Fishing the pin.

Some might call me a pin enthusiast, and they are probably right, but one thing I am not, is I’m not is a tackle snob.

I simply like using a pin. So much so, that I use one whenever and wherever I can. Whether fishing my local lake for silvers or for for the doggedly fighting tench, or for barbel and chub on the fast waters of the lower River Wye, a pin is my reel of choice.


Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that as a pre-teen lad in the 50’s is when the first affordable fixed spool reels became available. I had Omnia’s, and early Mitchel 300’s, a CAP, and I remember in 1950 my father had a half bale arm Young’s Ambidex, costing a small fortune of £45.00 in those days. And a braided line. Yes braided line was around then.

But the pin still reigned then and everybody grew up using them.

My working life as a service engineer taught me the value of owning well made quality tools. Not just for their improved reliability and performance, but somehow, just for the pleasure in using and owning top quality kit. This philosophy has always been with me and is reflected in my choice of fishing tackle.

Nowadays newcomers to angling go straight for the ‘trendy’ fixed spool reels and many have never even held a pin let alone used one. Many view Pins as old fashioned, obsolete or just inadequate.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When teaching some young people, as we do from time to time, I recommend, but always give them the choice, and they nearly always go for a fixed spool reel and immediately try to cast to the other side of the lake.  With one or two exceptions, to start with, they constantly get into tangles by winding backwards, or experience problems by having the clutch set too tight or too loose, forgetting to open the bail arm when casting and can never coordinate the finger with the rest of their hand and seldom let go of the line at the correct time.

Only one lad, and a very intelligent one, despite having some other issues, took to a pin immediately. His fishing skills were immediately developed very fast because he did not have the added complications and frustrations of a fixed spool reel to get used and to get in the way of actually learning to fish for fish. Without these unnecessary complications he could immediately concentrate on tackle set up, bait presentation and all the other necessary techniques. And it payed off. Later on he will be well equipped to make his own mind up on reels having the basics skills gained when using a pin.

Having said all that I do use my old Shimano 500 Baitrunner when heavy water conditions on the river demand it and I need to make a long cast. Although I still have five fixed spool reels, I have given some away over time, I only ever use my faithful old Shimano, and that has only let me down once when I dropped it on a rock and bent the bail arm. Not the reel’s fault, but mine.

Centre pin reels usually have a loud ratchet, so noisy that in the still of a spring or summer morning that it can be heard all over the lake. I hate to hear this so the pins I use for still water fishing have the ratchet spring backed off, or weakened,  to almost not engaging at all. This makes them much quieter and requiring less force by a fish to turn the reel drum through the ratchet. I don’t know why even the most expensive models don’t have some sort of ratchet adjustment built in. But that is another matter.

Anyway, on a still water, a very weak ratchet will still stop the drum turning due to wind pressure and that is all that is necessary.

When fishing the pin for tench on my local lake it is seldom, if ever, necessary to fish more than six or seven metres out and this suits me fine. Even when legering.

Casting is more accurate and even quicker with a pin. Simple small adjustments to the slack line are so much easier and carried out with the thumb of my right hand. Similarly controlling a tench when it is set on reaching the weed or bolting for open water is so much easier to control with a just a bit of thumb pressure on the rim of the reel and the amount of pressure needed to do so can be so easily controlled. Except for recovering line it is a one handed job with perfect control all the way. Such levels of control are just not possible with a fixed spool reel. Also I have a much greater feeling of the fish without a slipping clutch and and several gear cogs in between me and the line.

Wherever possible, on the Wye, I will use my J W Young’s, Ray Walton, Rolling Pin 2.


This high quality and expensive reel is capable of casting a lead almost as far as the Shimano and yet still gives the sensitivity of all pins. When the current is too strong to hold the bottom against the ratchet, I either hold the rod with a finger in a loop of the line, or attach a rubber band to the reel handle with the other end fixed to the hook retaining eye on the rod with a quick release link. In practice the rubber band always detaches itself from the reel handle on the first pull of a fish.

