One of the perks of working in the fly-fishing industry is that you often get to
play with “test out” new products before they come to market- or even before they’ve been announced to the public.
Last July I had the good fortune of having the above-mentioned situation fall before me. It was during my trip to Beaver Island. Some of you who pay attention to this blog may remember me mentioning that Shawn Combs from Orvis was one of the other members on my trip. I’ve known Shawn for a while now and prior to the trip was keeping my fingers crossed he’d be bringing a few new products along for ‘field testing’. When he pulled out a Hydros SL and handed it to me my first reaction was that of being seriously impressed- possibly even thinking it was a replacement for the Mirage. Simply put, this thing was darn sexy. I’d long fished/guided with Orvis Hydros reels and was a big fan- particularly for the price point. When I saw the name ‘Hydros’ printed on the frame of this new reel I thought to myself, “Well now you did it. You took an awesome $200 reel and made it twice as expensive”. Before I had even finished this thought, Shawn informed me this reel was actually cheaper.
I couldn’t wait to put it to the test on some Beaver Island carp and smallmouth….and put it to the test we did.
Throughout the summer and fall, word about the SL had started to circulate and the New Year couldn’t get here quick enough- which was when they’d finally arrive in the shop. I knew these were going to be a huge hit with our customers from the moment I first saw them.
From a technical standpoint, even though you’re spending less coin for the new SL (compared to it’s initial rendition) you’re getting WAY more bang for your buck. The reel is fully machined and not a single detail has gone unnoticed in design. The first thing to note is the upgraded drag system which is fully sealed and offers 14lbs of stopping power….on their trout sizes! Constructed with stacked carbon washers, the drag delivers zero start up inertia to ensure your light tippets and tiny flies remain attached to your quarry. Next up on the list is the oversized spool which offers over 8” of line retrieve per revolution. The spool also features a slightly taller/narrower design which prevents line and backing from stacking unevenly on one side upon retrieval. The side walls of the frame and spool have also been beefed up to add extra durability in the event it takes some abuse.
But I’m still not done. Aside from a drag capable of stopping a nascar, incredibly smooth retrieve/startup and durable design, another feature you’ll notice is how solid this reel feels from a construction standpoint. The tolerances in construction were upheld to rigorous standards and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about as soon as you put one in your hand and give the spool a few rotations. This thing is solid.
At $198 for the size II (3-5 wt) and peaking at $259 for the size V (9-10 wt) this reel offers an unheard of value for what you get. We fished the size III and IV in Beaver Island and I’ve had the opportunity to spend considerable time fishing with a size III around Colorado for my trouty escapades and it’s never missed a beat. I’ll tell you this much, I’d hate to be a competitor with a reel in the mid-priced market right now.
Swing on by the shop to check out the new Orvis Hydros SL reels. Oh, and feel free to blame me when having to explain to your significant other why you NEEDED a new fly reel.