Centre-Pin Reels

This is the page for the centre-pin reels I have owned, used and surprisingly often, passed on.

I got sucked into the whirligig maelstrom of neo-traditionalism in around 2005-6 and because of this I decided to try proper centre-pin fishing and for this a proper centre-pin was required. I acquired a Kingpin 450 'Regal', which some people consider is not a 'proper centre-pin' as it has ball-bearings, a distinction which hardly seems worth making a stand on.

Thus equipped, I spent the next 12 months fishing with it, quite an experience. As I needed neither clutch, long-casting nor galloping retrieve speeds, I gained a simpler life, greater control of a hooked fish and line with no kinks at all ever. Plus it looked nice in photos. This 12-month also answered the question, "Why in this day and age would anyone fish with a centre-pin?". Well, it's enjoyable, that's why.

In common with the rods and fixed-spool reel pages, the below entries have usage statistics at the bottom of the entry, based on records kept since 2005, the site's incept year. Fixed-Spool reels are on a different pageFor the hard of thumb-braking....

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Centre-pin Reels  The K. Dowling Centre-Pin.

We had both got centre-pins for Christmas, the current BIG THING. "K. Dowling and Sons" it has on the back, never 'spun' in any real sense of the word, still doesn't, and it had a kind of line-guard made with brass wire and a sliding eye-thing, long since lost. In an attempt to make is spin even a bit, I carefully marked and pillar-drilled out some extra holes and then de-burred the same. Still didn't spin.

Caught my first pike on it and have kept it around for some irrational reason, used it for carp in 2006It worked. Just..

K. Dowling and Son's Centre PinSpin reel...not. the K. Dowling and Sons Centre Pin K. Dowling and Son's Centre PinSpin reel, eventually... the K. Dowling and Sons Centre Pin

The K. Dowling centre-pin was first used on 30th December 1976 and has been used on at least 4 occasions, the last being the 22nd October 2006.

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Centre-pin Reels  My Kingpin 450 Series Two (black) is ready, I'll have to collect it next week now, as otherwise engaged. Drat.

"The Regal possesses the same rigorous specification standards as the 4 7/8" reel with a lower cost and measures slightly smaller diameter drum at 4.5" This model is the most popular with anglers that may have smaller hands. Every reel in the Gold Series has fittings made of premium quality brass, hand-polished to the strictest standards and treated with special protective oil that penetrates the metal, guarding it for longer from the elements. Like the Royalty, the enlarged hole design allows the option of easy line retrieval with the fingers. The edges are perfectly radiused to eliminate the chance of cutting your finger."

The Kingpin 450 was first used on 10th November 2006 and has been used on at least 152 occasions, the last being the 16th June 2020.

Other Diary and Fettling Entries relevant to the Kingpin 450.

Centre-pin Reels March 2009. KingPin Series 2 Review. (Originally written for 'Pure Piscator', edited for style & grammar.)

Deciding that I wanted to try fishing with a centre-pin, in part due to Waterlog et al, I dug out my old K. Dowling 'pin, given to me as a callow 18-year old. I quickly got used to its unfree-running nature, banking several carp to 11lb next to lily beds, which as 'BB' reminds us, spells doom if carp can get amongst them. I rather enjoyed being able to retrieve line when exerting pressure. So that is OK then. I then practised 'Wallis' casts in the back garden for a bit. Seemed straightforward enough in theory.

I researched, in-depth, the contemporary centre-pin market. Well OK, for a couple of hours, but this is 'Google' for you. I wanted a quality item but was not prepared to part with the inflated price of some newer 'pins, due in part to the name of the endorsee, especially in this age of CNC tools. It did not matter whether it was an older or contemporary model. Function was the thing, as I was still a neophyte 'pin angler. By chance, I found a reference to 'Arnold KingPins' being manufactured in Poole. As it happens this is local and I would prefer to buy British. With a call and a visit I discovered Series 2 Kingpins were available in a variety of colours, except green which is apparently a bu88er to get right and easily spoiled. Pity. Once I had one in my hand, I was lost.

