For a few months now I've been increasingly responding to emails with "I don't know" and "check back later" etc., and it's time to explain what's going on and what will happen moving forward.
Old readers know the deal, but newcomers might be unaware of how this works; I never form an opinion of a reel or give buying recommendations based on specifications, materials, feel, or initial thoughts. Before I arrive at any verdict I must first test the reels extensively and fish them in conditions similar to what you'll be fishing them in. There are few exceptions such as when a new model is a spin-off of an existing one etc., but otherwise no opinion or conclusions without exhaustive testing.
Having done evaluations for decades I might have learned a thing or two, but no amount of knowledge is a substitute for actual use. If you recall some of the issues I found in reels, many of which big enough to initiate a redesign or alteration, you'd find that most of them wouldn't have been found without active fishing. One might spot a bail wire not clearing the spool or a shaky rotor at home, but there is no way you'd catch a sticky roller , a bumpy one, or a bail arm that rubs the spool under pressure unless you've hooked fish and exposed the reel to the rigours of salt. The pictorial dissection is only the final act tying loose ends together and examining how parts fared and how design relates to and influences on-the-water performance. "Performance" ultimately remaining the keyword.
You probably now understand why I've been quite useless lately. What started as news of an illness appearing far away has morphed with devastating speed into a worldwide crisis unlike anything we've seen in our lifetimes, and the subsequent global shut down left me unable to fish or test reels. In addition to the crippling stay-at-home orders, I've also suffered financial losses due to cancelled plans and the disgusting behaviour of airlines and booking sites. For example earlier this year I had arranged to go after big pelagics off Spain and Italy, but then international aviation came to a halt and I have since been unable to get any refunds for refundable flights, car rentals, and hotel bookings. The people holding the largest sum of my money are "Thieving Clowns GmbH" formerly known as "Lufthansa". A quick look at their Twitter feed shows I'm not the only one
You won't see much on their FB or Instagram because they can delete comments on these platforms, but Twitter doesn't allow deletion so it's always a good window on things. To be fair they aren't the only ones because it's the same with every other major international airline, except maybe the Japanese carriers ANA and Japan Airlines who've acted with rare integrity. Honestly, I'd sell everything in a heartbeat and move to Japan if it wasn't almost impossible to own firearms there. Who knows though, maybe one day my tolerance for heavy recoil after a day on the clay line will disappear but my desire to live in the cleanest, safest, and most civilised country on earth will remain. I digress though... Point is, I've been ripped off and have no clue if I'll ever see my cash again.
It's not only my inability to reach the fishing grounds, but the problem was compounded by the shut-downs virtually cutting off my access to most new products. Over time I've formed personal relations with many people in the trade, and one of the most cost effective and speediest ways to familiarise myself with new spinners was receiving loaner reels from these good folks in deliveries that I called "doggie bags". These range from dealer samples, reels retuned for cosmetic damage not worth the trouble of repair, floor models that won't hurt much if I ding or scratch them on rocks or in a boat, and exhibition pieces that were displayed in shows. Needless to say that with shops closed and fishing shows cancelled my supply dried out, and even when there were still chances to get some reels I wouldn't take them simply because I can't fish and it's pointless to borrow people's stuff then let them collect dust for indefinite amounts of time.
Earlier this month it appeared that life might finally be on its way to return to normal, but then came the news that re-openings are being reconsidered because of a second wave. I filtered through and looked for accurate credible information and found that indeed numbers are on the rise again right now, both in the US
As well as in Europe
I then had a decision to make; should I take the risk and begin making plans again? After careful consideration I decided that this would be a grave mistake. Firstly, it would be extremely foolish to give airlines/hotels more money in these uncertain times, especially when they wouldn't refund my original money. It would mean that in a month's time I could be begging for two sets of refunds instead of one set. Secondly, with infections on the rise it's not very wise for me to be trapped in a flying tin box for 10 hours with 200 other people. I'm healthy and most likely will not die if I get it, but it's pointless to land somewhere only to become bedridden with fever and dry cough for the duration of the trip, or possibly spend thousands on potential hospitalisation where I have no insurance. Too much uncertainty, too big of a risk.
So, there you have it. For the foreseeable future I will remain unable to answer some of your questions about recent releases, the promised update of the 2019 Stella SW review with the newly added sizes will not happen anytime soon, the only thing I know about the 2020 Luvias is that it looks like my aunt Agnes when she's grumpy, my knowledge of the latest Twin Power is limited to that it has a most stupid name, I have no feedback on the new Saltiga except that turning the handle gives me an instant stiffy, and there isn't going to be a "What Reel 2020" guide and possibly not even a 2021 one.
I will just honker down and try to survive these incredibly deranged times, and if I can collect enough material I might write something about the expected effect of the pandemic on recreational fishing. Been hearing news of reduced existing orders, tentative new orders, scaled down production of certain reels and postponement or scrapping of others, all in anticipation of the upcoming economic recession; in the post-pandemic crunch the number of people able to spend a thousand dollars on a reel will be much smaller than it was, half of those who could've afforded a mid-range reel before will instead be looking at entry level, and many anglers who were already on a tight budget will just not buy tackle at all for a while. It's mind blowing how within months we went from booming economies and healthy spending to recession, furloughs, and unemployment.
Fishing and rubbish aside, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and treat people with maximum kindness and understanding. Everyone needs this in these tense times. One can't help but feel the unease in the air from all directions, and I won't be surprised if the most unthinkable things do happen.
Hopefully we'll be talking again soon, and until then don't forget that you're ugly and no one likes you. This is an undisputed fact despite any delusions you might have!
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June, 27th, 2020