Posted on July 14 2021
I guess it was the fall of 2018 when I was first aware of Lo-fli and the idea of a "fixed spool" fly reel design with their Kickstarter campaign that I highlighted in a long ago T.F.M. post. They didn't meet their fundraising goal but designer and angler Paul Osimo didn't give up. He continued to work on his design, more field testing, trying new things, making new things, and from time to time I'd see an update on their Instagram page of their progress.
Do we really need a "fixed spool" fly reel? Maybe not but I really like new ideas and I think it's a good thing that there are people out there who can re-imagine something that you and I might of thought that can only be done one way. That is where innovation is born.
With the Lo-fli webstore launching today, I asked Paul if he'd mind answering a few questions which his answers are shared with a few images as you scroll down. Enjoy.
Lo-fli began with me poking around tucked away streams and constantly wrestling with that odd feeling of obligation to fight a fish on the reel. In my attempting to scramble excess line back onto a reel after as successful hook-up it seemed like I would drop the fish half the time, I don’t know where that places me in the levels of fly fishing talent, but luckily I’m an industrial designer and I don’t mind bending products my way when I want/need them.
I started thinking about adjusting my fly equipment to better fit a specific purpose. Did I need an actual reel? Probably not. Didn’t tenkara offer a straight forward solution? Not really, only because I wanted to retain some flexibility with line length and the ability to control a fish in close quarters. So, I went about designing a system that provides a variable length of line but maintains a small footprint and celebrates my preferred line-in-hand method of fish retrieval. Is it perfect? Nope, nothing ever is, which is why product design is so damn fun.
Looking back at your fixed spool design, there's been a design change and it's now made in brass instead of plastic. What have you learned during the past several years in regards to the final design of the fixed spool?
While the fixed spool started with a proprietary attachment to the rod, the biggest design adjustment occurred right after I was trying to guess how many left handed and how many right handed fly anglers might want this product, and was turning into a small personal nightmare. For this reason, a standard (universal) reel foot was adopted. The material had been purposefully left up to the air for a good long while. I was considering ease of manufacturing, cost, all sorts of other factors, but the final decision for brass was made when, through focus groups, the weight of the spool proved an important factor in maintaining a familiar weight/balance in hand for people more accustomed to western fly fishing.
I’m constantly learning and forgetting and learning again that in design, it’s super easy to go wild with details, but much more often than not it’s the most simple, no frills answer that prevails. To me, that’s what this fixed spool is.
Why fiberglass for the fly rod that you're offering and how does this elevate the Lo-fli experience?
For the specifications that this system was designed to exist in, i.e. tight, woody, places you bushwhack into and bushwhack back out of I needed a rod that was short, sensitive, responsive, but most importantly it needed to be crazy, brutally tough. I grew up using hand-me-down fiberglass equipment and I was not at all kind to it. Only after buying my own equipment, carbon fiber rods specifically did I start breaking my rods, such a bummer. I cannot think of a bigger pain in the butt than getting all the way into a secluded area and then having a rod break. It's heartbreaking. This rod is not a 2-weight that’ll magically lose its tip as you shove your way through some tight cover, I assure you. It is a whippy little workhorse of a rod and a real pleasure to use to boot.
In my quest to offer a badass rod with my newly patented spool, I floated around fishing forums, rod building forums and spoke with local rod builders about what the fly fishing rod landscape looked like to them. All my research regarding pricing, size requirements, fun factor all kept coming back to this one fiberglass spinning rod blank offered by Batson Enterprises Inc., the SPG720.
I ordered one and I absolutely fell in love. It had all the qualities I was looking for, so I called Batson and asked them about making this one piece blank into a 4-piece, colors, seeing about manufacturing, etc. Let me tell you, those people know fly fishing and the years of adjustments and fine tuning I think really paid off. This rod is just about the most enjoyable, versatile piece of fly equipment I have honestly. A sweet kayak rod, great in the sticks, it fits in a darn carry-on, it’s super responsive, light as heck, it’s fiberglass, what more could a fiberglass rod enthusiast want?
Since filing for the patent four years ago, I’ve had friends and strangers alike field test these products in the wilds of central Maine, central Pennsylvania, coastal New Hampshire, the Gulf of Mexico, and a ridiculous number of New England’s named and nameless creeks and streams. Out of curiosity, I even brought a test version to Guadeloupe to see what sort of bend a jack or yellowtail snapper would put on it. Not exactly what they were designed for, but these pieces proved themselves time and again as useful and enjoyable fly fishing options.
Who's on the Lo-fli team and what does the future look like? Are there other ideas in the mix?
The team is me and a handful of supportive and unpaid friends who are infinitely better at rod design, marketing and CAD than I am. Frankly too many to list, but they know who they are and that I friggin cherish them. Most importantly I have an extremely supportive and loving wife and daughter that keep me pushing forward with this exciting venture. They put up with a lot, which is not lost on me, but this has all been an excellent excuse to get out into the sticks for frequent hikes and nature walks. So there’s that.
As far as next steps, I would love to offer some more varied lengths and weights in the fly rod department and a spectrum of smaller diameter fixed spools are already being developed. Some peripheral fly equipment like nets and gear bags would be pretty slick too. It really all depends on interest, which is something I’ve been openly and unapologetically annoying about extracting from my social media followers and local anglers. I’m confident that these designs will be enjoyed by our fans and future customers. They’ve waited long enough!
Last night, someone on Instagram sent me a note in response to a photograph that i shared of the Lo-fli setup with a comment of "So that Lo-fli reel is simply genius yet also crazy...". I agree but we need crazy thinkers within fly fishing to take us to new places with outside the box ideas.
I have a Lo-fli fixed spool and fly rod that I'll be messing around with for the rest of the summer and I'll report back my thoughts in a later T.F.M. post. There are a couple places around here where it should shine and be a lot of fun.
Take a moment and visit the Lo-fli website. Orders are shipping this week and I'll be interesting to see where these fixed spools and fly rods end up.
Follow along with the next chapters of Paul's story on Instagram and Facebook.