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My Progression to the Dark Side:

A Journey Into Centre-pinning

By Brian Morrow


My experience as an angler began at the age of four in Northeast Ohio where I was exposed to Lake Erie and many smaller inland lakes such as Pymatuning on the Ohio Pennsylvania border. My parents and grandparents had a passion for fishing.  They passed this passion along to me at an early age and it has stuck ever since.


As I grew a little older and became a better angler I had the desire to fish from a boat. At the age of 11, Mom and I purchased a used 14 foot Sea Nymph equipped with a 6Hp motor. For the first few years, we didn’t have a trailer, so we transported via the car-top method. It was good enough to get us to the water. As time passed and Mom got older, the need for a trailer became stronger.  We were lucky enough to find a suitable trailer for a great price at Blystone’s in Mentor-on-the-Lake.  The trailer made fishing excursions much easier. Mom no longer had to worry about backaches and I no longer had to worry about getting that heavy boat on top of the car by myself. Life was good at this point.


Mom and I continued the habit of making weekend trips to Pymatuning on a regular basis. If the lake wasn’t frozen; we were cruising the lake catching fish. We became very familiar with the lake and the structure it had to offer.  As we logged more time and experience, we caught more and more fish of varied species. On one of our more memorable outings, Mom and I managed to catch five Fish Ohio record fish in the same day! I even managed to make some money guiding on the lake. It wasn’t a fulltime endeavor, but I did manage to make enough over a single summer to buy a Bottomline Tournament 310 electronic fish-finder for our boat.  At the time it was the top-of-the-line and high performance. The fish-finder gave an added advantage and allowed me to see what was below.  I quickly learned how to read it and to locate fish with ease.


Upon turning 18, I made the decision that it was time to move out on my own and see what the world had to offer.  Consequently, my weekend trips with Mom to Pymatuning came to an end, but we still managed to find time to fish together.  The boat didn’t see nearly as much use and it ended up being sold.  Mom still had the urge to fish on occasion, so we began targeting local rivers and tributaries.  This is where I soon found my true passion; Steelhead!


Mom wasn’t about to follow me to the rivers in the dead of winter. She said it made her old bones ache and she didn’t want any part of it.  I was on my own, but I didn’t mind.  Spending time on a river by your self is quite relaxing and peaceful. I invested many hours, on the water and alone, trying to figure out how to catch Steelhead. I ran into anglers that were kind enough to pass along tidbits of information and I gladly took their advice and ran with it. It was suggested I use a smaller diameter line, because these fish were extremely spooky. I dropped my line from ten pound line to six pound test and increased my catch rate. After battling a couple dozen Steelhead, I was absolutely hooked. These fish and their brawn made all other Ohio fish that I had caught look ridiculous.  I continued to fish for summer species, but I always looked forward to fall and the great number of river bound steelhead that would return to spawn.  There were only a handful of us (at least that I knew of) at that time that were “stupid” enough to brave the harsh winter elements.  Consequently, it was fairly easy to catch steelhead back then because of the lack of fishing pressure.


Always looking to improve myself and my game, I finally upgraded my gear and bought a St. Croix Wild River 10’ 6” noodle rod. I also invested heavily in an expensive new spinning reel. Needless to say, I was eager to catch fish on the new setup. I headed to the river with my rig and hooked a bunch of fish.  It was suggested that I try jigs. So I did and I caught even more fish than ever before. This was awesome! I continued to fish for steelhead for two or three more years, and then I had an unfortunate car accident. I severally injured my right hand which prevented me from fishing at all.  It was just too uncomfortable to fish with a gimped up hand. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to fish; I just couldn’t! To hold onto a fishing rod all day would cause me severe pain and discomfort.  I sold most of my fishing gear and for a decade continued to pursue and advance my career in archery.


Two years ago I underwent what I had hoped would be my last surgery. Since that operation my hand is almost back to normal.  Best of all outcomes, I can fish again!  Accepting a fishing invitation from a couple friends, I found that my hand and wrist had no problems holding onto a rod for a couple of hours. To me it was obvious; it was time to chase Steelhead again!


Last October I met Defjam, (Domenic), on TSS when I inquired about a custom made rod. We talked for quite a while about his rods and fishing in general. Dj mentioned something about a centre-pin reel and float fishing. I had no idea what one was or how it worked, but was very intrigued by what I heard.  I did some research on the topic and became even more interested. Dj tried his best, over the phone, to explain the advantages versus a spinning reel, but I couldn’t completely grasp them all.  He mentioned that he had a used Raven Matrix centre-pin reel for sale and offered at an attractive price. It was more than I honestly wanted to spend, but I felt compelled to give it a try.  On the drive home after purchasing the reel, I couldn’t help but continually spin the spool and look the reel over.  I have to admit, I wasn’t impressed. It looked like a big fly reel and it had no drag whatsoever! I thought I had made a purchase that I would soon regret.


