The Medalist Files–Jack Devlin

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A big Medalist fan here. I have only two left, a 1494 with a spare spool and the granddaddy of all Medalists, the 1498.

I still use the 1494, loaded with a 6-weight. At one time, the 1495 1/2 was my steelhead reel. I liked it because the extra width allowed room to get tangles out of the spool. That was especially nice with cold numb fingers. When I was doing some guiding back east on the Salmon River (NY state), the 1495 1/2 was on all my client/loaner rods, because it was dependable and tough. We used Lamiglass blanks and 1495 1/2s loaded with mono and fished roe sack with lots of lead weight. I called us “mobile plunkers.”It was very effective in those days on the Salmon River and its nearby smaller streams. No one fished flies.

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The 1498 was my “bonefish reel.” I made annual visits to the Florida Keys, which was an easy, quick and relatively cheap flight from New York. I will never forget the time I hooked the mother of all permits. It took the 1498 to its limits and a bit beyond. Sizzling run after sizzling run caused the reel to start smoking. The bakelight (I think that was the material) plate, which was part of the drag system, was actually burning and eventually melted. The guide caught onto what was happening and he would pour bottled on the back of the reel every time the fish took off. The reel didn’t seize but the drag system was a melted mess. I never did boat that fish. Got him up close and the leader parted. It was over 20 pounds, according to the guide’s estimate.

After repairs, the 1498 became my largemouth bass reel. I still have it, lined, oiled and ready to go. A very heavy reel then and even more so now, given today’s low rod weights.

The Medalists were and are great reels. Thirty plus years ago there weren’t a lot of other choices.

Occasionally, I run into a Medalist in a second hand store, but they are usually more recent models. The plastic just doesn’t look the same, don’t look like “ivory.” There is a Canadian version of the Medalist, which I see from time to time. But still not the real thing.

Jack Devlin is an avid fisherman, fly tier, and woodcarver who relocated from New York to Washington in 2003 to be nearer the rivers of his dreams and establish a more convenient home base for frequent trips to Alaska and British Columbia.  The move also provided easier access to alder and cedar – the woods of choice for Jack’s Northwest Coast style of carving.  Jack received his “education” on the great trout streams of New York – the Beaverkill, Delaware, Willowemac, etc. – and, under the tutelage of his Dad, experienced Atlantic Salmon fishing on the Miramichi and Grand Cascapedia in the Atlantic Maritime Provinces of Canada.  If you were to ask Jack what was the most compelling thing that made him move West and become such an avid steelheader, he would tell you it was Trey Comb’s book “Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies.”  Jack resides near Southworth and regularly fishes for cutthroat in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

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