While the system has been around steelhead fisheries in North America & Great Britain for a Hundred Years or more, Center Pin Reel & Float fishing is enjoying a rebirth.
A main concept of Flyfishing, wet & dry, is presentation. Allowing your March Brown Spider or Peacock Caddis to drift with a current in a natural motion without drag is ideal if matched with the local hatch and water conditions. Presentation in a natural manner is also desirable in situations where other baits are used. Your fly or nymph, downstream, unimpeded and ahead of all rigging directly into the Steelies food stream makes a tasty temptation for even the big wary ones. The bait will present first and alone if weighted lightly enough with varying split shot for the indicator to show the slightest bite from wariest. Center Pin Reel & Float also allows a rig sensitive enough to work in low current situations like winter conditions with much of the water locked up in ice.
The Center Pin Reel is engineered to be free spinning without mechanical drag except for the engageable clicker. It may use precisely machined bushings or ball bearings. Handmade Center Pin Reels by experienced fishermen/craftsmen have attained heirloom quality and may become your most prized piece of gear. The drag is applied by palming, or a thumb or finger to keep from a bird’s nest tangle. A Center Pin Reel is large compared to a standard flycasting reel, some up to 5.5 inch diameter. This reduces line twist, which may also be controlled by line selection. The larger reels also allow more line to be brought in per turn, offsetting one of the disadvantages of the 1:1 cranking ratio. It definitely takes some practice to master the cast.
The one to one ratio of a Center Pin Reel gives you a great feel when fighting your ‘fish on’. This same feature can be a detriment when working long casts all day. You work harder per fish and don’t make as many casts in a day. This means fewer fish caught for the day, but some enjoy the fishing style itself as much as the fish in the cooler. You will learn to pay more attention to detail.
The Float setup may be 10 or more feet between the bait and the float. This will require the use of a rod 12 – 15 foot or longer, for big water salmon some Oldtimers might use up to 20′ rods. The longer rod makes casting this long rig much easier. You will find that the guides for Center Pin will be different from other rigs, especially for ice conditions. Rods can be many different types, 1 or 2 hand, bamboo, modern composite. Some rods called Spey Rods are designed specially for side casting in locations where an over head cast is impossible. They are named after the river in Scotland where they were devised to cast in spite of high banks which restricted an over head cast.
A light float/indicator, can be hand made from balsa or other light wood. Clear plastic, and hundreds of variations on any sensitive floatable wood or plastic float are available in all price ranges. Hand made indicators are an art form of their own.
The manner in which your split shot is staggered from the float down, should be practiced until you get your desired results. Generally, heavier near the float and increasingly lighter shot towards the fly, allows bait and lighter shot to drift ahead of the float. Remember the water may be swifter at the surface than where your bait is if you are casting a Nymph or Wet Fly. A basic idea on split shotting is; Slow Water = Spread out; Fast Water = Closer together.