For years I have been looking for that perfect reel that I could both fish and admire. Sure there are a lot of classic reels out there and even new modern reels designed in a classic format that I could have chosen, but the price was almost never right, especially since I have way too many fly rods and combinations that change at different times of year.
One of the reels that I fell in love with and have owned several over the years is a Hardy St.John. This is a 3 7/8 diameter reel, perfect for both single hand work and switch/summer steelhead applications. A simple Click and Pawl reel and for those who like the added weight, the Mark I with the brass reel seat classes it up a bit. The only problem with this model, is finding one without blemishes.
Blemishes on a used reel are fine, but for me I did not earn them, so I always had difficulty fishing someone else's reel. It came to me after seeing a friend polish up a reel, that I not only could do the same, but in a way, make it mine.
So after finding that good deal I went to work on my first reel. I did not intend to over do it, but in the end I finished when it just felt right. A little Polish, cotton splotches, tooth brush, Q-tips and a little imagination ended up removing a lot of lead finish on this reel.
In fact at this point,it has been several reels and I cannot stop looking for more. The things that I found on the reels worked on, especially those that have seen a lot of water time, is that some of the blemishes and corrosion damage seen on the outside cannot be fixed once you get down to the metal. At least not without professional equipment. You may also find imperfections in the metal when you are done. However they do contain character and the reel will not remain perfect after being fished anyway.
For those of you that collect reels for the value, this is probably not for you. But for those who actually want to fish one and not feellike you need to baby it, this is a great option.