I was invited to pay on collection when the reel was ready, which I did. The first time out I got memorably stuffed by a big carp ("Good OmensOne word; 'ping'"), but for the next 12 months used it almost exclusively for everything from margin carping, tench fishing, trotting the Frome for grayling and the Stour for chub, with lines from 3lb-10lb b/s. A decent 'trot', as it were. Arf, arf.

So, first things first. What does it look like? It looks like quality. The anodising is top rate and overall appearance is pleasing. The two colours shown here are black and platinum (mea culpa, I bought another; I tend to fish when I can and wanted to have two line strengths to hand). It is possible the reels were not cleaned before the photos.

Series One - Regal 450 PlatinumSeries One - Regal 450 Platinum Series One - Regal 450 BlackSeries One - Regal 450 Black

Do they spin? By golly, yes. When new, the first reel would spin freely for over a minute but now it has 'bedded in', it actually spins for over two minutes. Which is nuts. Even limited experience leads one to the benchmark of "any 'pin that spins freely for a minute is fine for fishing". The reel itself is made in two main parts. The spool and the back-plate. The spool bolts to the back-plate with a nice brass nut, which is just knurled enough to hurt when really cold fingers slip on it.

The spool contains the sealed bearing unit, so it is not a 'traditional centre-pin', so some purists are no doubt offended, but if using nylon line, it is hard to reject ball bearings as a modern solution. I understand metal has been in use for several thousand years though, so we should be OK there. The drum of the spool is continuous, so no fold marks however long or tightly the line has been on the reel.

The back of the spool is closed so no detritus can get into the sealed works, but the gap between spool and back-plate is so small that any bit of grit will cause nasty noises. Always dismantle the reel on a clean surface is my advice, and unhooking mats are not in this category.

The drum is wide, 7/8", with a depth that accommodates 200 yards of 12lb line on it, and a bit more besides if you feel the need. Hook a margin carp and need 200 yards of line? You wish! The ratchet lever is in a handy place, it can be reached with a fore-finger (and I have small hands), the ratchet is positive and not too loud. I quietened mine with a mixture of molybdenum and silicon grease, but I am a slave to silence. Since I wrote this in 2009, the flimsy back-plates have been removed from the spools and this quietened the reels considerably, as they were acting as a kind of sound-board.

Series One - Regal 450Series One - Regal 450

Both parts of the reel are very solidly made (useful for the aforementioned margin carp) and it is heavier than some reels. Despite the resulting inertia, the extremely free running nature compensates to the point where even a 2BB float in a light Stour flow pulls line off at a steady rate. Casting 'off the reel' needs some care at first, as you need to brake the drum almost from the off to avoid overruns. Otherwise, it is good for "giving it some Wallis".

The knurled finish on the drum edge provides very satisfying feedback from one's thumb when trotting, as well as a sight 'zizzing' noise, the note of which varies with the speed of the drum. I have got very used to that, even if one's thumb warms rapidly when a 'screamer' is hooked, although funnily enough this quite tolerable. The milled edge also aids 'batting the rim' if you like to retrieve in this way. The handles are also nicely made, are easy to remove if required and the round holes in the spool are very handy for the 'one finger retrieve' (I sense a 'Samantha the Scorer' anecdote coming on, what with 'batting the rim' and the 'one finger retrieve').

Series One - Regal 450 BlackSeries One - Regal 450 Black Series One - Regal 450 PlatinumSeries One - Regal 450 Platinum

I find the reel body a little close to the rod when mounted, which can make it awkward to hold, as I like to get my index finger ahead of the reel mount for a secure grip. For most fishing this is not a problem, but I find a three fingered grip aching at the end of a days' trotting and also if into a large carp (steady Samantha). I would personally like a larger diameter drum, for a faster retrieve and a lighter reel would be nicer for the river but I see that the range has recently expanded to cover these things plus user serviceable bearings.

In summary, I find it a joy to use in almost any situation. Try one, you might be amazed. They perform perfectly for me and it is good to buy British. I was edging towards my third Kingpin when I wrote this and have since indulged in a Royalty 478 which I thought to be even better...but it never felt right in the hand and in the end I sold it on for what I paid for it. I did the same with a 378 (although I made a profit on that one). Nice, but I had little use for it.

