Home  |  Biography  |  Curriculum Vitae  |  Links  |  Contact
Dave Swallow Centrepin Reels ~

For those of you that have wondered just what centrepin reels Bob James used during the filming of the classic angling series 'A Passion for Angling' wonder no more - they are some of the early 'Swallow' reels produced by Dave Swallow and sold (at least back then) via Ringwood Tackle, Hants. The Swallow reel has gone through quite a few series of changes over the years, but all (as far as I can tell) seem to share the common DNA of being based on sealed bearings as opposed to the classic concept of a 'pin' reel.

So what do they look like? Well, I'll leave the
exact differences between each successive Swallow model to somebody else, but what I will focus on instead are those specific to the reels Bob James used in the TV series, which are quite distinctive by their black and brass fittings and white lettering (or the 'Bob James/Passion for Angling specification' for want of a better term). As a side point, its interesting to note that Bob James actually has his own signature model centrepins these days - but the original Swallow range of centrepins remain something of a collectors items thanks to the TV promotion, plus the fact that they are becoming quite rare on the ground these days.

'A Passion for Angling' TV series quick glimpses:

The following screengrabs (@ copyright Hugh Miles, Wild Wise Productions), were obtained during the
'Autumn Glory' and 'Midwinter Madness' episodes, and offer a good opportunity to inspect the reel and get the definitive specification. As I mentioned earlier, there are several variants of this reel - but these pictures should clarify which is the type used by Bob James.


Swallow reel without handles, Right: brass fittings and white lettering visible


Large brass screw, ratchet and white lettering, Right: reel with handles

It's worth re-stating that Bob James used reels both with and without handles, its pretty clear in the manner in which he winds in the line that he is 'batting' the rim in one scene and 'winding' in another, as you can see from the screengrabs above one reel has no handles whereas the other (which is hard to get a closeup shot) has handles. The picture below is a zoomed in version of the latter, with adjusted
contrast to highlight the handles:

Swallow centrepin with handles

Summary and definitive specification:

Hopefully the pictures have clarified the specifics of the reel that was used in the TV series, certainly its a handsome looking device with its black finish, white lettering and brass components. 
For reference, here's a closer look at a Bob James 'A Passion for Angling' Swallow reel (from my own collection):

Face: notice the handles and three screws in the centre spindle

Rear: Notice the large brass screw (with long slot) and ratchet

What to look for:

The definitive specification from the TV series (or Bob James variant) is:

1) With or without handles
2) A brass ratchet switch
3) Distinctive white labeling
4) Three visible screws in the centre spindle*
5) A large brass screw on the side (with a slot that runs all the way through it)**
6) No serial numbers***

* The earlier Swallow reels and those used by Bob James had the centre spindle held down by three screws - more recent reels have a 'swallow' logo in the centre and often have brass feet.

** I highlight the large brass screw because I have a second reel to the same specifications, but the screw is slightly smaller and less wide. It is not the same as that used in the TV series (not that it really matters), but for completeness sake:

Left: the full slot screw, Middle: the slimmer and smaller screw, Right: plastic screw

*** The earlier versions of the Swallow reel did not have serial numbers (like the newer reels with brass feet and a swallow logo in the centre of the spindle.

But what are they like to actually own and use? Well, the Swallow range has gone through continuous development over the years - and I can't speak for the newer models (which may or may not still be available) but the first one I owned had plastic parts as opposed to brass, didn't have any lettering and had a turnable drag on the side. To be honest, it wasn't really all that good - and most I've seen (I've owned three) all seem to have an almost indescernable wobble when they spin - not through play but mainly due to manufacturing tolerances I think.

Additionally, reels fitted with large plastic side screws tend to get damaged by the use of screwdrivers - which probably explains the switch to a brass screw instead. These early variants, whilst perfectly usable, were improved upon and I advise anybody interested in owning an example to seek out one with brass components - and that's simply down to better components, cosmetics and resale value.

Dave Swallow/Ringwood Tackle details:

For those who are interested, the details on the boxes and cases I own referring to the original Ringwood Tackle distributer and Dave Swallow are:

Ringwood Tackle: Ringwood Tackle, 5 The Bridges, 0425 475155

Dave Swallow (?): Bridge Farm, Ibsley, Ringwood, Hants, BH24 3PP, 0425 473658


Website contents @ Aaron Littlefield 2010