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I am brand new to fishing and have only made it out 4 times before this morning.

Today I planned on fishing all morning. After a few casts (I have a Shakespeare Ugly Stik spinner) I noticed that the handle wasn't properly attached to the reel; instead it was slightly dislodged and at an angle, but still physically connected. So instead of spinning around the normal way, it was spinning around at a weird, difficult-to-put-to-words angle.

So I snapped it back into the reel and kept going.

A few casts later, the handle flew off of my reel completely, kerplunked into the lake, and will never be seen again.

I am very not happy.

Here's what my reel looks like in case anyone can spot something "wrong" with it (as you can see, I'm left-handed and like to reel with my right-hand):

enter image description here

So I ask: what happened here, and how can I prevent it from happening again?

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Perhaps this is too obvious an answer but there's a little thumb-screw bolt that goes through the reel from the other side and screws into the handle to keep it in place.

It sounds like this was loose when you started fishing and completely detached from the handle while you were fishing. It's normal that you'd have to tighten this from time to time but may not notice if you're not used to it.

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    Thanks @Niall - that was it, the screw is missing from the other side; must have loosened somehow. Now let's see if I can buy a replacement handle without having to buy a whole new reel! – Zac Jul 26 '14 at 22:27

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