It is a pity to say I have since come to see them as rather over-priced. They are beautifully made of course, but they are CNC machined, high tolerances excepting and as of 2014, the market is showing more and more very nicely made reels that are a quarter of the price but are simply nowhere near a quarter of the quality, many with user changeable bearings and little significant difference in quality or performance.

For some there is a cachet that sits alongside 'reassuringly expensive' but for my money, there are several equally good and usable reels for £100 or so, and to pay £400 or even £700 for what is after all, a piece of CNC machining, is rather more 'Emperor's New Clothes' than 'value for money'. I was lucky to get mine for the price I paid!

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Centre-pin Reels  The Mordex Merlin. I picked this up from the Rod Box in Kings Worthy, probably on the way back from an airport. It had a dent in the rim and was full of old ground-bait and the line guard had been broken and re-attached, but that said it cleaned up and fished really nicely. However, like others I thought it let down by the plastic centre boss and other fittings, marring what was basically a nice reel. Some enterprising folk have made metal bosses, among other parts, to iron out the weaknesses and I've seen spools re-anodised in natty colours; like I said, basically a good reel!

I used mine a few times and then it sat on the shelf for no good reason at all, so I Sold to the bloke at the back it on at Romsey, to a new home. You can certainly do worse.

The Mordex Merlin was used twice, once on 18th January 2009, again on 1st February 2009, then was sold on.

All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench...(and back to the top of the page) There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchTinca tinca little star...

Centre-pin Reels  The Kingpin 378. Like a small '450'. Nice, pretty, neither one thing or t'other, so I had little use for it...Sold to the bloke at the back ...for a small profit.

The Kingpin 378 was first used on 23rd January 2010 and was used on at least 6 occasions, the last being the 22nd January 2012. It was then sold on.

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Centre-pin Reels  The Kingpin 478. This, beautifully milled, like the '450', also has the large porting holes in the spool so one can stick one's fingers in the holes for line retrieval and the spool ported to reduce its weight. Plus, it was green.

At first glance it was exactly what I wanted for margin fishing. Usage dampened my ardour. The larger diameter made it all but impossible to hold the rod close to the reel and the ratchet lever was on the bottom edge of the reel, so had to be operated with yer other hand. I was promised a change of back-plate to rectify this, but the promised item kept pace with my enquiries cnvIn a commercial life, I formulated the notion of 'convergence'. That is, if every time one enquires about a due date, the promised date is always the same notional time away, then there is no 'convergence' on an actual delivery. Therefore it is never going to happen. Ergo, move on...  until I decided it was not worth the bother. So, Sold to the bloke at the back at Romsey Tackle Fair, in 2013 from memory. Not missed.

The 478 on the LRH No. 3 on 'Point D'Chasse', L'etang De La MorinaisThe 478 on the LRH No. 3 on 'Point D'Chasse', L'etang De La Morinais

The Kingpin 478 was first used on 28th September 2009 and was used on at least 3 occasions, the last being the 13th October 2009. It was then sold on.

VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace...(and back to the top of the page) VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace

Centre-pin Reels  The Stanton Harry Reynolds. I picked this up for a reasonable price at Romsey (I think) and it had a chip out of the 'foot' and rumbled a bit. I gather this is an early forerunner to the Adcock Stanton ball-bearing trotting reels. It is 5" across the back plate, a smidge over 4¾" lip-to-lip across the spool, ball-bearing rather than a 'pin', has a 'lead' (gunmetal colour) finish and the original stubby green handles. There is a nice brass ratchet button on the back-plate, and the ratchet itself is an internal spring and pawl, 'the usual arrangement'.

I sent it to Gary MillsVery approachable staff, very welcoming, know their stuff, excellent technical skills so can always find a solution, very good price wise, always value for money and will tell you if something isn't economic. But most of all very friendly and take great care of their customers. and he sorted out the bearing and machined the broken foot square as well. He does a fine job, that is for sure. It is a nice reel to use, with those large porting holes that are so necessary for retrieving line easily, handles never seem quite right for the job. For myself it has two flaws: the first is that the reel is too close to the rod handle when fitted - I may yet make a spacer to ease this; the second is that the distance between the rim and the pillars is rather generous, which makes a reel, that on first glance seems wide drum, really quite narrow, being only 3½" across.

