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"You mean a tuna will take out 850 yards of line?" I said.
"Sure it will. It'll hit and start to run and just keep on running if it doesn't turn, and then there's nothing left but the empty spool."
And a pretty tired drag, I thought.
The drag, or brake, on a fishing reel is what applies even pressure to the spool and makes the line harder to pull out. A drag can be adjusted so that you can work as close to the breaking strength of the line as you want.
"I'd like to see a reel that will hold 850 yards of that line," I said.
"Sure," Paul said, and he got up and went in the cabin and came back with a reel. He held it in both hands for the simple reason that you couldn't hold it in one hand. It was maybe a little smaller than the two-volume edition of The Oxford English Dictionary, the one that comes with a reading stand and a magnifying glass so you can use it. He offered the reel to me and I took it and set it down in my lap. "That's a 12/0 Fin-Nor with a 2�-to-1 gear ratio," he said. "Eight-hundred-and-fifty-yard capacity with 130-pound-test."
I looked at the line first. It was white with a little green and it was wound on that reel just as even and as close together as that spool of white thread my mother had at the bottom of her sewing basket, the kind you couldn't break and could use for anything. The reel itself was a conventional one, but much bigger and heavier than any I had ever held. However, for all of its brutishness, it was perhaps the best made, beautifully machined, with an action that seemed almost friction-free. It didn't look as much like a fishing reel as a gold-plated component for one of the lunar excursion modules.
I wanted to know about the braking system. There had to be some way to put tension on the line or there would be an unholy tangle in the ocean from all those tuna fish swimming around with half a mile of fishing line hanging out of their mouths. I thought about what it would be like if a whole bunch of them got together chasing a school of herring or something, and got really snarled up. It would be one of the great birds' nests of all time, maybe replacing the Sargasso Sea as a threat to shipping. Whole myths might grow up about the "Tangle," 32�05'N by 68�03'W, and it would appear on the charts.
I saved the navigators of the world by finally finding the drag, a silver lever on the right reel face. It had a little metal pointer with a gauge broken down into pounds. I moved it with my thumb and it wasn't easy to move, but it was smooth, like the volume slide on a high-fidelity amplifier. There was a small knurled knob on the top of the lever and I gave it a half turn and then twisted it back again.
"That's the vernier," Paul said. "It's so you can adjust the strike setting the way you want it. Everyone likes it different and you set it with a spring scale before you start. This has a 43-pound strike setting. That's where you put the drag lever when you want to hit the fish. The maximum setting is 65 pounds."