1958 Langley SpinFlo ad

Not too long ago I picked up a used, albeit in remarkably good condition, Langley SpinFlo reel, model 822GC. It’s the first Langley spinning reel I’ve acquired, and it just might compel me to start collecting additional Langley spinning reels. I own several Langley baitcast reels and have been impressed with their lightness and engineering, even though I’ve never taken them out on the water. Terry Battisti wrote a piece for Bass Fishing Archives a few months ago in which he was effusive with praise over Langley’s baitcast reels. That article is well worth returning to in order to learn more about Langley’s expertise in engineering high quality products, as well as to get Terry’s first-hand experience in fishing those excellent reels. So I figured, given the discussions Terry and I had on the Langley company and their reels, that their spinning reels would be top notch as well. I’m happy to say that that assumption was correct. In “Langley SpinFlo Spinning Excellence” we’ll take a look at this SpinFlo reel.

Langley’s first forays into fishing reel production came in 1945, with the Streamlite baitcast reel. They didn’t get into spinning reel production until 1953 with the introduction of the Model R810 Spinlite. The SpinFlo model came out only a year later, in 1954, and since that’s the reel I purchased, that’s the one I’ll be discussing in this article. 

1954 Langley SpinFlo Model 821 Manual ad. Note that the Model 821 manual reel is featured, while the Model 820 full bail reel is pictured below, and is priced at $14.95. Both reels sport nylon spools.

The Langley SpinFlo went through a few iterations during its tenure. This evolution is detailed in the excellent book, Langley, Field Tested Tackle by Alan Baracco and Colby Sorrells. I’ll summarize it here. The first SpinFlo reels to come out were the Model 820 (full bail) and Model 821 (manual pickup). These reels had nylon gears and nylon spools, but Model 822 (full bail) and Model 823 (manual pickup) replaced the nylon spools with aluminum. The earliest models were painted black, but by year’s end Langley switched the color to green. So, in 1955 all four models had a G after the model number. The following year, 1956, Langley continued to re-engineer the reel. They went from a one point main shaft suspension system to a two point system, which also resulted in a protruding knob at the rear end of the reel, to accommodate the longer main shaft. From 1956 to 1958, these reels kept the four original model numbers and letter G, but added a B at the end (ex. Model 822GB). 

By 1959 they replaced nylon with aluminum for the gears and got rid of the manual pickup altogether. This left only two model variances, the 820GC (nylon spool) and 822GC (aluminum spool). The final changes came in 1961, and as Baracco and Sorrells indicate, they were cosmetic changes. The logo, color and handle grip were updated and were designated by Model number 822H.

Langley produced six spinning reels: Spinlite/Spinette (same reel, different names), SpinFlo, Spin DeLuxe, Model 777, SpinDrift, and Spinator, and updates to each one during its life. By all accounts, every one of the Langley spinning reels was extremely well-made, lightweight, meticulously engineered, and under constant improvement. After ZEBCO purchased Langley in 1962, according to Baracco and Sorrells, “a large part of the deal had to do with putting the ZEBCO name on Langley’s line of spinning reels.” So, the ZEBCO/Langley SpinFlo 822 stayed alive for most of the 1960s, until ZEBCO released the ABU Cardinal spinning reel in around 1970. The only Langley item ZEBCO carried on after they stopped producing Langley reels was the Langley De-Liar fish scale, which you can read about by going to the highlighted hyperlink (it’s a great story, check it out).

1955 Langley SpinFlo ad

So, upon first picking up my “new” Langley SpinFlo the first thing I noticed was how light it was compared to some of the other vintage spinning reels I’d been using. I weighed it on a postage scale and the scale showed 8.9 ounces, without line, which I thought was pretty good for a reel made mostly of metal in 1959. Interestingly, the Langley ad copy gives its weight as an even 8 ounces. I weighed a few more reels for comparison. Arguably the greatest reel of the 1970s, the Mitchell 300, without line, weighed in at 10.9 ounces. The ZEBCO/ABU Cardinal 4 weighed in, with line, at 11.1 ounces. (I don’t know how much a spool of line weighs, but I’m guessing the Cardinal without line would have come in at around the same weight as the Mitchell, give or take one or two tenths of an ounce.) A modern Abu Garcia REVO X, size 10, weighs 7.1 ounces, and a modern Daiwa Fuego LT 1000D-C weighs 7.2 ounces.

Like I said, I thought the Langley’s weight was pretty impressive, and it wasn’t too far off today’s standards even. Of course, that speaks to Langley’s engineering expertise and company history with making lightweight plane parts. 

Turning the handle was smooth and relatively quiet. Not nearly as quiet as a modern Daiwa Fuego or Abu Garcia Revo, but much quieter than the Mitchell. The other feature I liked was the fact that I could flip the bail manually, rather than having to turn the handle to flip the bail as you do on an old Mitchell. Of course the SpinFlo doesn’t have the gear ratio or line pickup that today’s reels have. I’m guessing – and this is a rough estimate – that the SpinFlo picks up around 16-18 inches per handle turn, with a gear ratio of something like 3:1. As I said, those are rough guesses based just on me only visually looking at the reel as I worked it. But back in the 1950s Langley used “fast retrieve” as a selling point.

Langley SpinFlo 822GC
Langley SpinFlo 822GC
Langley SpinFlo 822GC
Langley SpinFlo 822GC

It’s a pretty little reel, compact and efficiently designed. In those old ads Langley also advertised the SpinFlo as a “best buy,” “smart buy” and an “economy” reel. In 1955 through 1958 the SpinFlo retailed at around $18. In today’s money that would be the equivalent of around $190. While I don’t know if I’d call that an “economy” reel, it doesn’t seem too far off for an upper tier reel today.

I put the SpinFlo on a vintage Abu Garcia BGS light-medium action rod and spooled it with 6-pound mono. It cast like a dream, smooth and for distance. Line retrieval was smooth and efficient, albeit slower than what we’re used to today. But if you’re a vintage gear angler then you pretty much know what to expect as far as speed of retrieve with older reels is concerned. I have to admit that the drag felt a little sticky in the beginning, but I suppose that’s to be expected with a reel almost 70 years old. But I didn’t get a chance to test it on a bass, because this day – one of the last open water days before I put the boat away for winter – I got skunked. I intend to take the Langley SpinFlo out again as soon as warmer weather arrives and give it a workout on some springtime largemouth.