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All things Alvey | Category: Fishing Talk

kingiFiddler 9 months ago

Whatever follows, now or at any stage in the future, we can all blame itsaboat for the final nudge that sent me on this neat Alvey journey of discovery. In short order I went from thinking Alveys were just an old, redundant brand the grumpy old surfcasters and rock-hoppers used to owning five of them.

My first and still my favourite is an old, cheap model bought off facebook. The seller wanted $10 for it, didn't have change for $20, and I still got a whopper of a bargain. It's a 520, direct-wind bakelite model.
Here's ugly Betty, AKA anti-slammer 1, henceforth known as AS1:

Another of the same model, used, but with a fibreglass spool came up for sale and I grabbed that too for about $30, IIRC. At those prices two means one can be a donor if need be.

There are three bought-new Alveys to round out the famous five, but realising I may have overcooked the purchases, I have already sold one of the new, unused models.

One of the two remaining bought-new models is one of their cheapest, which I've been using to catch livebait, for a few months now. There are thoughts of trying to target a kingfish with it, just for fun, but that challenge is a bit further down the to-do list.

The second of the remaining new Alveys, a 50C model, was bought with a project in mind. That being to see if I could work it up to being suitable (as much as such a lunatic idea can be) for chasing marlin. After too many hours down that rabbit hole I have abandoned the project and returned the reel to its as-new, unused configuration. They've designed it to be perfect for their target use, which I see as kahawhai, trevally, snapper and kingfish. But there's just not enough room left in the engineering capabilities to turn it into a marlin reel and when I tried to push its limits it failed and I had to buy a new friction tube off Alvey to get it all back to as new, unused condition. So, I'll be selling that reel off ASAP (-hint for Mark, now's good).

The last few months livebaiting with AS1 has been the most fun I've ever had fighting fish. It's been very refreshing to learn new skills like palming a reel. This is necessary on kingfish and sharks especially, because this reel only had about 2kgs of drag.

I write "had" because it is such a good reel I thought why not try to upgrade it to see if it would become a marlin reel. The crazy dream of an Alvey marlin just got crazier because it looks like AS1 is going to 'handle the jandle' as we say here. With $15 in parts and $40 of TIG welding, AS1 is now up to just under 7kgs drag. I've still got some final lapping to do which I hope will bring it to 7kgs at full spool.

Having burned my gloved hand palming during a shark fight recently, I knew it needed to have more drag and I've also bought but have yet to try, heat-proof gloves that those with pizza ovens use, rated to 500°C.

What I didn't need is the clicker. So, that came out to make some room for a washer:

This washer is needed because the backing plate is dished, not flat. So I lapped a washer flat and had it tacked in to stop it spinning.

Given there's no clicker, I machined the gear/teeth for the clicker off the end of the spool so I had room and a nice flat for the corresponding washer on the spool. But how to fix a washer into notoriously fragile and fickle bakelite, so it doesn't spin? Found a threaded pipe end that when cut fits perfectly over the spokes of the spool and with a bit of filing of the inside, snugs up nicely against the bakelite of the spool:

So, that's the inner drag washer done. Onto the outer/front/top drag washer. This was easy. Just find a matching washer, lap it flat, and have a spacer nut TIG-ed on so my fingers can still get between the legs of the star drag adjuster:

While we are TIG-ing I may as well deal to something that could be a potential problem. With the reel full and the wind-on leader wound on when leadering a (hopefully big) fish, there may be enough rod bend under those loads for the leader to rub against the rivets that hold the rod seat part to the body of the reel, so I had that stitched and will remove the rivets. They also corrode a tiny amount and while it's just a patina, I don't like it on an otherwise stainless steel reel body:

So, while I've yet to do a final lap with some compound that's coming tomorrow, it is just under 7kgs of drag, using carbontex washers. By the time the washers are lapped and seated fully, and a big critter has screamed 200m off the spool, I suspect the drag it'll be experiencing is likely to be approaching double digits. My hand wins a reprieve.

