Mörner Fly Reel

The Mörner fly reel

The Mörner Fly Reel

Gothenburg is the second largest town in Sweden, and a few miles on its outskirts lives Bengt Mörner, inventor of the Morner Fly Reel. This engineer has two great loves: Jaguar cars and fly-fishing.
His favourite salmon water is a small river near where he lives called Rolfsån. The best salmon pool on the river is located just upstream of a bridge supported in the middle by a concrete column.
Catch a salmon, and one thing is sure, once hooked, it turns and heads downstream on the opposite side of the river and the wrong side of the concrete column. The inevitable result is that the salmon breaks off as the leader snags on the rough concrete.
After losing many salmon, Bengt realised that changes were needed. The problem was what?
He consulted many old and wise fishermen on the river who told him that the only way to stop a salmon from running downstream was to release the pressure on it very quickly. Usually, the fish would stop, turn, and head back upstream at great speed, which presented another problem – lots of slack line that had to be retrieved quickly to avoid tangles.
So having understood the problem and come up with a solution, Mörner discovered that no reel was available to do the job.

original Mörner fly reel sold in Sweden
Mörner fly reel retailed by Orvis lord II

Left, Mörner Fly, Reel European version, sold by Normark.

Right Mörner fly reel retailed by Orvis.

This was in the late 1960s, so the engineer within Mörner decided to design his reel with the following features a brake mechanism capable of being adjusted to zero instantaneously and multiplying action. 

The Mörner reel handle detail showing the brake pad on the handle base
Mörner fly reel brake mechanism

The Mörner reel handle detail showing the brake pad on the handle base

Many trials occurred before the first working prototype was available in the early 1970s—time to get things on a more business-like footing.
The reels were available in two sizes, trout and salmon. The trout reel weighed 7 ounces, was 3½ inches in diameter, and had a 4/5 inch wide spool. It could hold a WF7 line with 150 yards of 20lbs Dacron backing. The salmon size weighed 8.1 ounces, 4 inches wide with a 1-inch wide spool. It had a WF11 line with 150 yards of 20lbs Dacron backing.
The reel’s design was stunning, and each time I see one, I am amazed at its classic lines, even such a minor thing as the handle. Both reels are manufactured from stainless steel, anodised aluminium, high-quality bronze and nickel plated.
It had a gear ratio of 1:2.14 with a maximum drag setting of 2 pounds. The handle was anti-reverse, so it would not rotate when a running fish was in line.
You only had to pull the crank backwards to release the drag on the line and, consequently, the pressure on the fish. Additional drag could be applied to a running fish using the crank handle. The handle was made of spring steel and had a brake pad fitted on the base that acted against the spool.

The Mörner fly reel spare parts list
The Mörner fly reel spare parts list.

So how did the drag mechanism work? Turning the handle backwards, the catch (fig. 20) locks in the backstop (fig. 46); this, in turn, tightens the spring (fig. 45).
The catch (fig. 20) is also connected to the lever (fig. 16) by the loop (fig. 18). This acts on the brake spring (fig. 15) and releases the disc brakes (figs. 10 and 11), thus facilitating a step-less drag system.
The spring (fig. 45) returns the brakes to their original position by releasing the handle. In the instruction leaflet, there is a fascinating section on drag adjustment. It says that if you try to adjust the setting, all the parts end up in your hand; reassemble them as per the drawing. Guess what? Yes, it fell apart, and all the bits ended in my hand. However, I did manage to get the mechanism back together eventually!

Mörner fly reel the serial number is inside the rim near the rim seat, "S" for salmon.
Mörner fly reel, the serial number is inside the rim near the rim seat, "S" for salmon.

AB Aero-Telaw Atew in the small Swedish town of Flen assembled the original reels. Later this company, which was mainly involved in shipbuilding, manufactured the reels under license. However, the recession that hit the world’s shipbuilders in the 1970s forced the winding up of the company.
Launched on the market, it enjoyed limited success due to two things. First, it was a complicated reel, and it was expensive. The company individually numbered all the reels, making nearly 4,000 Mörner reels in the period 1976-77. The reels came in two sizes, with approximately 10% more salmon-sized. The company exported almost 1,000 reels to the USA, and the Orvis company sold them as the Orvis Lord I and the Orvis Lord II. The Orvis company dropped them from their catalogue in 1980.

Mr Mörner owned a company in America in Frankfort, Illinois, and plans were in hand to move the reel manufacturing there. However, the dollar’s exchange rate surge against other currencies ended this idea.
In the early 1990s, the Mörner reel resurfaced when Mr Mörner decided to try and resolve the problem of his large stock of spares.
He subcontracted a specialist engineering company to manufacture all the necessary missing parts to make a complete reel.
He assembled all the reels himself, and after 200 were put together, he realised that he was making a loss every time he sold a reel.
The production cost exceeded the retail price, and the Mörner reel project ended.
Today these reels are highly sought after by those fishermen who have used them, trying to buy up all the spare ones before the rest of the world knows about these great reels. I have only seen four of these reels in the past ten years. Whenever I have bought them, I have always had stiff competition.
As for Bengt Mörner, he is more than willing to service your reel when he is not playing with his Jaguars or fishing.

January 2000