Species species species! Conditions conditions conditions! We can honestly say we have not thrown a reel test at more fish & varied conditions than the 3-TAND TF-50. Perhaps we were worried that previous tests on the TF-70 were rose-tinting our judgment or could it be that we already had so much faith in this reel & drag system that we chose to chase every conceivable fish knowing we had sufficient back-up. It is almost like taking a gun to a knife fight… and boy did we ruin a few fish’s day!
Instead of waxing lyrical about all the fish we caught, lets focus on why we love the 3-Tand series of reels & the CF Drag™ Disc drag that is present throughout the TF range; including the TF-50.
What makes a great 5wt drag system?
In most cases we target freshwater fish in the 4lb – 9lb range on our 5wt rods, & it could be said that for many of these fish, a drag is inessential? So why is it worth investing time, research & money on a drag system that will hardly ever be put under strain? The answer is in the question.
Because every once in a while your 5wt habit will knock on the door of a beast fish from the murky depths and provide you with that one shot at glory… 5 minutes of fly-fishing-fame if you will! And you DON’T want to miss out!
So to answer the original question: what makes a great 5wt drag, considering you don’t want to watch your trophy swim away untouched:
Set & Forget – with many hours between drag testing fish in the category, most fly fishermen will be unfamiliar with their drag settings. The last thing you want is to be fumbling around with drag knobs & risk free-spooling the trophy of a lifetime, or tightening up on a fish running hell-bent for the horizon. You want to set the drag at the beginning of the day & know it will handle 100% of anything that eats your fly.
3-TAND TF-50 – tick!
Smooth pickup & zero-to-low start-up inertia – should a thrashing behemoth of a fish surprise you, your reel will be subjected to accelerations exceeding 0-100kmph in milliseconds (or so it feels). Any snag in the system, any loose rotation & POP! This is true at any & every stage during the fight. There can be zero play in the cage system nor any hesitation through the acceleration – your nerves will be shaky, the last thing you want is a sticky drag system.
3-TAND TF-50 – double tick!
Maintenance free – we are not advocating abuse for your reels, but be honest people, when was the last time you opened, cleaned & serviced your freshwater reels? You want a cage & drag system that works & works & works & works… you get the picture.
3-TAND TF-50 – tick!
We can categorically state that the 3-TAND TF-50 not only matches the above conditions, but exceeds our expectations in all of them. We fished from float tubes targeting big winter stillwater Trout, to rivers & streams chasing Trout & Yellowfish.
Each of the above criteria was top of mind at any given time throughout this review period and in fact we became so blasé with regards to the smooth drag & drag settings that we would swop rods without changing drag settings, and never once did we encounter a worry… irrespective of the fish we were targeting or the few trophies that surprised us.
Where the 3-TAND TF-50 Shines?
The 3-TAND TF-50 matches 4wt, 5wt & 6wt rods. We tested ours on 4wt & 5wt single hand rods. The Nano CF Drag™ Disc drag was supreme. The joy of this drag system is that you feel confident to play the little guys & beast trophies direct from the reel, all the time. It is just so responsive. With 40 drag increments these micro-adjustments are absolutely essential in setting the perfect drag irrespective of tippet strength, and why we found such confidence when testing the set & forget element to this review. For those gear fundi’s who do enjoy tweaking their drag setting mid-fight these 40 increments will also allow you all the finesse in the world.
Editors Tip: it is a great idea to get into the habit of playing fish from the reel. This avoids a great many potential snag issues, not to mention the human error element when your catch makes that last ditch dash for freedom at the net. We’ve all lost fish here.
A solid Bokong caught Yellowfish plays perfect testament to the efficiency of the 3-TAND TF-50 CF Drag™ Disc drag.Vagabond Fly editor Colin Campbell was short line nymphing to a hen fish holding in a channel, the fish ate & was connected to the reel as the hook set. She took off. Without any dampening from the hand to soften the pick onto the reel, many reels in this price class would’ve popped. Not the 3-TAND TF-50. Pickup perfection. Chasing downstream these Yellowfish know their river & pummelling the fight between channels & white water she created a thorough number of jolts to try break free. The proof is in the pudding & the 3-TAND TF-50 absorbed everything the river could throw at us, and did so with ease. Welcome trophy fish to the collection.
Angler skill? Nope, its all about the right gear when you need it most.
Digging for a negative
Finding negative in the 3-TAND TF-50 or the CF Drag™ Disc drag feels like a spoilt child during Christmas because they didn’t get the pony in the colour they asked for. So we will throw a childlike sulk before even considering mentioning this: for many the colour aesthetics (neon colours or fish graphics) of a reel plays as much a part of their purchase decision as the technical ability & line capacity of the reels in their price-range. Some may, foolishly we might add, make this mistake when comparing reels in the 3-TAND TF-50 price range. Do so at your peril. If you are in the market for an all-rounder 4wt, 5wt or 6wt reel, you may just have struck gold… albeit in black or brushed silver.
At $199.95 the 3-TAND TF-50 is extremely affordable and, knowing what we put ours through, will last you a lifetime. Click here to find a dealer closest to you!