There is certainly scope to make the inner and outer washers bigger for more drag, but I'm pretty happy with where it's at so far. It feels super smooth, no high-spots anywhere. So, the final test will be on a reasonable shark sometime ASAP. If the reel and myself come through that unscathed, I'll be selling my new, unused, Penn Fathom 40N 2-speed lever drag reel.

Lets see what this once $20 and now $75 Alvey reel is capable of.

Before the mods, it has landed a snapper over 20lbs, a near 2m bronzie, and this second-place getter (in a local comp here) kingi:

If anyone reading this has suggestions on how to improve AS1, I'm all ears/eyes. There are bound to be a few Alvey vets who have a few tricks I hope they can share.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
itsaboat 9 months ago

You are welcome...I am always willing to offer nudges

Quite an interesting project you have there.

itsaboat mate...Life is just a boat and then ya marry one !
kingiFiddler 9 months ago

The announcement has just come through that Gowing Bros LTD has bought Alvey. Will be interesting to see what they do with it, with the production, how much of it stays in Aussie. But it's pretty cool a long-standing Aussie company (although publicly traded so am not sure how much of it is still Aussie owned) has bought Alvey.

Could have been worse, much worse.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
itsaboat 9 months ago

Yes. I saw that in the news.

itsaboat mate...Life is just a boat and then ya marry one !
kingiFiddler 9 months ago

Fingers crossed it works out well.

On only slightly related news, I used diamond lapping paste on the washers of AS1 to get them mating perfectly and what a difference that made. I would not believe it could make so much difference but AS1 is now over 10kg drag and silky smooth. Very, very stoked with that.

Super-pumped to get back on the water and find a shark that'll give it a good shakedown test.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
kingiFiddler 7 months ago

Quick update on the modified Alvey. There's an issue and I haven't found a perfect work-around yet. With all surfaces in my redneck drag system being ground to mate with each other perfectly, I've lost freespool. There's enough surface tension between the lightly greased carbon washers and the metal washers that it tends to add a very light drag even when wound right out so there's slack/play and I pull the spool off the inner washer to at least break that seal. While not much, it's enough to put off kingfish that don't swallow on strike.

I'm using a dropback release clip to work around this somewhat but even that's not enough line to convince some kings to swallow the livebait.

Developing a strategy for this is still a work in progress.

Perhaps not grease the washers? Can't say I'm a fan of that. Not from a kayak and with the water exposure my reels get.

Any suggestions would be great, cheers.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
itsaboat 7 months ago

My first thought is use oil instead of grease. Or a very light, low tack grease.

A coil spring washer between the base plate and the spool might work.

itsaboat mate...Life is just a boat and then ya marry one !
kingiFiddler 7 months ago

Hmm, that's worth a shot, cheers here's the only thing I caught this morning. Still beats work 😃

The world's a better place after a paddle.
Mark Totzke 7 months ago

that's a great shot

a snapper a day keeps the doctor away
kingiFiddler 7 months ago

Cheers Mark. In all it was 4 hrs of paddling around before I found a livebait. It lasted under 5 minutes before being taxed. I took that as the final nail in that fish mish's coffin and came in. Tide was so big I wanted to get in before the outgoing current put too much load on my still-healing wrist. After 8 weeks out injured, I will probably go postal if I wreck the wrist again and have to endure another dry two months without my kayak therapy.

The currents at the mouth of the estuary here were so strong that the middle of the vortexes between eddies were being sucked down about a foot below the surrounding water level. Probably nothing much for a whitewater expert but it was pretty wild for me. Never seen it that fierce here before.