I feel this is waste, one might have removed weight or increased the retrieve rate. As the pillars are all screw fitted, I seriously considered fitting some wide plastic pillars over the metal pillars, to increase the line lay's o/d by ½" or so, which would add some legs to the retrieve.

Nice reel though, as it happens.

The Stanton Harry Reynolds was first used on 9th December 2012 and has been used on at least 4 occasions, the last being the 10th October 2015.

Other Diary and Fettling Entries relevant to the Stanton Harry Reynolds.

Centre-pin Reels 15th March 2012. End of season. So, today,walking off the unprofessionalism of the present employer, near the Chinese supermarket I found two huge patches of violets in the midst of run-down industry. Later, day done, towards the journey's-end of my current obsession with the intro. to 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', at the end of our lane, two of this year's coney kits wheel-spin frantic up the bank to avoid the big scary car. Spring's here then. Little furry locusts.

Dog day. I break out a recently (generously priced) acquired Adcock-Stanton, a scouring pad, make two custom tools (treasonably, from 10p pieces), then clean, polish, degrease, re-grease and load with 6lb Stren. Bit of a rumble, but spins for a minute. Good enough.

Adcock-Stanton6lb line, Adcock-Stanton, Avon, job done. Adcock-StantonSpin reel, spin
The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream...(and back to the top of the page) Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus Thymallusgrayling The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the Streamgrayling Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus

Centre-pin Reels  The Leeds. Nabbed for a score from the Bay of Fleas in January 2013, where it was languishing under the name 'Centre Pin Fishing Reel'. This unsung and underated trotting reel is my goto for river fishing. It spins freely, has a wide drum, is easily 'batted' and has big porting holes for 'finger retrieval'. The reel foot is set so you can hold the rod around the foot and the rim is exactly where your thumb sits. If it had a ¼" arbour it'd retrieve 14" of line a turn...perfect for the job. Sure it's not 'reassuringly expensive' or very shiny...

The Leeds centre-pin was first used on 17th August 2013 and has been used on at least 5 occasions, the last being the 3rd October 2015.

Not so very common carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Not so very common carp...a very subtil fish Not so very common carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Not so very common carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Not so very common carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it.

Centre-pin Reels  The Avon Gypsy. The Avon Gypsy is very cute and I was much taken by it at the Romsey Vintage Tackle Fair, plus it did not cost me a great deal. It is a scant 3" side-to-side, and to my mind thought that it would do nicely for fishing on the little River Sem or for similar small water enterprises. It certainly looked the part.

It was manufactured, as you can see below, by Grice and Young Ltd. Christchurch. Notwithstanding its appeal, it is cheaply made with a plastic boss, pressed steel and aluminium parts and pop-riveted for the most part.

The Avon Gypsy The Avon Gypsy Close-up of the reel's name
The back-plate The ratchet-pawl and insides of the reel Close-up of the plastic boss, with the maker's name

What I found (when fishing the River SemFishing in Lilliput) was that even on a tiny stream you need some control over the fish, as they will dart about a bit. Also, you are often obliged to fish from five yards upstream and this tiny reel really was not up to the job. Even a modest 6oz chub outpaced its ability to stay in touch with a fish...so on the day, I swapped it out for a Cardinal 44x.

Having said that the ratchet is rather smooth, neatly constructed and positive without being strident. The sound is soft, possibly due to the rounded teeth of the gear. Nice little reel, nice to have, glad I have owned one, but...

To date the Avon Gypsy has been used twice, the first time on 14th March 2014 and the last time on 23rd March 2014.

A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box...(and back to the top of the page) A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box

Centre-pin Reels  The Harlow. Another under sung reel. I suspect it might well have been dubbed a 'gun-carriage' at some point and 'Redfin', on seeing mine, immediately christened it 'The Tuna Reel'.

Not withstanding the lack of approbation: it is wide diameter, a smidge over 5", crucially, a knat's over 4" across the pins and has a 1¼" wide drum. While it doesn't revolve as freely as say, a Kingpin, it just about works as a trotting reel although it'd probably be fine if I maintained it better. I use mine predominantly for still-water angling and keep 100 yards of 'superbraid' backing on the reel, carefully wound and evenly laid, then put 50 yards of whatever mono I'm using over the top, combi-knotted to the braid. The rim is faintly knurled, which I like, as it generates a thumb-tone that varies with speed and it has the large porting holes that make it so much easier to use. It retrieves a just over foot of line per turn of the reel, a handy thing to know when putting on new line as long as one can count to 141.

