I was in the Hardy & Greys Compleat Angler at Alnwick the other day sizing up one of the new Ultralites when one of the salesmen picked up a big Perfect held it over the counter spun the handle against the drag and told me "You ought to get one of these - the moment you have a fish on everyone will know what reel you're using."
I couldn't argue with him because it is absolutely true there is nothing like the sound of a Perfect; no other reel even gets close and it isn't just the way the drag itself is made the quality is something to do with the way the noise resonates inside the complex age-old mechanism of the reel itself.
I didn't dare tell the gentleman but the sound I remember best is the deeply authoritative chime a big old brass-faced Perfect makes when it is used to hammer the thole pins into the heavy gunwales of a clinker-built Highland boat. In my teens our transport on the loch came complete with a pair of ancient Salmon Perfects abandoned in the bilge where they languished from one year's end to the next bathed in an inch or so of muddy water; these were the trolling reels and I think grandfather left them there simply because he could afford to do so. The bottom line however was that he knew they were far too tough to come to any harm. It didn't seem at all remarkable at the time but as far as I am aware that pair had lain in the boat in rain hail or shine for at least twenty years before I got my hands on them although in my defence I did use them to catch the occasional Pike and they slew a shedload of Salmon.
In the late 1990's after forty years of complete neglect the reels were sent to auction where they promptly fetched an absolutely improbable sum of money; all I can say is that if you are reading this and you own a very rare and attractively dinged up old Perfect I was the one who cracked the face. My apologies - I did it throwing the reel at a dog.
Now call me slow but in my teenage years it took a while for it to dawn on me why a certain type of angler fished with Perfects; it is almost impossible to kill one. Sure they make the most unattractive noise if you get muck behind the face and Perfects are a pain in the behind to take apart if that does happen but then few other reels enjoy that sort of treatment either. I have seen Perfects used to land fish over 40lbs without breaking into a sweat and although it is almost certain that the drag is only there for decoration every single example has a lifetime-guaranteed spell cast upon it at Alnwick which means that you won't get spooled by the fish of your dreams. And the moment you do hook the big one the Perfect will make the magical sound that is poured into them at the factory and everybody for a mile up and downstream will know you are fishing with a legend and wish that they owned one too.
Don't underestimate the legend thing especially not on a winter night when the wind is howling and the rain is clattering against the windows and you can console yourself by taking a sip of whisky giving the handle a spin and listening to that sound while you remember better times. There are times and places when nothing else will do quite as well as a Perfect and I always pack one when I am invited down to the chalk streams - as a matter of fact I know an old boy who hasn't fished for twenty years but keeps one on the mantelpiece simply because it reminds him of the days when he could. Then again there is a certain beck of my acquaintance that I won't fish with anything else simply because the spot can't have changed at all in a hundred years and it just doesn't feel right to approach it with a reel that has been designed and built by computer. The great advantage of the Perfects Hardy are building nowadays is that they have ironed out pretty much all of the bugs shared by the older ranges with the result that the current models are a masterly blend of tradition and modern engineering smarts.
Thanks to modern alloys your Perfect will be a little over a third heavier than its lightest metal rival but on a Zenith an Artisan or better yet attached to one of Hardy's split-bamboo rods you won't notice the difference. One thing you will realise - or rather your descendants or some lucky collector a century from now will - is that Perfects last forever and if anything they get more attractive with age even if they have had to put up with some teenage yob using them as a substitute for a hammer.
Andrew Herd is an official photographer for Hardy & Greys. Andrew is also an Angling Trust Ambassador angling researcher historian and writer.