It’s mid-February 1994. Early morning on the little Qualicum river, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. A lone angler has chosen the first run of the day to fish. As the moist rainforest mist begins to rise, he adjusts his cork float to 6 or 7 feet, chucks his bait and begins a side arm swing of his eleven-foot graphite rod. He cast his offering out, mid river, and watches intently as it follows the rivers flow through the pool.
As his drift is halfway down the river his cork is suddenly pulled out of sight, instinctively he strikes, kicks over the ivory button on his reel and the fish is on! A wild, angry 151b wild steelhead buck(male) strips out line at a fantastic rate. The old reel cries with delight as the majestic rainbow takes line. The angler loves all the elements in play. the visual surroundings, the wild fish and nature, but most of all the song of his prized 60-year-old Super Silex reel. No other reel that is fished offers the same one on one gamesmanship as this revered Hardy reel.
It might be safe to say that there is quite possible more Super Silex reels in British Columbia than in the British Isles.
The Hardy Super Silex began life in 1928 as a reel very similar to its stable mate the Silex Major. It is a reel with an internal drum and a cut-out rim to allow palming of the reel. I have personally seen 6 examples of the first supers, and all are jewelled and have both leaded spool and cage. This reel also has a brass ratchet regulator with two ivorine moon indicators or gauges. This form of Super Silex is very collectable but not desirable for angling.
1929 saw the evolution of the Super Silex into a close relative of the 1923 Triumph centrepin reel (also very highly sought after. Not the coarse style triumph.) The super developed a silvery spool/drum which allowed easy palming while playing a fish. The early Super Silex had 5 hex nuts on its cage back and possessed a small aluminium braking button which was completely useless. This was dropped in 1930.
The 1929 super also had a solid blued ratchet which created a clicking noise both in and out when a fish was being played. Very noisy. These reels were stamped pat. no 24245 & 9261. Around 1930 the advent or use of the silent wind in ratchet was introduced. This unit was in use on Silex Majors and was found on reels patent no. 355494. This allowed “peace of mind” quiet on retrieve but beautiful noise on fish runs.
The Super Silex is an intricate reel and very few Hardy reels demanded as much thought and precision as these fine centrepins did. Makers such as GT, RMS, JBW, TA, PW, RH, have appeared on the inside of supers. My personal favourite builder was T. A. Tommy Appleby. His reels always seem to be stronger, run truer and again in my opinion have more character.
Sizes of the Super Silex included 3, 3¼, 3 ½ inch wide drum (uncatalogued). 3½, 3¾ inch wide drum, 4, 4¼, 4½, 4½ inch wide drum. Variations of the Super Silex were available. Fairly scarce are the solid faced Super Silex’s which are usually in 3¾ or 4 – inch sizes.
Super Silex’s were also available in Dural metal for tidal angling and were much lighter in weight than the regular leaded aluminium reels of the same size. These reels look highly polished and are as shiny as chrome.
A Dural Super was usually stamped on both the inside cage and drum core with a large “D”, identical to Walter Dingley’s “D”, or an “H”.
We assume that the “D” is for Dural but what is the “H” for? All sizes of Dural were manufactured and accounted for except the 3-inch size, not yet found.
Ed. H is for HIDUMINIUM a high strength, high temperature aluminium alloy developed for Rolls Royce aircraft engines pre WWII.
There was also the Super Silex multipliers and I have seen 3½, 3¼ and a rare 3 9/16-inch example which was owned by Chris Henshaw in 1992. Most multipliers were made by RMS. Marshall Scott was asked by a friend in 1976 why his name was on most of the multipliers and he replied that he produced most of the multipliers not because he was the best but because he was the youngest. Obviously steadier hands!
The Super Silex remained relatively the same until the war years. The only minor change was the replacement of one of the backplate hex nuts with a rivet. Thus, we now had a 4 nut Super. The war saw major improvements with alloy and materials and the post war Super was developed down to two hex nuts on the backplate, riveted handles (which was a bad idea as the owner could no longer grease the handles.) We also saw that Hardy’s no longer jewelled the spindle shaft and although the red jewel looks pretty it often leaked or wore out.
The Super Silex ceased production sometime in 1953 with the introduction of the Hardy Jewel. The final Supers had straight line logos, enamelled cages and riveted handles and feet but they all are sought after with the same diligence as their first produced Supers of some 30 years prior.
The Super Silex will never fall from grace within the lore of British Columbia steelhead angling. As a man now in my mid-thirties I often stop and admire the beautiful reel that sits on my rod. I drift off and find myself wondering of who first bought the reel that I hold in my hand. Was he as proud of it as I am?
What rivers has this reel fished and what quarry has it taken?
As Roderick Haigh-Brown wrote in the 1938 western angler “If you bait fish and you feel it a must, then I highly recommend the Hardy centrepin “The Super Silex”. In my opinion there is no equal in centrepin”. Well Rod I agree.
MODERN MAINTENANCE OF A SUPER SILEX
Always load the reel with Dacron or wool backing before filling with monofilament This will avoid crushing the drum as monofilament will contract with time.
Do not polish either the spool face or the brass foot. You will devalue the reel by removing the original drum lacquer and foot bluing.
Always use the lightest oil possible on your super spindle or centrepin. I recommend Hoppes No 9 gun oil from America. It is friction free and is the best I have yet tried.
Also always lightly wipe your reel down with a soft cotton cloth and the above-mentioned oil afters a day’s angling. Do not use WF40 on any leaded Hardy reel as it will wear off the original leading over time.
For trouble free casting always set the regulator at “free” and do not over fill the reel with line. If you do you will be pulling off expensive line and quite possibly turn a day of pleasure into a frustration. Happy fishing.
Originally written by Craig Dickson June 1994.
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