Last week, we looked at the Hardy Princess, a popular member of the Lightweight family, and learned a little about that iconic model. With Hardy re-releasing the 150th Anniversary models of many of the Lightweight series reels, it is interesting to note that the first and original "Lightweight" is missing from the celebration.
My personal attraction to this little-known member of the series started when I found a 3-screw latch version on an English auction site. My education in all things Hardy had only started a few months prior when Jennifer began her tutelage; she is a recognized expert on Hardy reels and, as you may have gathered by talking to her on the subject, or her writing, she is very passionate about vintage Hardys. As her interest fell towards light Spey-sized reels, I negotiated a fair deal and bought the little reel, simply marked Lightweight. Soon, other Hardy Trout models slipped into our display case and were matched up to special rods to ply the waters once again. In some cases, 100 years after their date of manufacture.
One day I came upon another 3-screw Lightweight (there are later 2-screw latch models) and recognized it was something exceptional. It did not have the standard spring and pawl as found in other "Lightweight" reels or any Lightweight models. Instead, there was a half-caliper style spring that looped up to the pawl from directly below. Adding this to the curved writing on the face of the reel told me that, indeed, this was something special. A deal was made, and the reel was mine. (I should note that while I was negotiating this purchase, so was Jennifer as a Christmas gift. Once we shared this bit of information, she deferred to my attempt to acquire the reel.)
The little Lightweight is indeed special. The pre-war writing, half-caliper check, un-ported spool, and 3-screw latch set it apart from all others in the series. While details are a bit sketchy, we've learned that this reel is one of 173 reels built in 1936, the first year of Lightweight production, with all subsequent editions receiving the standard spring and pawl that would be used in the series. Sadly, the little Lightweight was dropped from production in 1964, as the Princess and LRH Lightweight took center stage, featuring left/right-hand options and a tension regulating screw.
In John Drewett's book, Hardy Brothers, the Masters the Men and the Reels, 1973 to 1939, the author notes: "as a point of interest, it is worth mentioning that at least one Lightweight has been seen with a single, large semi-circular spring bearing onto the pawl as opposed to the conventional 'hairpin' type spring. Why this was done is not clear, and I can see no reason for the firms departure from using standard parts."
Elsewhere in the text, he noted: "introduced for the season of 1936 in a 3 3/16 size only, the Lightweight lived up to its name. Weighing just 3.5ozs, approximately 1/3 lighter than the comparative size of Uniqua and nearly half the weight of a similar size Perfect. The following year, (1937), the catalog listed the weight at 3.25 ozs." I'm guessing the weight and production costs removed the half-caliper spring forever. Too bad, it's cool-looking, and it works!
While Hardy celebrates 150 years as a reel maker, trotting out their Special Edition series of Lightweight reels, one very special Lightweight waits for the warmth of summer, a small spring creek, tiny flies, willing trout, and the chance to sing again. And sing it shall.