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The Pflueger Medalist

My Lifelong Relationship

by Joseph D. Cornwall


When I first started seriously fly fishing, in 1972, I built my own rod on a Lamiglass blank and fitted a Plfueger Medalist 1494 to it. I donít recall the line with certainty, but Iíll bet it was an Aircel. That set-up wreaked havoc on the local yellow perch, black crappie and bluegill population. I remember taking one fish after another on black Weber poppers while my grandfather, at the other end of the boat, went wanting with his ever-present worm and bobber rig.
By 1974 Iíd become addicted to this sport. Iíd signed on as a charter member of the newly formed Cape Cod chapter of Trout Unlimited and was exposed to ďsaltersĒ Ė sea run brook trout and newly introduced sea-run browns. The demanding sea-runs lead to the purchase of another, more specialized fly rod. It was a Heddon Pal 8í3Ē 8wt. A Plflueger 1495 took pride of place on that reel seat.
The same year I purchased the Heddon, I ran into a blitz of bluefish tearing up sand eels just out of range of my best casts. Heavier artillery was needed. Another Lamiglass blank was purchased, this time a 9í 10wt that matched up to custom-cut lengths of lead core trolling line. My crude shooting head system found a home on a Pflueger 1498.
I still have that 1498, more than 30 years later. It still works just fine. My original 1495 finally wore out Ė it met its match in the form of a Great Miami River carp. In the last five years Iíve added to my family of Medalists. I now have one of each, and several of a few.  Make no mistake, this isnít a collection for a drawer or a keepsake box. These are still working reels for me, and I use them all often.  The Pflueger Medalist, in its original round-line-guard dress or one of its various international incarnations, is a dependable and affordable performer!
The Pflueger Medalist is quite likely the most popular fly reel ever built. In production since 1930, the older Medalists command respectable collector values. The earliest Medalists are easily recognizable. They sported a round line guard and sculpted ďbowling pinĒ shaped pillars. The very earliest reels also used a knurled metal cap for a drag setting.
By the 1950ís the Enterprise Manufacturing Company had officially changed its name to Pflueger. In 1966 the Shakespeare Company acquired Pflueger, but continued to manufacture the Medalists in Akron until 1969. In 1969 production was moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. The letters DA were added after the model numbers.
By 1979 Shakespeare had shifted production overseas to Japan, Hong Kong and, eventually, China. Reels from this period can be identified by the letters CJ (Japan) and AK (Hong Kong, China) stamped on the rim. Also, the reel foot had the words Japan, China or Hong Kong inscribed on it.

 Itís a good time to own a vintage Pflueger.  High quality replacement parts are readily available. In fact, you can make your vintage Medalist perform at a level far beyond their original design by replacing anything and everything from the reel foot (older reel feet are sometimes too wide for contemporary reel seats) to the handle, and from the drag plate to the line guide. The One-Pfoot company of North Conway, NH custom manufactures all kinds of parts and specializes in fine tuning vintage Medalists!
I love fiberglass rods, and elsewhere in this site you'll find articles about my burgeoning collection and my fascination with this anachronistic design. Suffice it to say that sometimes progress for the sake of progress misses the fine points of the exercise.  In the case of fly rods there is still a lot fiberglass can do that graphite canít. The Medalists in my collection are happily paired with glass rods, but also find lotís of time strapped to carbon.
My classic 1492 holds a DT 3 floating line and makes its home on the end of a any of a selection of 6 to 7-foot glass and graphite rods. A newer vintage model holds a 10-meter DT4 and hangs off the end of a Cabela's Stow-Away.  It's fine panfish outfit and itís often found bouncing around the back of my Jeep when Iím scouting or traveling. This set-up also fits nicely into my check-on bag for those overnight business trips to destinations where the water is soft and the fish may be willing.
The Medalist 1494Ĺ has a wide spool and offers the perfect capacity for a 5 or 6 weight line. I have it filled with a Scientific Anglers density compensated uniform sinking WF 5 line. This reel is almost always in my vest when Iím carrying a 4, 5 or 6wt rod. In fact, it saw quite a bit of use this winter chasing skipjack, white bass and hybrid stripers on the Ohio River!
My 1495 is a true workhorse. I have several of them with extra spools. I can carry my 7wt ghost tip, density compensated full sinker, sink tip and bass bug lines fully dressed and ready for action. Iíll bet these reels have been fished hundreds of times and have landed hundreds of fish. Certainly I can recall just about everything from striped bass to trout, from redfish (one Padre Island Texas toad took me into the backing four times!) to pike finding themselves attached to lines spooled on my Medalist 1495ís!
The 1495Ĺ is a wide spool version of the 1495. I keep this reel spooled with a double taper 8 wt line for close in work with my (still kicking) Heddon Pal. The slow casting rhythm of that old glass rod, coupled to the amazing cast-ability of a supple double taper line, makes easy work of dropping cork bugs and small spinner-fly combos into tiny holes along the bank of my favorite bass pond.
The 1498 is a beast. Itís a large reel. I keep an old 10wt bass bug line spooled on it for those times when big flies and big wind conspire against me. My Orvis TL908-4 happily handles the big line, and that heavy hawser guarantees that my 4/0 hair bugs will be delivered to the spot they need to find. There have been a few Minnesota pike that have regretted that combination! Best of all, I didnít break the bank to have this specialized back-up system available.
Get a Medalist today and give it a good workout. Here is an in-depth series of two articles where you'll find all you need to know to identify, date, service and select an American classic to hang off your real seat.  In my mind, the Medalist takes the gold!

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