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The Pflueger 1195 Automatic

Article and photos by Joe Cornwall



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Automatic fly reels have a bad reputation.  Popular for many years, the last three decades have found market demand dwindling to the point where this mechanical marvel is nearly extinct.  Itís certainly on the endangered list. There are currently only a few manufacturers supporting the genre: Pflueger, Martin and Vivarelli.  The Vivarelli is an expensive, precision-built piece of serious hardware thatís just starting to be noticed by the industry at large.  The Pflueger and the Martin are holdovers from days gone by.


At the risk of sounding like an anachronistic malcontent, I think thereís still a persuasive argument for the automatic fly reel.  Disagreements based on their complexity, weight, lack of backing capacity and general funkiness will loiter until the Next Big Thing, but in general an automatic fly reel is a beautiful thing if youíll just wear the right colored glasses.  Hereís how I see itÖ


Iíve never had a black bass take me into my backing.  Several have tried, but about 40-feet is the longest any of them has run before remembering theyíre bass and not trout.  They immediately turned to do battle up close and personal, red eyes glaring.  Iíve never had a bluegill, crappie, perch or panfish take line from the reel. Those sophisticated species would consider that kind of fight to be in bad form.  In fact, other than salmonids in fast water or fat carp in flat water, Iíve rarely needed to think about backing at all.  Myth dispelling argument number one - a lack of backing capacity isnít a liability for the automatic reel for most of the warm water fishing we do.


Fly reels break.  So do fly rods, fly lines, leaders, paddles, cars and wading boots.  Automatic fly reels have more than the minimum amount of pieces required to do the job, but they tend to be built from spare parts formerly used in the transmissions of military vehicles anyway.  And if parts count alone is a negative attribute, what do we make of multi-stacked complex drag systems or crazy counter-levered spring-loaded click and pawl mechanisms?  Iíve handled more than a few dead automatics, but if their carcasses were any indication they lived a tough and lonely life.  Myth dispelling argument number two Ė even a complex machine can lead a long and productive life under harsh circumstances if itís built with decent raw materials and minimally maintained.  Just consider the Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle, for example.


Weight can be a good thing in a fly reel.  Just take a look at this article about balance.  A typical fly rod without a reel counterbalancing the weight of its extended length is a pitiful thing to cast.  Put a little balance at the end of that pendulum and a sowís ear can turn into something a bit closer to a silk purse almost as quickly as a televangelist can turn a sexual harassment accusation into a fund-raising opportunity.  Myth dispelling argument number three Ė half a pound of fly reel can be an ideal partner if youíre fishing more than a quarter pound of fly rod.  Fans of vintage fiberglass and split cane, please take note.


The Pflueger model 1195 automatic fly reel found its way into my collection at the beginning of the 2010 season.  Two Jacksons at the local Bass Pro emporium was all it took.  Indeed, this well-built fly reel actually costs less than most contemporary fly lines! Iíd been fishing with a 1970ís vintage Garcia 710 automatic (considered by many to be the last word in spring-driven fly reels for two-score years) and I really wanted to see if there was anything new in the industry that might compare.  It was an experiment well worth the effort.


The Pflueger 1195 boasts an aluminum alloy frame and spool, stainless steel main spring, stainless steel foot and line guard, and a fold-down trigger.  Itís solidly built at 9 ounces empty. Billed as ďa longtime favorite among farm pond and small stream enthusiastsÖ this reel [is] the most efficient auto-return fly fishing reel available today.Ē  Taking the reel from its box revealed a surprisingly hefty and well-built piece of gear for the price. 

For testing I matched the Pflueger to a classic Heddon Lifetime Pal 8-foot fly rod.  This massive glass stick dates from the Beatles era and features fine stainless steel wire, instead of thread, for the guide wraps.  Back then, when an American manufacturer claimed something was a lifetime investment, they meant it.  The match was near ideal, with the reel moving the static balance point of the outfit to the very front of the dark-flamed cork grip.  I loaded the reel with 50-feet of 30lb test Dacron backing and a WF7F line, which was a perfect fit.  Altogether it is a nicely balanced, smooth casting outfit.


Fishing an automatic requires a bit of user recalibration.  First, the reel can bring in line at a surprising clip so itís important to protect your fly rod. Many a tip top has been retrieved right to the ferrules by ďaccidentĒ.  In truth, those tragedies werenít an accident.  They were the result of laziness.  After rigging the line through the rod itís important to release the spring so the rod-length of line canít be retrieved into the guides.  The reel will charge from stripping out the line that you cast, but physics states that the spring canít rewind more line than what has been stripped out.  The main spring release is that little knob located right on the larger plate that one turns to ďwind upĒ the spring.  In use, it is rarely necessary to wind up the reel if the reel is set properly upon first rigging the outfit.


Another point to consider; when fishing with an automatic, the reel isnít used to fight the fish.  The reel only holds the line and the trigger should be pressed only to retrieve slack line that the angler has stripped in.  The ability to put all that slack line onto the reel using just the little finger of your rod had is what makes the automatic reel so useful when fishing from a canoe or kayak, or wading the weedy and brushy banks of a good bass pond!  I especially liked using the Pflueger 1195 when fishing from my canoe with a guest in the front seat.  I like sitting in back and controlling the boat when showing off the various creeks I fish, and the ability to put all my line back on the reel in seconds so I could lay down the rod and pick up the paddle made for efficient time on the water. 


In a dozen or so outings Iíve found the Pflueger 1195 to be a wholly dependable, quality piece of gear that fits an often unspoken need for fly anglers.  For those with physical disabilities that might prevent confident control of the line, this reel may be the ticket that allows them to fish at all.  For those of us lucky enough to have full dexterity and use of both hands, itís a real source of convenience.  At no point did I find myself wanting for more performance, nor was I troubled by any worries that this contemporary iteration of a classic design might be the limiting factor in landing a trophy.  The Pflueger 1195 automatic fly reel earns a solid recommendation and Iím looking forward to many more seasons with this reel adorning the seat of a number of mid-weight fly rods.


More information about the Pflueger 1195 Automatic fly reel is available on-line.

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