The only problem with a Rolling Pin is that it sets a lot of twists in the line. One twist per turn of the handle. Mono lines don’t bode well here because if the twists are allowed to build up too much, it tends leads to a tangle. A braided line copes with such twists much better. To rectify this, after every couple of trips, I have to fix my Rolling Pin reel to a solid object, usually the garden fence, and let out a lot of line down the garden. Then using a battery drill in reverse, attached to the end of the line, take out the twists. In fact I deliberately go further and put in many reverse twists that will be unwound during the next outing and lasting longer before it needs doing again.

When float fishing on the Wye and trotting a float downstream between the ranunculus beds or legering  nearer to the river bank, my Hardy Conquest, purchased in 2009, will perform even better than the Shimano.

My Hardy Conquest has a half way setting in the ratchet lever slot which allows it to apply only a fraction of the ratchet force. This is not mentioned in the brochure. There are two ratchet mechanisms in this reel, intended for conversion from left or right hand use. However this enables me to disengage one or use both if I require full ratchet when legering in a strong current.

You can see in this photograph that there is a rather large gap, 0.47 mms, between the original spool and the back-plate which does lead to some problems with smaller diameter lines passing between. I believe that Hardy tightened the gap tolerance on later models. However I purchased a spare spool which cured the problem.

Incidentally, the gap on my Young’s Purist 2 is more like 0.15 mms which goes to prove something. Quality control?F5E18C9E-024E-4A42-9C07-FB4A4EFB03C1 Playing a strong Wye barbel on a pin has to be experienced to believe how good it is. I won’t even begin to explain it.

For tench fishing I will use my Kingpin Imperial.64218FDD-7E5E-4461-BB84-6CE038B61820 I bought this pin many years ago when on one of my annual pilgrimages to fish some BAA controlled estate lakes in deepest Shropshire. On this occasion I arrived at the lake to find that I had left my reel at home. The nearest town with a tackle shop was Ludlow, about 15 miles away. So off to Ludlow Tackle I went and where I had little or no choice of a pin and I ended up paying £80.00 odd for my Kingpin. Good money in those days.

I knew nothing about Kingpins then, yet such good reel it turned out to be. I don’t think this model is made any more. New Kingpins retail for about £300.00 today. This remains my faithful and reliable tench reel today.

Another good buy is my J W Young Purist 11. ADDEDF12-F82E-462B-9C42-C70C02029655Although relatively small, it is robust and an excellent trotting reel that will work in the slowest of streams and on lakes. I use it now for catching silvers on our lakes when it occasionally proves to be more than adequate for tench to about 4 lbs.

I still have other pins including a limited edition Sundridge Trophy. 7750d48d-6b41-42c6-af12-bc5898950ac7.jpegThis was an early acquisition in the eighties and a solid reel with check and drag, although a bit heavy for trotting in slow rivers and streams. I still use it occasionally on a lake.

Now, as a pensioner, I am not rich. Far from it. But my choice of tackle has to be the best that I can afford. And I probably have all the tackle to last me now but I still yearn to buy another J W Young’s pin.

There are some quote reasonable centre pin reels available at around £50.00. I bought a very cheap Wensum Stillwater recently for my clubs ‘beginners’ tackle. At £30.00 it is basic, appears to be well made and a bargain.



Before I change the subject, let me dispose of some old myths surrounding pins.

First is that they should be free enough to “spin forever”. This is not an attribute at all. It usually means that the drum is too heavy and carries a lot of inertia. Second is that a pin must have good ball bearings. Old Pins, the “True Pins” of years ago, had no ball bearings at all. Yes there was slightly more friction in the plain bearings but when trotting on medium to fast rivers some resistance is necessary to control the float and present the bait properly. If your pin is of the ‘spins forever’ variety, as soon as your float gets to a slower bit of water, the reel will keep unloading the line at the previous rate. That is one reason why many more expensive pins with ball bearings, have a drag system built in. To slow the spool down. Rivers in the midlands often have a relatively slow flow rate and in the summer this can be reduced to almost nothing. This makes trotting very difficult without a very free turning reel but again inertia is not a desirable feature under these conditions. What is important here is that the reel drum requires very little pulling force from the line to make the drum start to turn. This is achieved by free running but more importantly, a very lightweight drum.

