complete revolutions moving from minimum to maximum drag, but since the knob has “Galvan Fly Reels” printed on it as a placeholder, settings are quite repeatable.

At this point I have landed over 400 fish using the Spoke, which is a decent break-in period. It is one of my all-time favorite reels. Be prepared for some questions if you get one, because just about everyone who has seen the Spoke on my rod has asked me who makes it. Galvan knows sexy.

The Spoke must be in demand too, because it can be hard to find even at the big retailers. I have found it in stock at two of my favorite fly shops:

Quick Rating

Weight: ☆☆☆☆☆ (Extremely light for an all-aluminum body/spool)

Engineering: ☆☆☆☆ (Wish list: A numbered drag)

Price: ☆☆☆☆☆ (On par with anything in the $300 range)

Design: ☆☆☆☆☆ (Hatch is probably the only competition in visual design)

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