Expert Review: Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel

This review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in January of 2022.

The Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel.

All photos courtesy of Joseph Smith

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in January of 2022.

My take

The Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel is an old school reel geared for anglers of all skill levels. Nothing sounds nicer than a fish taking line off a click-and-pawl reel and the reel purring along.

The Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel laying next to a fish.

About the reel

  • Model: Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel
  • Reel Size: II (3-5 wt)
  • Backing Capacity: 50 yards of 20-lb backing
  • Arbor Size: Mid-arbor with narrow spool to prevent line twist
  • Construction: Machined from heavy bar-stock aluminum
  • Drag System: 4-position click and pawl

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): Dry flies, nymphs, streamers, fresh and saltwater
  • Experience: 40+ years of fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought this reel: January 2022
  • Rod paired with reel: Orvis 7ft. 5 wt. Graphite “Small Stream” Rod
  • Line paired with reel: Orvis Hydros Trout
  • Days tested: 180 days
  • Waters I have used it on: Local trout streams and farm ponds in Pennsylvania
  • Species targeted with reel: Trout, bass, bluegill

How it performs

Durability
5/5
Performance
5/5
Quality
5/5
Versatility
3/5

What I was looking for

I had an old soft action, early graphite rod I was using for ultralight fishing, but I was looking to get a classic click-and-pawl reel to go along with it. I wanted a reel that was aesthetically pleasing, had nice-sounding clicks, and was a quality product.

Why I chose this reel

I had a Battenkill reel in the past and regretted parting with it. I have always wanted to get another one and this was the perfect time to do so. In addition to this reel, I considered the Ross Colorado Reel but I chose the Battenkill based on price. I may still get a Colorado reel some day, likely for another ultralight set-up though.

The Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel laying next to a fish.
The Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel disassembled.

What I love about it

  • Performance: This is a smooth reel. Line pulls off evenly, and the drag has a smooth start-up with a melodic sound as the line comes off. Its narrow spool helps the line lie smoothly without twisting.
  • Quality: This is a solidly built reel. Although the reel feels light, it is made from machined bar-stock aluminum and is solid in its construction.
  • Durability: After having fished with it for the last six months and encountered no issues, I have found this reel to be extremely durable. It is very simple in construction so very little can go wrong with it.
  • Use Case: This is part of a 5 wt old school ultralight set-up. The drag has easily handled bass, bluegill, and trout.
  • Size: I chose the size II as this was the size that best worked with a 5-weight line.
  • Drag System: This is a 4-position click-and pawl-drag. To adjust it, the spool needs to be removed. So, if more drag is needed while playing a fish, the angler’s palm or thumb needs to be attached to the face of the spool. I have encountered zero problems with it to date. Did I mention I love the sound it makes when fish take line off the reel?
  • Feel: The overall feel of this reel is very comfortable. It balances nicely with the rod and the color option looks nice with the rod’s finish.
  • Build: This is a solid build and should last for generations. I have no issues here.
  • Aesthetics: This is the classic narrow trout reel—one cannot improve on this.
  • Features: Spool changes require pushing a small lever over, while the retrieve can be easily changed from right to left.
  • Other: I have found the handle is large and easy to reach without looking, which can be a useful feature when fighting a large fish. If you like to slap the reel to quickly bring the line in, this handle may get in the way. I don’t typically do this though, so it was not an issue for me.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Versatility: This is a click-and-pawl reel designed to go with an ultralight set-up. True, I could use it for regular trout fishing—and I might just do that—but this reel will never see saltwater, nor would I ever target larger fish with this.
The Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel attached to a fly rod.

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment was catching my first trout on this. The sound brought back memories of fly fishing during my childhood. I have fond memories of a previous Battenkill and I am sure I will create more memories with this one.

Value for the money vs. other options

I have no complaints when it comes to this reel’s value for the money. In a sport in which quality gear is often accompanied by an elevated price tag, this is still a great value at a reasonable price. This is a classic reel that can be passed from one generation to the next.

Final verdict

This Orvis Battenkill click-and-pawl drag reel is an enduring classic. It seemed appropriate for me to pair it with an older classic trout fly rod to create an old school set-up with a timeless feel.

Selling Orvis on Curated.com
Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel
From $129.00
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Written By
I am an avid fly fisherman. Luckily, I have a pond in my backyard exactly two minutes from my fly tying bench. If there is open water, I will fish just about every day. Although I grew up fishing the fabled streams of Pennsylvania, I love to travel and fly fish for diverse species both fresh and sa...

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