The song a click / pawl reel is typically a solo performance — a single, wedge-shaped piece of metal clicking over gear teeth to the tune of a fiesty fish. With the Storm, a limited-edition fly reel offered by Blue Halo and made in the USA by Speyco Fly Reels, anglers are treated to a one-of-a-kind symphony from a classic, spey-style trout reel with a modern touch.
Limited to just 20 reels, the Storm is a special trout reel and unlike anything you’ll find out there. Reel #15 is ours. Here’s an inside look.
A big part of the Storm (and any Speyco fly reel) is the sound. It’s achieved using a unique design where multiple loops of metal (vs a single pawl), spaced around the gear, roll over the teeth in unison to create a euphoric “purr”. It’s not overly loud, but it’s far from quiet.
The Storm’s design starts with a classic, spey-style reel in a trout size. It’s a meaty and grippy full-frame design with a surprise — a turquoise-colored fiberglass faceplate and matching handle. It’s classic Speyco built-like-a-tank quality meets Blue Halo fun, modern, spaceship in the best way possible.
The reel comes with a custom, padded case by Alpine Leisure Company to keep its vocal cords warm and cozy when it’s not singing.
Under the Hood
That signature purring sound of a Speyco is the result of a unique design by Tim Pantzlaff of Speyco. Instead of using pawls, loops of metal surround the gear teeth for that smooth purr. Here, the Storm is set up for LH retrieve where 3 loops engage the gear during runs and retrieves.
Meet the Maker
Cortney Boice over at Blue Halo was kind enough to introduce us to Tim Pantzlaff, the owner/operator and genius over at Speyco Fly Reels.
Here’s a little Q&A we did with Tim.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I am not a machinist or anything. I am a just crazy steelheader from Wisconsin who wanted a killer fly reel to use. I never really intended to sell them at first.
I grew up on a small farmette near some nice salmon rivers out in the country so I always had my feet wet catching any fish that had scales. But I was screwed when I got my first summer steelhead — it was over and I was addicted.
When I tell people that I build fly reels for a living they always say “ya that makes sense”.
What we are you doing before making fly reels?
I was in a band called Crawl and I ran a home for the disabled in Green Bay Wisconsin.
Speyco got started with an idea in 2005. Can you tell us a bit more about your journey over the last 15 years. What’s been your favorite part of it?
For sure it’s conversations with fisherman from all around the world and helping new spey casters find their way into swinging bugs.
Most challenging part of it?
Finding enough time to make reels and run the business. Feeling like I need to do everything!
How did you land on the unique design / sound of a Speyco?
Great question! I was inventing a 3 inch trout reel for the bamboo guys as they asked me to not forget about them.
Not knowing a ton about trout, I was more of a musky and Atlantic salmon guy. They said “we wanted our reels to PURRR” so i thought about the sound kittens made and came up with the hexad concept. It works very well — 168 checkers per spool revolution. So yes, they purr away and are butter smooth.
Was there a eureka moment of “oh that’s the sound!”?
For sure when I pulled that first bit of backing off my reel and felt how smooth and sweet the reels sounded I knew i was onto something special.
If it’s possible to choose, is there a particular reel you’re most proud of?
That is a very difficult question and some truth to picking just one is very hard. I have so many different looking reels impossible to pick just one. Maybe my lead-finished 4 inch Skagit platewinder with bone handles.
Hate to sound cheesy but some of the special reels I made for families as a commemorative pieces. Sometimes I still sit and just look at black and silver snake roller while I am eating lunch.
Can you tell us a bit more about the collab with Blue Halo. How did it come about?
I don’t remember. I found this killer looking green material that I knew would look rad assembled into a reel. So what better company to work with than Blue Halo with all the fun colors and things they offer? Many clients highly recommend them as well over the years.
What about Speyco are you particularly proud of?
Still keeping the company where if you call I answer the cell and we talk about the build. Never “press 3 and leave a message” for someone to maybe get back to you or not. I am not talking about other fly reel or fly rod companies, just my general observation about dealing with companies these days. Getting past the computer system is like pulling teeth.
What’s been the response to Speyco?
I HAVE KNOW IDEA WHAT TO SAY BUT THANK YOU! I am still absolutely blown away with this many people from all over the planet buying my hand made gear some can recognize my builds with just a look. That is pretty sweet deal.
Has it sparked any new ideas for upcoming projects?
I have so many ideas just waiting for someone to ask me to build them. Order a builders choice and ask to be surprised. I get this often these days just tell me the length and wt of the rod and I will make something fun like Christmas day.
Can you describe the process for having a custom reel made?
Well that is a very involved process indeed.
All the aluminum, brass, titanium, stainless material comes in on a semi truck. I have a lift crane and a forklift for unloading. I take it to my saw area and cut into a size needed to make my reel parts. Then, I set up the lathe jaws and get the machines dialed up to make the right part. Run the pieces most time in 5 to 6 stages of milling, lathes in one form or another.
Then, every piece is hand de-burred and hand-polished in at least 4 or 5 stages on manual machines. Then, off to the anodizing or plating or whatever the customer wants. We have an order form for the assembly tables to be fitted and made into the customer’s orders. I am simplifying this description of the the process a great deal. I have had lots of people in my work shop over the years just wondering how I get it all done.
How long does it take?
Way tooooo long…lol. I really have no idea — some go fast, others take me as long as it takes to make it the way I want the reel to be.
What’s coming next / soon for you and Speyco?
I dont know. I have quite a few reels that I will be adding to the market but we will have to see what I decide to do. Sorry to sound indecisive but sometimes just let my customers tell me which is the best way to go.
How to buy
The Storm: At the time of writing this post, this limited-edition reel was still in stock here on Blue Halo’s site for $399. When it’s out of stock, I’ll consider selling mine, when I’m dead. Maybe.
A Speyco: Swing by the Speyco Fly Reel shop site and give Tim a ring. He’s done some amazing stuff and would be a great partner in making something even more bespoke.