That experience, catching a nice sunrise, and getting in a few miles on the healing wrist were just enough consolation for no fish. But I sure hope they return soon. there was another kayaker catching fish in a spot in the estuary, but I'm not interested in small stuff. Am only in it for the tow, so that's kingfish or bigger. Hero or zero. Yesterday was zero

The world's a better place after a paddle.
kingiFiddler 6 months ago

Thinking about it some more I think I can solve the issue with the addition of a new part. It's coming over from Aussie in a few weeks, bringing my sister with it:

The bakelite trolling reel can stay on my game rod, permanently spooled and rigged for big critters, which is why the drag was modified in the first place

The Alvey 50 I just bought is as close to the solid, simple and modifiable design of the bakelite trolling reel as I could find in their current range. But crucially, it has side cast so if in the future I decide to increase the drag (although as it's for kings mainly I don't think I'll need to go beyond carbon drag washers anyway) it won't matter if it no longer spins as freely. Freespool will be super-free by having it in cast position and run the line through my release clip. Doesn't get any freer than that when the clip releases. That's the plan anyway. Let's see if it works out in the real world.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
itsaboat 6 months ago

Sounds like a plan.

There might be an issue. But not sure. I guess it would be a matter of trying and see what happens.

The issue...Because Alvey is sidecast, they get line twist. The solution is to always use a swivel. The general rule is the wire of the swivel should be the same dia as the line.

I am thinking would being in cast position cause line twist when you are not actually casting? I don't know...When casting the force is constant pulling away from the reel. But this will be a fish pulling and if the fish turns and comes towards the reel ?? I am thinking that might cause an over run...But then again, an over run off an Alvey should not be a problem because the line is not on the spool.

Give it a go and see what happens...If it all goes pear shaped, blame your sister

itsaboat mate...Life is just a boat and then ya marry one !
kingiFiddler 6 months ago

Thanks for that heads-up on the twist! Hadn't thought of that. Line 'noise' through the top guides is a real bug bear of mine. If anyone hasn't done this I suggest they give it a shot and see for yourselves - on dry land put the braid between your teeth and walk away from a rod with the reel drag set to even just a tiny amount. You can feel and hear every single bit of noise from the guides as line twist runs over them as the line comes out. It's amazing how loud it is and I'm guessing it's a big reason a fish might drop the bait before swallowing.

Most people run a swivel but I'm not a fan of any hardware other than hooks. My work-around to date has been to cut the hook off and tow the line for a k or so on the paddle home to work out any twist. If I forget that then out comes the drill before the next trip.

I'm not sure twist from the open spool position when a fish runs is going to be much of an issue though. At least on the first fish each day. Another mitigating factor may be it's under no load as it goes through the guides when the spool is open, so hopefully won't produce much noise. But it's a good thing to look out for, so thanks again for that. Will keep you posted and promise to blame sis if it's a problem.

I would not have thought of that and it's fantastic to get more sets of eyes on what I'm trying. We live, we learn.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
kingiFiddler 5 months ago

Ok, so I got the 50 model a wee while ago, have had it out on two shake-down missions to get a feel for it, and had a crack at modifying it today.

First, out goes the clicker as I don't use 'em and it makes way for a drag washer on the inside of the spool against the backing plate.

I found two possible BSP hex plugs to use as the washer that will sit on the end of the spool, cut to fit over the spokes. The 3/4" plug is a sloppy fit and would need to be packed out with epoxy or the like to keep it snug against the spool. But a 1/2" plug fits over the spool snugly but doesn't have any more surface area than that red felt washer that came from the factory. So I wasn't holding out much hope of much of an improvement in max drag (although will be smoother with no fade on a long fight, bc I use carbon washers) but it's a nice exercise to start with by trying that 1/2" plug first up.

Unlike the previous mods to AS1, where I had a washer tacked to the backing plate, to give a flat surface to mate another washer against, I decided to crown the end of the plug to match the dished backing plate. Here's a shot of how much dishing there is. It's not much but the plug head has to match this shape for best results.

Crudely crowned the plug head on my wet stone wheel and then cut slots in the threaded open end of the plug to fit snugly over the spokes of the spool. It's just a press fit but feels solid. Then I used diamond paste to mate the plug head with the backing plate, cut a new carbon washer with my new fancy double hole cutter thingy and put it all back together.