That night I loaded up the reel with the recommended line. It did have a pleasant appearance, but I still had reservations about its ability to catch fish. I contemplated how I was going to fight fish with no drag? And, how the heck do I cast this thing?!  Dj sent me a few casting video how-to links. I watched the videos over and over, and I practiced in the backyard until I felt that I could cast my line well enough to catch fish with it. 

The next day I headed to the river fully determined to catch fish. At first I hated the centre-pin. The inability to cast effortlessly aggravated me to no end. I stuck with it and proceeded to make a complete mess of my line. I refused to give up! I stayed on the river all day, and kept practicing my casting. I didn’t catch any fish at all that day and I left the river discouraged. I phoned Domenic and he offered some additional tips. They helped a


The next morning I set out again, but this time I was ready. I was able to cast well enough to get where I needed to be in order to present my offering to fish. As soon as I got out into the current and I witnessed the float take off… I knew then what the fuss was all about. I drifted my float so far down river that I lost sight of it. It was at that moment that I realized this was how I wanted to fish. The center pin reel truly does allow for a drag-free drift. This was something that just can’t be duplicated with spinning gear. As I continued to fish with the new setup I learned to trot, or slightly apply resistance to the spool. This allows the bait to stay in the strike zone a bit longer as well as manipulate the offering into position.

Within the next couple of weeks I had became proficient enough with the center pin to fish wherever I liked. The limitations had been lifted and I found myself catching more fish than I ever had before. I continued to research, study, and learn the various methods of center pin fishing.  My appetite for knowledge was huge.   In my research, I discovered that I was rigging incorrectly and read up on different rigging methods based on changing conditions.  I also began to use fluorocarbon line for the first time in my life. Being away from fishing for almost a decade had left me high and dry in the technology department. I also learned how and where to place my split shot known as shotting patterns. This was never a concern before because I was using a weighted jig heavy enough to hang near the bottom.  I found a video on shot rigging patterns that was video taped with Craig @ Erie Outfitters, Sheffield Lake, Ohio.  What I learned by watching was a tremendous help to me and my confidence.


I employed the use of a micro-swivel and smaller shot per the recommendations and this increase my catch rate even more. Things were getting insane by this point. I had never in my life caught so many steelhead on Ohio rivers. I contribute this to several things, but I believe the center pin reel played the largest role in my new found success. I could drift for what seemed like forever, and I did it drag-free.  This was a tremendous improvement over what I could accomplish with a spinning reel.


By the end of the month I knew that I was addicted to the center pin, and that this was going to be my preferred method of choice. I started looking into better reels. Let’s face it, the Raven Matrix is a decent reel to get started, but it doesn’t compare to some of the other reels that are available. I met Blackie, who was fishing with a prototype of Countryboy’s, Adam DeMarco, Paine Falls Centerpin. I loved it! The startup and the way the reel felt in my hand was remarkable. So, I placed my order for a Paine Falls Center Pin.  In a few months I had a new reel that I absolutely love. It was new and shiny and in an unusual way it provided me more confidence.


I continued to fish the rest of 2007 season with my new PFC reel. I became more proficient at casting and learned that a mechanical drag was not at all needed. The variable control when using my palm as resistance against the bottom of the spool enhanced the battle with every fish.  This gave me the sense of truly fighting the fish.  Without a mechanical drag interfering with the connection between me and the fish, the battles seemed, in my mind, more honorable.  It was just me and the fish.  The challenge was part of the fun and compelled me to want to catch more and more fish. The drag on my spinning reel had always done the hard part for me, but now it was completely up to me to fight the fish. I was the drag! If I goofed up and applied too much pressure the fish won. 


I now own two center pin reels and have since sold two of my three spinning reels, since I won’t be using them for steelhead. I kept one spinning reel to use in the summer months and for low flow / slow current river fishing.  Center pin reels have changed the way I fish. The reel has immensely increased my catch rate. I never understood what the fuss was all about until I hit the water with one, and witnessed what a truly drag-free drift was all about. I am truly convinced that the center pin reel is an asset to any fisherman who fishes for steelhead in a river, or place, where there is current.


If you haven’t tried a center pin reel yet… it’s about time you do!















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