Expert Review: Orvis Hydros Fly Reel

This review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in March of 2021.

The Orvis Hydros Fly Reel.

All photos courtesy of Danny Salinas

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in March of 2021.

My take

The Orvis Hydros Fly Reel is a great intermediate-level, fully machined reel that is durable, made for all waters with its sealed drag, and will last for years!

The Orvis Hydros Fly Reel.

About the reel I own

  • Model: Orvis Hydros II
  • Reel Size: Size II (3WT–5WT)
  • Backing Capacity: 100–150 yards, depending on the fly line
  • Arbor Size: Large arbor reel
  • Construction: Fully machined aluminum
  • Drag System: Sealed drag with carbon and stainless disc washers
  • Drag Pressure: Not advertised, but will handle just about any trout I am targeting with a 3–5wt rod

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): All-around trout fishing, dry flies, nymphing, small streamers
  • Experience: 10+ years of fly fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: March 2021
  • Rod paired with reel: Epic Fast Glass 476-4
  • Line paired with reel: Rio WF4F Creek Fly Line
  • Days tested: 20
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Only freshwater, mainly rivers
  • Species targeted with reel: Trout, bass, sunfish

How it performs


What I was looking for

I was looking to upgrade the reel from the entry-level, cast-aluminum reel I had on my smaller three- and four-weight rods. I wanted something that would be reliable and fully machined, along with having a sealed drag. Also, I did not want to spend more than a few hundred dollars.

Why I chose this gear

I ended up choosing the Orvis Hydros because it met what I was looking for in the reel from a technical standpoint, and it also helped that I found it at a great price! Other reels I considered were the Redington Rise and the Lamson Remix, and at the time, the Temple Fork Outfitters NTR was not yet released.

The Orvis Hydros Fly Reel.

What I love about it

  • Performance: This reel matches up well with most rods except for my super lightweight three-weights (Redington Classic Trout and Douglas Upstream). I’ve mainly paired it with my Epic FastGlass 476-4 rod. The drag is easy to set and can provide enough tension to not cause my fly line to tangle up on my reel or to clamp down when needed.
  • Quality: Orvis Hydros reels are made overseas, but this reel is solid. It is made from aircraft-grade aluminum. The reel is heavily ported, adding to its good looks.
  • Versatility: This reel is versatile and handles just about any conditions or waters with its machined-aluminum body and sealed drag. It comes set up for left-hand retrieval, but it can be easily converted to right-hand retrieval.
  • Durability: I expect this reel to last me a lifetime; I haven’t had any issues in my two years of using this chasing trout while wading or chasing bass on top of my kayak.
  • Use Case: I’ve used this reel mainly on my 4wt rod for traditional, single-handle style fishing implementing mainly dry flies and dry droppers. Most of the fish I’ve caught have not required me to utilize my drag, but the few times I have, the drag worked as desired. This helps me to protect my lighter tippet with its smooth drag to assist me in landing my fish.
  • Size: I own this reel in both the 3–5 and 7–9wts. Although this review is for the smaller reel, both have performed well for the fish I’ve targeted.
  • Drag System: The drag is solid, with a big, easy-to-set knob that lets me fine-tune my setting quickly.
  • Feel: This reel balances well with most rods. However, since it is made out of aluminum, it’s not the lightest reel.
  • Build: Despite that the reel is made overseas (helping me save a little money), the build quality is great, and Orvis stands behind it with a lifetime warranty.
  • Aesthetics: Aesthetically, this is an attractive reel that can be found in both a black or silver finish, plus the occasional special edition color. If you are worried about dings, opt for the silver finish as it hides scratches better.
  • Features: These reels can be easily switched between left- and right-hand retrieve, and spare spools are available for purchase.

Issues I’ve encountered:

  • Weight: While there are a lot of things I love about this reel, my biggest gripe with it has been its weight. This 3–5wt model I’m using comes in 5.0oz. It has balanced well with my Epic FastGlass 476-4. It’s just too heavy for something like my ultralight Douglas Upstream 373-4, so I have to consider what rod I plan to pair it with to ensure it balances well.

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment so far with this reel was when I hooked into an unexpected spotted gar while fishing on the Lower Colorado River near Austin, Texas, as I was fishing poppers for bass along a bank. I rarely need to use my drag, but I’m glad I had it that day when I hooked into that gar and it took me for a ride in my kayak.

Value for the money vs. other options

This reel is a great value for the money. I received a fully sealed drag and a machined-aluminum reel from a reputable company that includes a lifetime warranty. Similar reels include the Redington Rise and the Temple Fort Outfitters NTR, which offer a slightly cheaper price point and, depending on the model, are sometimes even lighter. While there might be cheaper and lighter options, I would still pick the Orvis Hydros again because I know I would be getting a quality reel from a reputable company that is easy to deal with if any issues were to arise.

Final verdict

This is a solid reel that will last me a lifetime. While a little on the heavier side, this fully machined aluminum reel and its sealed drag will not let me down when I need it most.

Selling Orvis on
Orvis Hydros Spare Spool
From $119.00
Meet the author
Fly Fishing Expert Danny Salinas
Danny Salinas
Fly Fishing Expert
Danny here! How can I help?
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Written By
I spent 10 years chasing the music dream playing bass for Cody Johnson, Josh Ward, Clayton Gardner and others, but most recently my career has been focused on the information technology realm as an auditor and consultant. While I do not travel nearly as much as I did when I was a musician, I do stil...

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