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Fly Reel Review

Abel Super 4N fly reel is made in the USA with precision! (continued)


Drag: While many manufacturers are going for sealed drag systems using a variety of materials, Abel continues to use their proven open cork disk drag system.  The drag surface is quite large, and is made entirely in house using top grade Portuguese cork with a bit of neatsfoot oil on it.  The user may set the reel up to have either the classic outgoing click, or as I opted for, a totally silent drag.  When the cork drag surface is clean and lubed, it exhibits no start up inertia and is butter smooth.  However, when it eventually becomes dried out and/or dirty, it can make a bit of noise and lose some smoothness.  On this reel I have only felt the need to have the drag lubed twice in a year or so of usage, which literally takes seconds to accomplish.  A sealed drag system is definitely less fussy, but keeping your reel clean will let it perform at it's peak.


While not a sealed drag, the surface is quite large


The drag performed great overall, except when some damp grit found its way into the reel a couple times.  To be fair, this only happened because I had carelessly left the reel down near the waters edge.  This is also one downside to the generously ported frame, but one I'm willing to live with for the weight reduction.  If I was buying an Abel to use strictly in beach type environments, I would go for the optional solid frame since it does a better job of keeping grit out of the reel. One thing that has always bugged me about the Super Series reels is that they do not feature a spool quick release.  This makes servicing the drag or simply changing the spool somewhat of a pain on the water.  The rear nut is easily removed with a dime or penny, however it is extremely small and easy to drop or misplace.  This is a very simple task, but is best done with extreme caution!


No spool quick release here


Durability:  These reels are built tough with the best materials, and I encountered no durability issues in the last year or so of usage.  After fishing Gulf beaches as well as harsh desert alkaline waters for Trout, there has been no sign of rust or corrosion.  If anything were to arise with the reel, Abel offers an original owner lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.


Light saltwater is no problem with this reel


Price & Applications: While the 4N costs $500, it is a premium fly reel that falls right in with other comparable top end reel offerings from companies such as Bauer, Nautilus, and Hatch.  The price may be a bit shocking to some, but you have to remember than this is much more than just a basic fly reel.  With all parts being made and assembled right here in the USA by skilled workers at Abel, these reels have a very custom feel and look to them even if no optional colors or parts are added.  With such robust construction and precise machining this is a reel that can be fished an entire lifetime for much more than just Trout.  Rated for 4 and 5 weight lines, it is equally at home on either size rod.  An added neat feature is that a Super 4N standard arbor spool may be purchased and used on this reel as well, giving it the added capacity to transform itself into a 6 and 7 weight reel.  You can think of it as almost having 2 Abel reels in 1.  If a person really wants a true collectors piece, Abel offers ultra premium limited edition reels featuring artwork by acclaimed artists Tim Borski, James Prosek, and Derek DeYoung. These are true works of art, with prices touching the $2,000 mark for the Borski reels.


Ratings: (We've re-calibrated our ratings standard for 2008 and have included a key at the bottom of the following matrix as a guide):

Abel Super 4N Fly Reel Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Precise, strong, and durable.  Only the finest materials are used.  Abel even machines their own screws! 9.5
Performance The retrieve is very crisp and has a nice tone.  The drag is smooth, with a wide range of settings and no noticeable startup inertia.  The open drag surface can get dirty or dried out which can affect the performance.  8

The 4N is a premium reel, with a premium price.  The cost however, is right in line with other top reel manufacturers, but really jumps up if you opt for custom touches.

Features The reel features a narrow frame, large arbor, and a generous cork drag surface.  The custom colors and parts are super cool.  It can be fitted with a regular arbor spool to use with 6 and 7 weight lines.  A reel pouch is included.  No spool quick release on this model is an occasional nuisance. 8
Design (Ergonomics) The handle is sized perfectly, and the drag knob is easy to adjust even when wet or slimy.  The reel balances nicely on a light rod.   The dimensions are right on for a reel of its size.  9.5
Application Perfect for 4 and 5 weight rods.  While most of the 4N reels will see Trout action, it will easily handle light saltwater duty too if you are brave enough.  Try it on a 5 weight rod for smaller Bonefish, Redfish, or Snook! 9

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

+ Premium quality construction and attention to detail - Premium price
+ Great size and dimensions, narrow spool is a nice feature - Open cork drag surface needs occasional lubrication and can be affected by sand/grit
+ Very smooth drag - No quick spool release
+ Custom colors and components are available to make one cool looking fly reel  
+ Strong enough to be used for more than just Trout fishing  
+ Can also be used with a standard arbor spool to make this into a 6/7 reel as well  


Conclusion:  Abel reels, based in Camarillo, CA continues to be a major player in the fly reel market.  While the Super 4N might not have the most advanced features available today, it is hard to argue with Abel's proven track record.  With a huge assortment of custom colors and parts, it is a very attractive and unique offering in an increasingly crowded fly reel market. 


The Abel 4N remains strong and dependable over the long term


For someone like me who enjoys their tackle as much as their fishing, being able to customize a reel is something really exciting, personal, and fun.  From the hot and humid Florida beaches to the wind blown Nevada desert, the Super 4N remains strong and dependable to this day.  I look forward to fishing far into the future with what has become one of my favorites!










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