I did hope for more max drag but it only went from 2.8 to 3.2kgs. That said, there's almost no difference between the surface area of the hex plug head and the previous felt washer.

So that's stage one of the mods done.

There's enough room from the axle to the holes in the backing plate to get a bigger washer diameter in there. But unless I want to go to the hassle of getting someone to weld the optimal sized washer onto the head of the 1/2" hex plug , I think I'm stuck with the bigger, 3/4" plug as the only quick, easy option. It has a head that's almost as big as I can go before the washer will hit a hole or pin in the backing plate. Or perhaps someone knows of another off-the-shelf option that will fit as snugly as the 1/2" plug (about 16mm ID) but have a much bigger head? It'll be good to find an option not needing any welding, so it remains a quick, easy mod for anyone to do. Plus I can't weld thin stainless steel so have to take to someone to get it done.

I'll update once I've done stage two and we have a better idea of what the drag gets to.

I went back in and did a better job lapping it and got it to 3.8kg max drag. For an inshore reel which will still be palmed when needed, that's probably enough. Will take it for a few trips before doing anything else to it, and see how well it performs.
One thing to note about these max drag numbers is we are dealing with spools that are 5 or more inches in diameter, so a line exerts a fair bit of leverage on the spool, which limits that max drag figure. I always measure mine at full spool. However, as line empties off the spool the effective diameter drops and this, I suspect, has a significant impact on those drag figures. Moreso for these relatively large diameter spools than smaller spin or conventional reels.

There is 212m of 50lb hollow core braid on this reel. If I get time I'll check the drag when multiples of 50m of line are off the spool and I suspect the drag will increase markedly. Time will tell though.

On that note and out of curiosity, I'll do the same for AS1, which has about 600m of hollow core braid on it. It may be that the 10kg max drag at full spool increases a good amount when, say, 200m is off the spool.

Because of this and the extra resistance from so much line in the water, I've always backed the drag off when using conventional reels and a big fish rips heaps of line off. But it might be the adjustments need to be more with an Alvey, if the max drag increases markedly as the spool empties.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
JewCraze 5 months ago

Haha any playing beats work

kingiFiddler 5 months ago

It's a week of howling onshore winds here. Gotta knock a few of these projects and fishing to-dos off the list while I can.

Too wet and miserable to check the drag with line out today, but just to follow up on the issue of line twist with the spool in cast position when a fish strikes, there was some twist but was fine because there's no tension when it's going through the guides so doesn't make much noise. That and it's only like that for the initial strike and maybe ten seconds of the first run until I up the drag to roll and set the circle hook, it doesn't happen much throughout the day. Put it this way - I can keep about seven small livebaits alive in my livewell, so at most the reel is going to be puking line for about 10 seconds seven times, on a good day when I might see seven strikes. I usually give up after the first kingi is caught anyway.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
kingiFiddler 5 months ago

Checked drag with line out and not much increase.
4.5kg at 50m, 4.8kg at 100m, 3.7kg at 150m.
My not so trusty assistant decided her fingers were too sore to do the star drag up tight, so the experiment was abandoned at 150m.
That said, I'm now thinking the diameter probably changes less in percentage terms on an Alvey compared to a spools that are smaller to start with like on spin and overhead reels. so I may not back the drag off much when a big fish pulls heaps of string.

Got this image sent to me a few days ago. Motivational.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
Mark Totzke 5 months ago

Wow, I expect to see a similar photo of you soon on your kayak 🎣

a snapper a day keeps the doctor away
kingiFiddler 5 months ago

You may not quite understand how much that goal is burning within me. Everything I am doing on the yak and some on-land endeavours, is with one eye on a kayak+alvey marlin next summer. I was in tears when I stuffed my wrist just before xmas. So much training down the tubes. Talk about a summer of discontent.

