2012 Fly Reels

PLAIN AND SIMPLE, 2012 is not a year for revolutionary drag systems, spool designs, or materials when it comes to fly reels. What we see a lot in next year’s reel models are mostly extensions of good ideas and redesigns of time-proven features.

Tibor has extended the very successful design of the Signature series into the tarpon market with the 11-12. Lamson and Hatch have made lighter versions of reels that feature “why mess with it?” drag systems. We see several reels specifically modified for Spey applications, from the likes of Nautilus, Echo, and Ross. And then we see “design” reels that are marketed on aesthetics, like the new Madison II and IIa from the Montana Fly Company.

Orvis Clearwater Reel

2012 Orvis Clearwater Reel

Pricepoint is becoming more and more of an issue as Rajeff sports, for example, is introducing a “Solo” reel that sells for $35, and Orvis has a new “Clearwater” that starts at $79 and the large-arbor “Encounter” that has the credentials of a much higher-priced reel but costs only $49.

The reels that have the most “breakthrough” potential are the new “Cheeky” models, which are both catchy and well-designed, and the Bauer MacKenzie CFX3 which puts the “Rogue” drag in the MacKenzie spool and frame (we think that’s a winning combination).

And we’re seeing some power-brokers in the reel world launching some very solid models in 2012. Tibor fills the 11-12 niche with a new Signature series model; Nautilus won “Best in Show” at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show with its “Monster,” which is designed for big game; and Hardy has weighed in with an Andy Mill-influenced “Fortuna” reel that is incredibly robust, as well as a reasonably-priced UltraLite series.

Hardy UltraLite Reel

2012 Hardy UltraLite Reel

So what’s a reel to you? A performance braking system? or a place to hold spare line? Maybe something in-between. Counting the older classes, along with the models that have been introduced (or at least tweaked) for 2012, there are many good options to consider.

Among the top of the class for 2012: the Tibor Signature series 11-12s; the Nautilus Monster, which is indeed beastly (though remarkably light); the Bauer MacKenzie CFX3; the Hatch Finatic, which effectively solves the beef that anyone who doubted Hatch reels before had by making it 10 percent lighter; and the Hardy UltraLite and Fortuna brands, which continue a tradition in reel design that dates back well over 100 years.