J. W. Young and Sons were one of the most prolific manufacturers of fly reels in Britain both between the wars and during the post World War Two period. Their reels have a reputation for reliability and solidity and remain among the favourites of many who use vintage tackle today. Production falls neatly into two periods, Pre- and Post War.
Some of Young's Pre-War reels, at a glance:
Some of Young's Pre-War reels, at a glance:
Let's take each of the pre-war reels in detail. I have included views of both front and back and details of the checkwork, "scoop" - or reel foot, and handles for reference.
The Pattern 1 reel first appeared in Young's 1925 catalogue, and it appears to have been in production, with minor refinements, until the outbreak of war. This is a 3" example, with typical features of a brass "scoop", milled securing screw for the spool and an Erinoid handle. Erinoid was an early plastic material derived from milk and although initially white, it often takes on colour from surrounding materials, - often a greenish hue from copper salts migrating from the handle cup. The back of the reel shows some other typical Young's features, riveted posts for the checkwork and a drilled spindle boss, indicating that it has been turned on a lathe at some point. Young's reels were assembled on a production line basis. Where other manufacturers would rely on a single craftsman making an entire reel at the bench, Young's used an assembly line method, with individual workers being responsible for the same operation on a range of reels. So Fred would turn the spools, Bert would add the handles and Terry would be responsible for the checkwork.
This was a cheaper version of the Pattern 1 and hard to distinguish from an earlier low price variation, the Pattern 1A. One of the few ways to tell the two models apart is that the 1C was painted rather than having a bronzed or chemically darkened finish. Again there are a lot of typically Young's features, - Erinoid handle, drilled spindle boss, etc, but notice the single screw used to secure the scoop. If you compare the component views of this with that of the Pattern 1 above, you'll also notice the Pattern 1 has much more sophisticated bushing on the spool and the spindle base and a greater number of teeth on the drag sprocket. Both this reel and the Pattern 1 reel above are 3".
Another 3" example, this time of the Pattern 2A, intended for use as a "dry fly" reel. This reel also appeared for the first time in the 1925 catalogue. On its introduction, this reel cost almost four times the price of the Pattern 1, and was clearly a quality object. Notice the optional check and the nickel silver scoop. This reel also sported a clever design innovation that was not to appear again for another thirty years, the exposed rim on the spool, allowing the spool to be manually braked by the angler. Later refinements included an agate line guide. Young's supplied their reels to a wide range of retailers, often customising the basic design to suit. There are a number of variations of the Pattern 2A sold through Ogden Smith that are some of the most attractive reels of this era.
This reel is in my database as a Young's Pattern 5, but when I came to compile this page, a closer look revealed it to be marked for Milward's - a neighbouring Redditch maker, as a "Flycraft". True, it has many of the features of the Pattern 5 as recognised in the literature, but I cannot find any reference to a contracted version, or, indeed, one with an optional check. I am still certain that the reel is a Young's product, - the drilled spindle boss, the "Take-off" spool release and the fact that the optional check operates in the same way as that of the Pattern 2 above, but perhaps a special product for Milrward's? Milward's later produced their own "Flycraft" reels, very robust, attractive and serviceable reels.
This is my favourite of the pre-war reels by Young's, despite what I said about the Pattern 2! It's impossible to hide the fact that it's derived from the incredibly successful Hardy Perfect, but Young's version is also very elegant, and much easier to dismantle than a Perfect. These reels first appeared in the early 1930's and were sold in a range of sizes with wide drum versions available for salmon fishing. This is a three part reel, with the spool secured through the frame to a winding plate, on which the handle is mounted, not unlike the earlier "Birmingham" platewind reels. A rim mounted tensioner screw allows the drag to be adjusted by increasing the pressure on the drag spring, a feature pioneered by Hardy's, and the winding plate rides on a ball race, again similar to the earlier Perfect, giving a very smooth and efficient performance. The reel remained in production until the war, and you can see from the illustrations, the detail differences in the later model - black xylonite handle, agate line guard etc. Both reels are the 3" trout models, with a contracted drum.