Bourbon and fishing go together like…well, actually, there is no better simile for two things that go together. But even anglers who don’t tuck a flask into their waders or tackle bags now can take along the spirit of Old Rip Van Winkle to inspire every cast and drift. If they’re lucky.
The Old Rip Van Winkle Limited Edition fly reel, expected to be released by Abel in spring 2021, is graced by artwork taken from the iconic label of Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, which along with the coveted Pappy Van Winkle lineup, has made Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery the biggest story in bourbon over the last two decades. And with fewer than 200 reels to be made, they could prove just as hair-yankingly difficult to procure as is a unicorn-rare bottle of Pappy 23-year-old, even with a price tag likely to strike north of $2,000.
“The plan is to keep it very limited and special, just like Pappy,” understates Abel spokesperson Art Webb. “It’s one of the coolest collaborations we’ve ever done.”
Abel is well renowned among anglers for producing high-end, top-performing fly reels for freshwater and saltwater fishing. They’re also damn fine to behold, which has led the company to purpose a reel’s circular face as a canvas for the work of nature artists and limited editions typically devoted to musicians, including the Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, and AC/DC.
The Van Winkle edition, the first inspired by a liquor brand, begins from Abel’s Super Series reels made of aerospace-grade aluminum. The artwork is then laser etched and individually painted by hand using superfine brushes to faithfully recreate the label down to its aged-parchment background. Worthy of a museum? Absolutely, but once the paint job is sealed, you’ve got a fully functional reel ready to haul in a prize catch.
The collaboration was first hatched by Wright Thompson, author of the newly released, best-selling Pappyland, a deep dive into the mystique surrounding the bourbon brand. Pappyland perhaps also presents the best path to landing one of the reels. Anyone who purchases the book online or via email from Skylark Bookshop by December 16 will be entered in a special drawing conducted during a virtual live event that evening featuring Thompson and Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery marketing manager Preston Van Winkle. The prize? The very first reel available. No, you probably won’t win. But if you’re the sort that chases Pappy and fish, you’re already used to the ones that get away.