The wide drum allows the reel itself to function as a servicable rear rod-rest, not that I'd stand it on gravel or anything like. It has a ratchet, which is useful, but in truth the job of the ratchet is to stop over-runs and this is one ragged-harsh. The reel has two things that separate it from my perfect margin 'pin. Firstly the ratchet is activated by a sliding button that is almost exactly too far away from my reel hand to do it easily and secondly, the reel is so close against the reel seat, that once on the rod, one is obliged to hold the rod some way from the reel.

My preference with all centre-pin and fixed spool reels is to have my hand around the reel foot - it's simply the right place to hold the rod. Yes it is.

I 'fixed' the latter (see below) with a metal spacer. Since that and following the purchase of a second Harlow, I made two spacers from green and purple Perspex sheets, cut into pieces the right size, roughened, de-greased and glued with epoxy, after which I drilled the holes and filed the edges smooth. The metal one lives in my tackle bag as a spare. If it had a ratchet lever in the same position as the '450 it'd be nigh on perfect.

The Harlow centre-pin was first used on 9th February 2013 and has been used on at least 70 occasions, the last being the 24th June 2020.

Other Diary and Fettling Entries relevant to the Harlow centre-pin.

Centre-pin Reels 27th February 2014. The Harlow Reel. So the problem is one of small hands and big reels. I needed a spacer for the Harlow - it's perfect for the 'pin carping, large diameter, not too large, holes that fit fingers and a wide drum, exactly the job for 80 yards of 'oh my word it's a monster' braid backing and 50 yards of mono over the top. I've got little hands and need to get my index finger around the handle and my thumb on the rim. I simply cannot get on with holding the rod in front of the reel, feels all wrong, always has. So 'a spacer'. I experimented with some washers...and spent an hour on the sofa watching Ms. Sackhoff SBDoes anyone else think they have a special department for making up 'slightly rude sounding made up names' in American TV land?  kick robot butt, while I idly span my reel (honest). The resulting dents in my fingers and black marks from the metal told me to add more space and file off some metal...I drew up a spacer and a very nice man agreed to trade it for some monstrous stret-peggers...

The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The traditional drawing on the back on an envelope...1
The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The problem...2
The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The solution...3
The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The solution...4
The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The solution...5
The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The solution...6
The spaced out HarlowThe spaced out Harlow
The solution...7

So here is the progression on the job and below is the progression of the 'payment'...

Centre-pin Reels 23rd March 2018. The 'Mk.III'; Part II. Post. Two things arrived in the post today. Firstly, a set of finest bronzed reinforced barrel ferrules for the Mk.III project. These, after some too-ing and fro-ing with the always helpful Ted Oliver, turned out to be a spot-on fit. Item two, my Harlow Reel number two. Yeah...

The Mk.III rod's ferrulesThe perfectly proper bronzed reinforced barrel ferrule for the Mk.III.
Harlow Center PinMy second Harlow...now I need a spacer for the reelseat...

Centre-pin Reels 22nd December 2018. The Harlow Spacers. Having got a second Harlow, I needed a second reel-foot spacer...hm. I didn't really want to bodge something metal with a hacksaw and files. Well I did, but thought better of it. I had the bright notion that something might be made out of layered Perspex, so ordered some small sheets of 3mm Perspex in dark green and purple.

I cut out three pieces of each colour out, using the existing metal spacer as a template. I then 'spotted' and drilled the mounting holes in each of the six pieces separately. The surfaces were roughened to 'key' the applied epoxy resin, then M4 bolts were used to clamp them together into two sets of three layers, alternating the colours. So one was green-purple-green and the other was purple-green-purple. No reason.

These, when the glue had set, were rounded them off with a coarse file, then some fine-grade sand-paper and finally some 000 wet-and-dry. The M4 screws were removed and they were fitted to the reels. They're a little rough but hardly need to be works of art. There you go.

Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Carp? What addiction?...a very subtil fish Carp? What addiction?Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Carp? What addiction?if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it.
JAA