Ocean City Fly Reels 76 & 77

Ocean City Fly Reels 76 & 77: Looking for an inexpensive freshwater fly reel? One that’s simple, sturdy, reliable, reversible, and suitable for trout? Or maybe you just want a backup reel in your tackle bag? Or something your kid can use. Okay, l got a suggestion for you. Consider an old Ocean City 76 or 77. They’re great buys.

Ocean City Fly Reels 76 & 77

Ocean City is long gone, purchased by True Temper back in 1968. And fly reels were never Ocean City’s claim to fame. No, they were mainly a manufacturer of saltwater and spinning gear. But they produced fly reels for many years starting in the 1930s, constantly improving them as they went along.

I have two Ocean City fly reels – models  76 & 77. They were built in Philadelphia, likely during the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, and as such represent the apex of Ocean City’s fly reel effort. The “76” is the smaller of the two. It is 3″ in diameter and suitable for a 3 or 4-weight fly line. The larger “77” is 3.5″ and ripe for a 5 or 6-weight fly line. These reels were mass produced, and frequently mass-marketed by Sears and Wards.  I got my “77” at a yard sale for $5. And get this: it came with a beat up “glass” fly rod attached. Gotta love that. But both models can be easily found online in workable condition for $20- $25. By the way Ocean City also sold an even larger model called the “78”. That model is fairly rare. I’ve never see one, but I imagine it is a 4″ reel suited to 7-8 lines.

Ocean City Fly Reels 76 & 77

Like the Hardy Lightweight series, these fly reels are built in the traditional “spool-in-cage” design. They have a white plastic, faux ivory handle. See the screw in the center of each spool? It secures the spool in place. (works with a dime or a penny) Surrounding that screw is a narrow drag tension knob. It operates just as you might suspect, by creating friction between the spool and the frame. The resulting drag is smooth enough and plenty adequate for trout. Both reels also have a “click” switch on the back. So you can run them with a “click” or silent, as you prefer. And the line guards are reversible.

Ocean City Fly Reel

Remember I called them sturdy? Well the frames are thick by today’s fly reel standards. So even thought both reels are cast aluminum, neither is a lightweight. The “76” with a 3-weight fly line and backing aboard tips in at 6 ounces. The model “77” weight 6.2 ounces empty. But honestly I’ve never felt these reels were too heavy in the field. Still I would be hesitant about putting one on a very short light-weight rod. Say a 7′, 3-weight. Probably feel out of balance. But that “thickness” protects these reels if dropped. Yeah they’re tough puppies.

Ocean City Fly Reel “Click” Switch

Wondering what that small chrome dial high on the back is for? The one marked  C,D,E,F,H? Prior to 1961, fly lines were classified by diameter not actual weight. And each diameter had an alphabetic designation. (for example a “F” line is roughly equivalent to 4-weight. A “D’ is a 6- weight, A “B”is an 8-weight)) This dial allowed you to set a reminder for which the fly line was loaded on the reel. Not a bad idea!

Part Diagram

Are Ocean City fly reels collectible? Ahhh…..not really. After all, they were made by the thousands to be “blue collar” workhorses. But hey, nothing wrong with that.

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4 Responses to Ocean City Fly Reels 76 & 77

  1. Bob Smith says:

    Good day Ed,
    I am just trying to get into fly fishing…66 yrs old.whenever the last full lunar eclipse was
    A friend gave me an old fly rod and reel. Reel says it is an Olympic city 76.
    However it does not match the pictures in this article at all. Is it possible the spool has fit in a different base. Holder…whatever the term? The spool has the handle and in the center is the marker saying OC 76.
    On the base it has the drag, but just a simple dial and not with the different line designation and the other thing is simply the release mechanism for the spool.
    Also the inside mechanism in the base looks nothing like your pic.
    I could/would send you pic, but i see no way to do this here. If there is a way then let me know and I will send them to you.
    Thanks for any info, I’ll be fishing most of the time in Eastern Washington rivers.
    Method valley….thanks so much-Texas Bob

  2. Charles Joseph Hanley says:


    I have a JC Higgins 47 E that I believe was manufactured by Ocean City. I bought it to pair up with an LL Bean Atlantic Salmon rod (Bamboo). They are both in good condition. The reel is RH retrieve, and I would like to switch to LH. Can you direct where I can find instructions to reverse the drag? Thanks in advance.

    • Ed Mitchell says:

      Morning Charles,
      Yes, your Higgins may have been made by Ocean City, although Higgins reels were also made by Bronson I believe. If it is identical to my 76 or 77, it is a very simple system in which the drag tension in either direction is controlled by a knurled knob. I imagine all you have to do is reverse the line and the line guard. By the way there are several videos on Youtube concerning reversing fly reels. Good luck. Ed

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