Photos By: Jamie Keown/ Justin Dobson
Let me begin by stating I am not endorsed or compensated by any manufacturer, so the following is an honest, straight up review. There are a lot of reel manufacturers out there including a few small name folks who specialize in only fly fishing reels (and a little apparel). Cheeky Fly Fishing Reels is one of many that has caught attention among fly anglers. When I recently came to own a Cheeky Strike 325, I was excited to put it to work. Some anglers who insist on plain old silver or black can't get past the "cheeky" colors. Although it’s aesthetically pleasing to me (I’m kind of different anyway). Usually orange is reserved for fine European sports cars and cheap corn snacks, but the reel is more of a copper (like a fine ‘shine still).
I took it out on its maiden run with a few of the crew to a small stream in North Georgia with the idea of putting it to the test. I spent all morning casting to rising fish and drifting undercut banks with only one small fish under my belt. It was certainly nothing worth putting on the reel. The afternoon was all about exploring and we headed upstream in search of bigger fish. We finally located some worthy fish holding in a run.
Through the swift current I could spot a few fish in the 18” class holding. A strong 18” fish can find its way onto a reels drag easily. Cheeky’s website states: “Easily spooked fish and nasty backcasts are par for the course, but that doesn’t stop you from chasing those elusive small water lunkers. If crawling along a streamside bank sounds like your style, the Strike 325 is designed for you”. Well this run and fish put this theory to the test. The only way to get a drift past these fish was to crawl in parallel, kneel stream-side in the sandiest spot found and spring a cast under some overhanging laurels. After about 45 minutes, the plan came together and I hooked into something unexpected. This run, 10 feet wide and maybe 3’ deep, was hiding one hell of a rainbow.
Because this run was so small, I was basically high-sticking the run and had no slack out. When this fish hit and I set the hook he was on the reel instantly, the water came alive. Just imagine the “best eater” in your fishing crew high stepping like Deion Sanders through a 3 foot puddle. Every fish in the run scattered like they had been electrocuted and was sure to get out of this big boys way quick. This fish was not happy to be hooked and screamed up stream as fast as he could. When he reached the top of the next run up from where he was hiding, he decided to show me what snags were down stream and roared past me like a freight train. He took me over a set of falls and into another pool. The drag on this new Cheeky was flawless and smooth. Every time I thought the battle was up, this fish took another run. The battle lasted several minutes before he was finally netted. I’m pretty sure this exceeds Cheeky’s idea of a small water lunker. The rainbow of steelhead proportions taped out at 25” long and appeared to have never missed a meal.
If I had to find one bit of constructive criticism about this reel, I’d have to pick on the lubricant they used on the reel spindle. It’s too thick for its application and caused reeling to feel stiff and un-natural. An easy fix for those mechanically inclined. Remove a screw, degrease and apply low viscosity reel lubricant you can buy at almost any fishing shop.
It’s easy to get married to a reel. You get comfortable with its drag system and have a “go-to” reel for getting into bed with bruisers. This Cheeky Strike 325 just became my mistress, and my other fancy reels are pissed.