It’s been about four months since Cheeky sent me a Sighter 350 Fly Reel to test out. When it arrived, I paired it with my 10’6” three weight and got ready to put it to work in a range of scenarios across my home state of Pennsylvania. I had it spooled up with about seventy yards of twenty pound backing (I always use wet backing to balance my setups since that’s how it ends up on the water) and a monocore nymphing line, and it balanced out my setup the way I wanted.
As soon as I set it up I headed down to my local spring creek to give it a preliminary test. The water was low and clear as it usually is in early fall, so I rigged up a six pound micro leader with a single small nymph on 7x. A big issue you run into when fishing thin diameter leaders like this is they constantly slip between the spool and housing of many reels. This problem only gets worse when fishing the smaller diameter leaders that some anglers like to use. However, that’s not something I had to worry about with the Sighter because of its full cage design, which keeps the leader in place and prevents it from slipping through the frame.
The other thing I immediately noticed was that the Sighter is a free spooling reel, so the spool winds in with little resistance. This is a great feature as a lot of line can be reeled in quickly with just one flick of the handle. This allows them to have a similar line retrieval rate to the semi-automatic euro reels that are popular overseas, but with less moving parts that can fail. However free spooling reels tend to suffer from spool creep. With sharp forward and back casts the spool will wind itself forward and bring line in a few inches at a time, which can get frustrating after a while. The amount of creep differs in every reel, so I was happy to realize that the resistance of the spool was high enough that I didn’t really notice it in the Sighter.
After a good first outing with the Sighter, I started fishing it as my main reel to put it to the test. I’m pretty hard on my gear; I drag it through tough terrain and throw it around more than most people. I was a little concerned about how a reel at this price point would hold up to my abuse, but the machined housing has won against every rock it's met so far with no gouges or bending. The walls and supports on the housing are actually pretty sturdy, so I feel pretty safe saying I doubt any normal fishing wear and tear will ruin it.
I usually prefer to fight fish by stripping instead of with the drag unless the fish runs enough to put themselves on the reel. With the waters I normally fish in PA, I haven't hooked a fish big enough to test the drag yet. From what I've found so far, the first 3/4 of the drag adjustment is all for fine tuning pressure for the lighter tippets we normally use nymphing, with the last 1/4 really locking it down. At full lock, the Rev Carbon drag seems to have somewhere around fifteen pounds of force, which is way more than I'll ever use in a trout situation.
My favorite waters to fish in my home state are silty, marginal streams that hold some of the biggest trout you’ll find in the region. I've had this reel submerged in muck and covered in mud on a few occasions, and the drag never complains. After a quick dunk it’s basically brand new, so I know the next time I hook one of those big fish the Sighter will be ready.
Overall, my impression so far is that the Sighter punches well above its price point. Between the machined full cage, high retrieval rate, and solid drag I doubt you can find a better deal for under $200. Not to mention it looks pretty sharp to boot. I’m excited to see how it performs in the coming months. Look out for a review of its trip down to Patagonia this spring!
Meet the Author:Mike Komara is the former captain of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team and two time world youth medalist. He now runs a guide service and blog in Pennsylvania at Fringeflyfishing.com and focuses on multi-species angling in the U.S. and abroad.