TESTED – Waterworks Lamson Cobalt Fly Reel

Our reel cabinet at work is often referred to as the jewellery cabinet; full of shiny bling you can’t help but gravitate towards as you enter the store. In the last decade, the reels it contains have changed dramatically. They have taken on a more modern look in the pursuit of making them as light as possible. And large arbors don’t just make up a portion of the reel cabinet, now they are the reel cabinet! Crazy colours, sealed drags, hard anodising. Every feature of the classic fly reel has been innovated.

The Cobalt is a stunning beast of a fly reel.

Traditionalists might argue that for their fishing, the modern fly reel’s features don’t result in more fish or enjoyment. Their old classic does the job perfectly, so why would they succumb to this modern day bling-bait? I don’t want to insult anyone but just one part of my argument would be that lighter is always better – so long as it doesn’t compromise strength. The point I’m trying to make is that the fly reels we have at our disposal today are insanely good. Had the grand old reel makers of yesteryear created reels like we have today, they’d still be the powerhouses they once were.

We all love new toys.

Compare today’s fly reels and in my opinion, you’d be hard-pressed finding a more innovative, higher-quality reel than the new Waterworks Lamson Cobalt. This is the company’s first serious entry into the saltwater scene… and what an entry. On the surface, the Cobalt might look like just another Lamson, but dig deeper and you’ll see – even feel – the difference. Spin the handle and you could easily be mistaken for thinking you had a warped dud of a reel, but that’s just part of the genius. By using a new dual-axis machining technique, they’ve beefed up the top portion of the reel body (that attaches to the rod) where strength and rigidity is an advantage, then gradually eliminated material towards the bottom of the reel where it’s not required. Similarly, the counterbalance on the spool has been machined in gradually so you get a perfectly-balanced spool. Adding to the external prowess, the reel is finished in Micralox, a finish that has twice the durability and 55 times the corrosion resistance of the standard Type II anodizing. And that’s just the beginning. The best feature of this new reel is that the drag system is totally waterproof to an impressive 30 metres (certified). No mean feat for a piece of engineering that has moving parts. It seems fly reels will soon be judged on their waterproof rating in the same way as high-end watches. In the engine room, the all-new drag system is flawless. Start-up inertia is undetectable. The drag has a range of 12lbs and every click adds half a pound of pressure. If you need more drag for GTs or tarpon, it can be re-calibrated to offer, say, 4lbs minimum, 16lbs maximum. 16lbs is hard to even pull off the spool with your hand.

I was excited enough by all the tech I’ve just mentioned, yet it wasn’t till I had the pleasure of actually using this reel in Hinchinbrook that I fell in love with it. In fact, the first thing I did when I got back home was upgrade our shop/staff saltwater reels to the Cobalt and here’s why. Firstly, this reel is tough. It’s obvious they haven’t compromised on strength in the build. Hooked up and cranking a fish in, this reel has a positive, tight feel that instils confidence and allows effortless winding. We caught some nice golden trevally and queenfish and we did see backing so the drag was tested pretty well. Sure, we weren’t pulling huge pressure but it was enough to appreciate the smoothness. In fact, it’s by far the smoothest, most even drag pressure I’ve ever felt travel through a fly rod. Normally you get some kind of bounce in the rod as a fish runs, especially when the drag engages, but with the Cobalt you don’t. It’s not jerky. I don’t know how, but it seems the drag actually ramps up to its set pressure. As far as keeping hooks in fish, I honestly think this drag will result in more fish caught. Especially on fish like bonefish where light tippets are used and they dart and change direction quickly.

A new reel like this could have easily come in at a higher price point but the Cobalt sits comfortably at or below what you might expect to pay for a premium saltwater reel. $849.95 gets you into the 5/6, $949.95 for the 7/8, $1049.95 for the 9/10 and $1149.95 for the 11/12 size. The new Cobalt will be our preferred saltwater reel to fish and sell here at The Flyfisher and I think it’ll be some time until that changes!