Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Sometimes only bomb-proof will do

I was preparing a bunch of photos to go off to a client yesterday, and it got me thinking about these literally bomb proof reels that I have and use, but for some reason rarely talk about - the Van Staal spinning reels that are known all over the world as being the number one option if you want a no-nonsense workhorse that is also properly waterproof. In all honesty, it is the extreme waterproof qualities of these tanks that made me invest in my first one a few years ago now, and gradually I am hearing of more UK anglers switching on to them for their own fishing. I am not going to pretend that I use mine all the time, because I don't. But there are times when having a fully waterproof reel is just what the doctor ordered. I know the lads who do a lot of this "skishing" over in Jersey swear by them as well, and you can't get a better recommendation than that.

I am going to be totally honest with you here - from the off, a Van Staal spinning reel is not as smooth or as sublime to use as say a top end Shimano or Daiwa. They are not that kind of reel. They are a fairly "tight" reel that needs a lot of use to essentially run them in, but that "tightness" I guess is a whole lot to do with the fact that they are sealed against saltwater, sand and grit from getting in and trashing the internal workings. They have always struck me as a reel that has no bells and whistles, and in some situations this is exactly what is needed. The line lay is terrible for example, but it has proved to me time and time again that line lay seems to have nothing to do with getting wind knots or losing casting distance. Underfill a Van Staal like you would a normal spinning reel and they cast just great. One thing to note is that the drag on a Van Staal is about as smooth as I have ever come across. Great for horsing fish.

A few years ago I was doing a photo job in the Bahamas, and in between snapping away, I went for a swim with my old Baitrunners - I caught some nice cuda and got very close to a big shark, but my reels were never the same again after being taken for that swim. I also ended up fishing a lot with my mate Graham over in Ireland, where he loves to use his rod as a wading stick - not very good for spinning reels either. I found out about Van Staal reels in due course, but it was not until I went over to the Denver fly show that I actually got to hold one and see what it was like up close and personal - and I came away from the show having bought a silver VSB 150. I then took it fishing over in Ireland and very soon after that Graham also pulled the trigger and went for the gold coloured version (maximum bling). I don't think he has ever looked back after that investment. What was frustrating me was that I could not find anywhere in the UK that sold these bomb proof bits of kit - until now. I am really pleased that at last you can get hold of these specialist bits of kit right here. This is not some advert, because spending this kind of money on a spinning reel is not a decision to be taken lightly, and most anglers will never get one - but I do take my hat off to the guys at Mr. Fish for having the guts to start stocking these reels, and I believe they are stocking a whole bunch of different models. They are not cheap, and I hardly think they are going to fly out of the door, but there are anglers out there who want a spinning reel like this. As always, the best is always going to cost.

From my understanding, these reels were first developed for the US east coast striped bass fishermen who were doing all manner of things to trash their reels - I suppose a bomb proof waterproof reel was the next logical step. And along came Van Staal. There are all manner of stories of reels being lost at sea and then washed up sometime later and still working fine, and I know that the second hand market in them is a serious thing over in the States.I did have a few problems with my original VSB150, but Van Staal shipped it back and mended it for me FOC - and it has been just perfect ever since. I guess I was just unlucky.

The VSB150 is a fairly large reel that I now tend to use when I go baitfishing for bass - it's loaded up with 30lb braid, a 40lb leader, and it works just about perfectly for this kind of fishing. I did weaken considerably a couple of years ago and bought the smaller VSB100 which personally I think is the perfect size for our lure fishing for bass. I guess I don't use it half as much as I thought I would, and I did think about selling them on a while back - but they are the kind of reels that I know I would regret getting rid of. I just like the fact that you can do what you want with them and they just keep on going. Out of choice I am going to use something like my Stella 4000FD because it is just the most stunning reel to fish with, but when I want to or need to get right in amongst it all, there is only one choice.

My mate down in the Florida Keys is offering some insanely cheap fishing there from 16th June until 14th July - £55 per person per day gets you a hire car out of Miami airport, accommodation and all the boat fishing you could possibly fit in. Contact Rodney right here - July is hot over there, but it's also a time when there is a truck load of fish around - tarpon, permit, barracuda and all manner of sharks etc. inshore, and offshore will be banging with dorado, sailfish and tuna. Personally I think that tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys is one of the most awesome kinds of fishing on this earth, and I can't think of a better or cheaper way of doing it than with these guys at Fish the Dream. What a great excuse as well to by mistake pull over and check out Bass Pro either in Miami itself, or in Islamorada in the Keys itself !! Over to you.....

Henry Gilbey6 Comments