A very fine line can be a disadvantage when trotting. The force to turn the drum comes from drag or friction between the float and the line in the water. A fine line and a fine float produces far less drag. So I use a low density ‘floating’ line such as Drennan Float. This line sits in the surface of the water rather than on top as a dressed line will do. Drennan Float has a slightly larger diameter than some but here this is an advantages. More drag.  It is not affected nearly as much by wind, it will not sink and it will pick up immediately on the strike.

The only problem with Drennan float, well two problems actually, is that it it distorts when stressed round a very small diameter and assumes horrid spring like coils. This has to be cut off and disposed of. The other problem for me is that it is not made in a larger size than 6lb BS. I could do with an 8lb. I used to use an excellent Berkley product. Berkley ‘Trilene XL Float was a similar low density line and without so much of the ‘spring’ defect, and that was available in an 8 lb size but I can’t find it any more.

There used to be several floating mono’ lines available but the decline in this sort of fishing has made them far less popular and, so far as I know, Drennan Float is the only such floating fishing line on sale in the at present. Ok, there are some ‘marker lines’ used by carp anglers, but they are not the same.

Whilst growing up with centre pin reels I was also using whole cane and later, split cane rods. I even had a tubular steel rod made from a WW2 American tank radio antenna. I still own two old cane rods. One made by my father when I was a toddler, or perhaps even before I was born, and recently refurbished by me in his memory, and a Milwards Swimversa. But although I have tried them both and caught fish on them, I will probably never use them again. Nostalgia may have its place in some aspects of fishing but not with me. It’s the same reason that I don’t drive around in an old Austin A35.

Now I use graphite rods simply because their performance and lightweight characteristics far far outshine the old cane rods. Similarly with centre pin reels, mine have to be good quality and I have shunned and got rid of some that did not come up to the mark. With one exception. I came about a second hand 13 foot carbon rod, a Shimano Powerloop. An old rod and with a test curve that measured about 0.5 lb. A very good rod, even by today’s standards, for for small fish. Light, with a fast strike and a good through action, albeit it would not stop a 4 lb tench before it got into the weed beds. Horses for courses no doubt.

When I moved down here and started to fish the Wye for barbel, I clearly needed a better rod. My first choice was a Greys Prodigy for barbel and a Drennan 7 Tench for tench fishing. Then I researched “the best barbel rod” and after some deliberation I bought a custom made Peregrine GTI, the most expensive rod I have ever purchased. These rods give me total confidence in handling big fish, and as I said,  a pleasure to use.

When float fishing this means using a float that will take at least 3 x AA shot near the bottom and having as little hook length on the bed as possible. As I said it is essential to fish the sloping drop off but when fishing further out or nearer in it means adjusting the float accordingly. When starting, I use a plummet and make a mental note of the float position relative to guide rings on my rod with the hook held level with the but. I do this for the furthest out position and the nearest. The slope being uniform it is easy to set the float for intermediate places. After a few visits and using the same rod, I no longer have to use a plummet at all.

Although I sometimes use a ledger set up. This is when when I want to fish for tench on one rod and rudd or perch on the another.  On the ledger rod my pin ratchet then acts as a bite alarm.

Centre pin reels usually have a loud ratchet so noisy in the still of a spring or summer morning that it can be heard all over the lake. I hate to hear this so the pins I use for still water fishing have the ratchet spring backed off too almost not engaging at all or the spring weekended to give the same effect. This makes them much quieter and requiring less force bu a fish to turn the reel drum through the ratchet. I don’t know why even the most expensive models don’t have some sort of ratchet adjustment built in. But that is another matter.

Anyway on a still water a very weak ratchet will stop the drum turning due to wind pressure and this is all that is necessary.

It is seldom or never necessary to fish for tench at a distance and this suits me because I just love to use one of my centre pin reels. I use them where ever and when ever I can in preference to a fixed spool reel. Even when legering.




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