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updated: 3/21/2012 1:27 PM

The reel lesson: Seize the moment

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I kept muttering "groundhog be gone," and made another cast.

I'm like the rest of you.

I can't believe winter left us in a cloud of dust and a merry shout of hi-ho Silver.

Something seems terribly wrong here. Even some of the piscatorial brethren got caught in the confusion as well.

But who was I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

So, off I went. I was pond-hopping the other day and caught some very hungry panfish as well as a half-dozen small largemouth bass. The weather was so ideal I left the jacket in the truck and soaked in the warmth and sunshine. I knew I was dreaming, but I didn't care.

After a couple glorious hours of teasing crappies and bluegills, I decided to call it a day.

I happened to be in Glenview and was close enough to the new digs of Trout and Grouse, the fly fishing and wingshooting business in Northbrook.

I usually go there to spend some time chatting with trip-packaging guru Paul Melchior, only this time I wound up conversing with store manager Kurt Schlesinger about one of my favorite topics -- my never-ending quest to de-snob flyfishing.

I have been told countless times my pursuit is a simple waste of time. I've been lectured by the heavy-moneyed crowd that if I don't care for the ruling class of fly fishers I should pack up my troubles in my old kit bag and head for the infamous Garfield Park Lagoon in Chicago.

Paul Melchior heard our conversation and immediately joined in when he came over and proceeded to open a display case.

"Here, take a look at these reels and let us know what you think of them," he said.

Out came a large-arbor fly reel with the well known name of Orvis emblazoned on the side plate. I started to ask Paul and Kurt not to show me the expensive reels because I refuse to write anything about them, simply because many anglers can't afford the top-end stuff. But there are readers who drop some coin now and then to satiate their hunger and ego expansion for some well known, expensive brand name flyfishing gear.

Now, I was also told by someone who claimed to know the score that many of today's casting and spinning reels brought into this country probably came from small factories staffed by indentured laborers who will never know the difference between a reel with 13 ball-bearing versus one of those run-of-the mill jobs designed for the Joe Six Packs of the world.

Melchior glanced at Kurt and then proceeded to educate me about a new direction Orvis seems to be heading.

Could this be the same Orvis I remember as kid, decked out in all its splendor? Has Orvis history spawned a whole new breed of affordable fly reels made for the masses? The answer is yes.

The Encounter and Clearwater models ranged in price from $49-$79. Now we're talking. Melchior chided me for saying these inexpensive reels have features quite similar to the high-end models.

Once before, I discovered inexpensive fly reels made in Asia and sold by South Bend. They are very rugged and perform like champs. The only aspect I overlooked was the fact one of the models could have come from the egg roll factory, and that my friends puts a whole different spin of moo-shoo on this joy ride.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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