Alvey Surfcasting Reels Saved
I own no fewer than five Alvey reels and would use no other for surfcasting. Their ruggedness and dependability in all conditions have to be experienced to be appreciated. They will keep going when other more complex reels have given up! On big fish, they really come into their own being almost indestructible.
Alvey fishing reels have been made in Brisbane, Australia, since 1920. In Australia, they are immensely popular and have been for decades. Though almost an institution in Australia, they have never been a big seller in New Zealand.
There are several reasons for this. I feel the main one has probably been the price. Unfortunately, Alvey reels have always been quite expensive to purchase alongside thread-lines (eggbeaters). Surfcasters in New Zealand are more likely to own an eggbeater than any other type of fishing reel. However, these eggbeaters don’t hold up well on extra large fish. The centre shafts tend to bend if too much pressure is applied, and some models become quickly obsolescent. The Alvey side-cast reel is of very solid construction and has been designed to last.
Another reason many are put off buying an Alvey is that their rod is not fitted with a low mount reel seat. For most anglers buying a rod and reel together is a big financial outlay. Most will own rods with the reel seat too far up the rod for the outfit to balance properly. It is possible, in most instances, to fit a second lower mount reel seat to an existing surf rod with a little modification.
The first-rod guide on rods set up for an Alvey reels should be about halfway up the rod and it also should be at least two inches in diameter. So although these minor changes can easily be made I believe that not having the right rod set up is another reason most Kiwi anglers have not selected and Alvey.
Another reason for sluggish sales is that Alvey reels have not been generally available. Instead, they have been sold by only a few specialist shops.
Finally, I suspect that many New Zealand fishermen are unaware of the considerable practical advantages of the Alvey fishing reel system.
A few years back Australians Bruce Alvey and John McConkey toured New Zealand and gave 16 free Alvey seminars and casting demonstrations. These were attended by some 750 interested anglers and went some way to educate on the advantages of Alveys.
It was very interesting to note that many anglers who had never cast with this type of reel before were able to achieve considerable distances straight away. Casting seems a bit strange at the beginning but the system is one of the easiest of all to master.
I believe the most important thing to remember when casting and retrieving is to avoid loose coils on the reel. Always take the slack up with your other hand before you begin winding the handle. This is important because loose coils trap the line beneath them causing bust-offs and tangles. This business of taking up the slack line becomes second nature after a while. It takes only a second and you don’t even realize that you are doing it!
For most right-handed anglers the line is released from the reel with the left hand. Again this is a bit odd, to begin with, but don’t worry you soon get used to it.
With an Alvey, because there is almost no resistance to the line as the coils drop from the reel, a much wider range of cast weights can be used. Starting from no lead at all – just the bait, up to as much as the rod is designed to cast. This is a big advantage because you can, depending on the situation, easily cast a whole un-weighted pilchard.
An Alvey reel is relatively heavy compared with other reels – notwithstanding that Alvey is now producing some excellent lighter weight graphite models. The reel is also quite bulky, particularly in the larger sizes. The larger sizes are better, in my view, because they retrieve more line for each wind of the handle.
This extra weight and bulk mean that the reel must be fished down towards the bottom of your rod for proper balance. I am sometimes asked if it is possible to fish with a side-cast reel positioned higher up the rod so that you don’t need a special rod for use with this reel. The answer is yes you can fish an Alvey reel with your normal high-mount surfcasting rod, but you have to make a couple of modifications.
Firstly, you have to add a second reel mount to the rod about eight inches (200mm) from the butt. This measurement includes you wooden butt spike. This modification is quite simple to effect. The new reel seat is slid on from the bottom and up over packing formed from masking tape. The idea is to make this a good tight fit.
Packing “rings” of masking tape should be spaced along where the reel seat will be glued. At least one toward the top, another near the bottom, and at least one in the middle. Don’t wrap tape all the way under the seat because you need some space for the two-part epoxy glue to form a bond between the rod blank and the inside of the reel seat.
The second modification is to enlarge the first line guide. If the rod was originally set up for use with an eggbeater (fixed spool reel) it will quite possibly be OK to use as it is. What you are ideally looking for is the first line guide to be at least two inches (5Omm) in diameter, and be approximately halfway up the rod. If you can only just fit your finger through the first (biggest) line guide, then it is far too small. Your tackle store will be able to sell you a bigger one no problem. Try to get one that matches the others. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. It just means it looks a bit odd! The fish won’t be able to tell the difference!
A good tackle store will be happy to fit a second reel seat and a bigger line guide to your rod for a modest charge if you are uncertain about doing it yourself. If they aren’t willing, go somewhere else. The cost of these modifications should be around forty dollars.
Now you have turned your twelve foot, or so, long surfcaster into a dual purpose high and low mount rod. This may not be ideal. It depends on what sort of blank, line guides, and guide positioning you had in the first place. I used a rod adapted in this way for many years before I could afford a top of the line, purpose-built model. It may have looked a bit strange but I caught many hundreds of fish with it, and still have it!
With this setup, you will be able to start fishing with your new Alvey side caster without the expense of having to purchase a rod and reel all in one go.
Rod Buckets for Alvey Reels
The weight of the Alvey reel is all at the bottom of your rod. This means that you must have a rod bucket or pouch to fit the butt of your rod as you can see from the picture. Alvey makes a range of rod buckets for just this purpose. You can, if you wish, cut a bit of the plastic from a boat fishing rod bucket as I have done and use this. The pin stops the rod falling out.
You need a rod bucket to balance your outfit and make winding in your line quick and easy. Fishing an Alvey is hard work without the rod bucket, so get yourself one at the outset.
A short history of Alvey Australia Fishing Reels.
Here is a quick look at the unusual geared Alvey 650GRC side caster.