Let me start off by saying I’m by far not the biggest expert on Hardy click and pawl reels but I will share with you what I believe to be true. I’m sure there are probably several factual errors but I’m confident that given the knowledge base of readers here, they will be identified and corrected.
First off, old Hardy reels are nowhere near the fanciest or most intricately made reels out there. What they lack in engineering though, they more than make up for in both personality and functionality.
I know less about the Marquis Salmons than the Bougle or Perfect so will gloss over these in hopes others can fillin the blanks. It is my understanding that they came out in the late 50s or early 60’s as more of a base level reel. There were three sizes offered: the Salmon I, Salmon II and Salmon III. The III being the largest of the lot and capable of holding the largest of the long bellied lines. They are virtually bomb-proof and like the others, are loud. Years ago, I toyed with buying one but they never appealed to my eye. Of the three though they are closest to what we think of a “normal” fly reel. The handle is on the spool and they have a palming rim. They were discontinued in the mid-90s I believe but are readily available on auctions and elsewhere for between $200-350.
The Bougle was first released before World War I as a special request. There was a need for a tournament casting reel that weighed less than the Perfect’s that were Hardy’s bread and butter at the time. Built on roughly the same design as the Perfect, the Bougle had raised crossbars with a line roller instead of the oval line guide on many of the Perfects. Originals are extremely rare and fetch a high price. Around 1995, Hardy re-released the Bougle in limited numbers and designated them the Mark IV. These were nice reels and proved so popular, they soon put them into regular production. They had a silvery or “spitfire” finish and the double check of the post-1920 Perfects. The early models had problems with the wood handles swelling when wet but this was remedied by Hardy fairly quickly. Although I have heard many reports of this handle swelling, I had one of the limited early models and I never experienced this.
The Mark IV’s were discontinued last year and replaced with the Mark V’s. The newer models have a more radical spool porting and the spitfire finish is gone. Other than that and a sharp hike in price, I don’t think there is much changed. The Mark IV models are still available in some shops and on-line auctions. Expect to pay around $350 for a 4” Salmon model.
Now we are left with the Perfect. Some believe, myself included, these to be the finest mass-produced reel ever made. The earliest Perfect’s were turned out in the late 1890’s and were in production in one form or another until the early or mid 1970’s. They went from all brass to a leaded finish to finally a grey enamel finish. They can be broken into a number of models/eras but roughly can be grouped into:
The brass-faced models (pre-1900 or so) which are almost worth their price in gold. These are primarily all right hand wind and cannot be converted. They are heavy but the sound they produce cannot be duplicated and is truly musical. Expect to pay upwards of $1000-1200 for one in good condition.
Next come the early alloy models. These are fine reels and once again are primarily all right hand wind and cannot be converted. In addition the oval spring check they had was somewhat prone to breaking and was/is hard to replace. These were produced up until the early 1910’s. These can be had from time to time and depending on condition, can range from $400 – $800.
Next come the 1912 check models. These are rare and the design did not last long but they are some of the sweetest Perfect’s made. As with the earlier models, most were right hand wind and non-convertible. If you are lucky enough to find one in good shape it will go in excess of $700. If you can find one of the few left hand wind models in prime shape, you can almost double that. Note that Hardy did release a commemorative run of these two years ago. I believe that they made only 250 of a set of (3 ¾”., 4” and 4 ¼”) and a like number of individual reels in each size. A few of these were released as left hand wind. (One of the LHW 4 ¼” models rests on my T&T 10150-5. It cost me $650 but was worth every penny.)
Next comes the most available of the pre-war Perfects. These are the Duplicated Mark II’s and they featured a new more dependable double check system. These first appeared around 1918-1919. They were designed for right hand retrieve but as long as there was no revolving line guard, could be easily changed over by flipping the pawls. You could engage one pawl or two as well in case of a broken spring or if you needed more “drag”. Drag of course being a loose term when referring to all Hardy click and pawl models. Compared to modern disc drags, they don’t come close but they do keep the spool from over-running and the rest can be handled by side pressure to the spool plate.
The Mark II’s had the long foot (of either allow, ribbed brass or smooth brass) of the earlier models and the fat stubby handle of either ebonite or Ivory. It is important to note that the long feet will not fit most modern reel seats so the seat will need to be rebuilt, the foot replaced with a shorter model or heaven forbid, filed down. Many of the Mark IIs available have an altered foot that in the collector’s eyes reduces the value. Luckily from a fishing standpoint, it doesn’t matter. I do know some friends though who refuse to modify or replace the feet so fish their Perfect’s held on with electrical tape. Before I had a foot built for my first 4”, I did this as well.
This era of Perfect is also characterized with curved lettering which parallels the edge of the plate. These reels can be found fairly often on auction and the price depends greatly on condition, finish and the foot. I have picked up a 4” with a filed foot for as little at $370 and paid almost twice that for an early 1920’s model with pristine foot.
Finally come the post-war models. These have straight line writing instead of the curved, a smaller ebonite handle and an appearance that they were mass produced. They retain the Mark II check and except for aesthetics, are the functional equal of the pre-war. They also sport an enamel finish to replace the hand leaded finish of the pre-war reels. These are easily found and most sport the shorter ribbed foot that will fit modern rods. Cost is largely dependent on condition and size. I sold a 4 ¼” models of this era recently for $500 but it was in pristine condition and came with the original box.
Both the Bougle and the Perfect have no palming rim, instead a spool face that you can apply finger pressure to from the side. This is possible as the handle in not on the spool as on a modern conventional fly reel but rather on the back face. Both the spool and back face turn.
The Bougles top out at 4″ and are limited for large weight and long bellied spey lines. The Salmon (wide-spooled) models on the Perfects come in 1/4″ increments and for spey uses are available in 3 1/2″, 3 3/4″, 4″, 4 1/4″ and 4 1/2″. The sizes at the extremes are rare and fairly pricey.
Well that about covers the main models. There are a few limited models out there as well that will command premium prices and I hope others can fill in the blanks there. One example of this is the Taupo Perfect of which I believe Ed Ward to be especially fond of.
A Billion thanks to Duggan ”Sinktip” Harman for sharing his article with Salmon Junkies