The Hardy name is synonymous with classic fly tackle, and perhaps in no single product category has that iconic brand carried more weight than in fly reels.
Thankfully, Hardy is still producing revamped classics like the “Bouglé,” the “Cascapedia,” and the “Marquis.” But the company has really been pushing its boundaries with new models in recent years, both on the “performance” side of the equation (durable disc-drag models), as well as with “pricepoint” models for more budget-minded anglers.
Hardy’s new UltraLite series took “Best of Show” at the International Fly Tackle Dealers expo in the freshwater reels category, because it offers both classic looks and performance at a decent price.
The reels are machined of barstock aluminum (in Asia) in both click and pawl and disc-drag options. They all feature fast-retrieve large arbors with a narrow spool configuration. We test fished them, and they did react smoothly (they have fiber composite drag systems) as the fish pulled line away, and were equally impressive on the uptake. They’re sturdy in hand, but by no means bulky, and an all-around solid option for someone looking for polish and performance, without emptying the checking account.
Available in weights 5-12, retail is $169-$199 for click and pawl models; $199-$349 for disc drag models.
The name “Fortuna” was actually dug out of the old Hardy brand archive, but a literal “for tuna” description is pretty much on the mark. This reel is burly, but not beefy, and it packs one of the toughest, fully-sealed drag systems on the market. You can hang a 32-pound dumbbell from a fly line, crank the drag to maximum, and the line won’t budge (we know, because we did that). We also took the Fortuna to northern Saskatchewan and pulled on 40-plus inch northern pike, as well as 10-pound lake trout, and were duly impressed by how smooth this reel operated.
Fortuna was designed in collaboration with Andy Mill and Tom Evans, who both know a thing or two about fighting big saltwater fish on the fly. And while the performance aspect is clearly the sales hook, it’s also a very handsome reel, made from top grade 6061 bar stock aluminum. We liked the quick release spool design, and it’s easy to convert from right hand to left hand retrieve. Available in four sizes to suit line weights 8 through 14, Fortuna reels cost $595-$845, and as such, they’re definitely for anglers who aren’t playing around.