If I pull it off you can use some of the footage but you have to promise to keep my name and website OUT of the credits.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
Mark Totzke 5 months ago

haha, yeah okay deal 😂😂

Looks like you'd probably need some backup boat to get back to shore after a couple of hours of fighting and finding yourself somewhere 30km offshore. I've seen a video of Robert Field catching a 500lb Marlin from his kayak. Was pretty amazing.

a snapper a day keeps the doctor away
kingiFiddler 5 months ago

The great white a while back (3hr fight) towed me over 10kms. If it had been straight out to sea and late in the day or with an offshore breeze building, things could have been sketchy. I didn't realise how much stuffing gets kicked out of us on fights like that. The effort needed seems to sort of work out feeling like about 6-8kms of paddling for every hour of such fights. That's why I was up to 40km paddles at the start of this Summer before the wheels fell off.

10ks to get out there and cover some distance trolling , 4hrs at 6ks of effort equivalent fighting the fish, 15-20 ks to get back in means I'll be in disneyland before I make it back to shore. So, yeah, the support boat seems like a good idea. Unless the blue water comes in close and I can keep the fight shorter or closer to land, or perhaps take enough money for a long taxi ride home from wherever I wash up, which could be nowhere close to where I launched and where the car is parked.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
itsaboat 5 months ago

Yep, that is right.

I am sure I talked about this some months ago. The line lay-up on an Alvey reel is so small in height that the actual ratio and therefore drag, does not change in real terms....

A 5 inch Alvey fully loaded might be 5 1/4 inches. Where as a threadline (spin) reel might go from 1 inch empty to 2 inches full. A 100% increase in dia.

Some Alvey reels have a dual handle to reduce retrieval from 1:1 to maybe 1:08. But drag remains fairly stable. I would not expect to see more than 5% to 7% change in drag from full to empty. But a spin reel goes 100% empty to full (or 50% from full to empty) (think about it, it is 100% from empty to full and 50% from full to empty), which is a big change.

Regardless of what is used, you will never see a big change in drag to line out. Simply because the dia does not change enough.

Think of levers. The spool has one point of contact with the line. That is the lever point. So the radius of the spool is the length of the lever. If you doubled the length of the lever you would have to quadruple (X4) the drag pressure to get the same result. Regardless of what you use, the length of the lever dictates how much you can lift. The maximum drag is dictated by the size of the spool. The size of the spool is dictated by how much line is on it...More line the bigger the dia, less line the smaller the dia. Amount of line changes the length of the lever. But Alvey reels simply do not change the lever length enough to make a real difference.

You could easy add a drag system to a 5 inch Alvey to hold your body weight. But if you put that same drag into a 10 inch Alvey you could pull line off with one hand.

itsaboat mate...Life is just a boat and then ya marry one !
kingiFiddler 5 months ago

Makes perfect sense, thanks itsaboat.

On AS1 I thought of cutting out and having tacked just inside the outer lip of the backing plate, an approx' 5.25" OD, 4.75" ID stainless steel washer. Then pinning a similar washer to the outer part of the spool. That would be huge surface area, acting at or actually beyond the diameter of the spooled line. A mega drag option. But not only was it going to be harder to do and might break, there's actually a fair bit of movement way out there at the edge of the spool, so it was going to take a heap of lapping to get and probably keep it even and smooth.

I think it's worth a shot, just to learn if it'll work and what the drag ends up at. Occasionally that 520 model comes up for sale cheaply here, and if so, I'll buy another as a crash test dummy for such an experiment. We get plenty of 456 models for sale here but I don't want to go any less than 5" bc when a big fish takes 100m or more, it takes more winding on the smaller spools than I prefer.

The world's a better place after a paddle.
kingiFiddler 4 months ago

Couldn't resist. Thought they were all wooden but only one of the four were. These three are bakelite/plastic, held together by dust reinforced grease, from what I can gather upon first look at them.

The world's a better place after a paddle.