Expert Review: Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel

This review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2017.

A man holding a rainbow trout in one hand with a fishing rod and reel in the background.

Rainbows in pocket water. All photos courtesy of Jacob Jesionek

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2017.

My take

The Orvis Battenkill disc fly reel is a timeless classic. I love it for its small-stream applications and its excellent price point. It’s ideal for the angler starting out in fly fishing all the way up to expert anglers.

Close up of the Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel.

About the reel I own

  • Model: Orvis Battenkill Disc Fly Reel
  • Reel Size: Size I (1–3wt)
  • Backing Capacity: 100ft with 20lb backing and WF1 fly line
  • Arbor Size: Mid arbor
  • Construction: 6061-T6 Aircraft Aluminum
  • Drag System: Sealed disc drag based on the Orvis Hydros reel
  • Drag Pressure: Not disclosed but plenty sufficient for its purposes

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): Nymphing, dry fly, streamers
  • Experience: 15+ years of fly fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: December 2017
  • Rod Paired with Reel: Orvis Clearwater 3wt
  • Line Paired with Reel: Orvis Pro WF3 Floating
  • Days tested: 50+
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Small freshwater creeks mainly in mountainous regions
  • Species targeted with reel: Primarily targeting small rainbows, brook trout, and brown trout

How it performs


What I was looking for

When I began shopping for the Battenkill, I was searching for a small-stream reel that would look nice and do a sufficient job of holding line and being able to play some drag when fishing ultra-fine tippet. I also wanted it to be a more classic-looking reel because the other reels in my arsenal, such as the Hydros and Mirage, are all more modern styles.

Why I chose this gear

I ended up choosing the Orvis Battenkill due to its low price, sealed drag, and it looks like a timeless fly fishing classic. In terms of reliability, the reviews were also outstanding, so I felt confident purchasing one. Other companies had similar reels like the Redington Behemoth or the Echo Bravo, but the look of the Battenkill is what really sold it for me.

A fisherman using a fishing rod in a river.

What I love about it

  • Performance: The reel does an excellent job at what it is intended to do. It is a small stream reel that doesn’t over-complicate itself, therefore making it reliable and effective on the water. It also has a great drag-click sound that matches the classic click drag of historic fly reels.
  • Quality: The build of the reel is sturdy. Because it is a mid-arbor reel, it feels compact while holding enough line for its small-stream purposes.
  • Durability: I have had my Battenkill since 2017, and it is still holding up extremely well. The black nickel finish is very durable and withstands lots of abuse. They also come with a lifetime performance warranty in case the reel has any defects.
  • Use Case: I use this reel for small-stream applications, but it is still useful for all types of small-stream fishing. Dries, nymphs, and little wooly buggers are all reasonable to fish with this set up.
  • Drag System: The drag system is based off of the Orvis Hydros. So even though it is a very affordable reel, it still has a sealed-drag system capable of some serious stopping power for its size.
  • Feel: The reel feels great in hand. It is a little heavier than the typical Orvis reel, but, to me, that gives it a more nostalgic, old-school feel.
  • Build: Although it is imported, it is still hand-checked by the Orvis staff before being shipped; it is a very sturdy, well-put-together reel.
  • Aesthetics: My favorite part of the reel. It has that timeless, old-school, trout-reel look to it. It stands out on the small streams even though it's only offered in one color.
  • Features: Easily switches from right to left hand retrieve and with a well-built drag knob.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Versatility: This reel is made for small streams, so it's pretty specialized and not the most versatile. I can’t fish the Battenkill on a large river, as it does not have the line capacity for a heavy run from a big fish.
A fisherman on a snowy riverbank with a fishing rod.

Favorite moment with this gear

Since moving to Colorado, I have been wanting to get up to the Grand Mesa and do some cutthroat trout fishing. Well this August it finally happened! It was a journey to the top as I took my Jeep Gladiator off road deep into the Uncompahgre Wilderness in search of a stream I had found during some research. I was so determined to make it to the creek that I even got stuck and had to winch myself out on the way there. As I pull up to the creek, I put my rod together and make my first few drifts through a pool with a big dry fly. Three casts in and I had my first cutthroat on! What a special feeling it was being out by myself on a remote creek holding a native Colorado cutthroat.

Value for the money vs. other options

In my opinion, there isn't a reel in this price range that compares. Orvis’s next level up is the Hydros, which brings more drag into play and a large arbor design, but the Battenkill is a small stream specialist. This is a low-cost reel with a sealed drag and timeless look that is never going to fail. It's truly a special little reel.

Final verdict

The Orvis Battenkill will always have a special place in my heart. Every time I bring it out, I know I'm searching tiny-pocket-water creeks for eager trout in beautiful country. I always look forward to the next outing.

Selling Orvis on
Orvis Battenkill Disc Reel
From $169.00
Fly Fishing Expert Jacob Jesionek
Jacob Jesionek
Fly Fishing Expert
Jacob here! How can I help?
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Written By
Throughout my life, I have been driven by my love for nature and exploration. At the center of all of my adventures is fishing, the biggest constant in my life. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the country chasing countless species and learning from every trip. Hit me up and let me he...

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