Expert Review: Lamson Speedster S Fly Reel

Published on 12/31/2022 · 6 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the reel, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2021.
Rylyn S., Fly Fishing Expert
By Fly Fishing Expert Rylyn S.

All photos courtesy of Rylyn S.

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

My take

The Lamson Speedster is an all-around fly reel for many freshwater and saltwater applications. I chose this fly reel for its durability and functionality for nymphing, throwing streamers, and dry flies here in the Missouri Ozarks.

About the reel I own

  • Model: Lamson Speedster S 5+ Dark Smoke
  • Reel Size: ⅚ weight
  • Backing Capacity: 100 yards of 20lb
  • Arbor Size: Super Arbor
  • Construction: Machined 6061 Aluminum, Stainless Steel
  • Drag System: Sealed Conical Drag

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): I like it all: from dry fly fishing spring creeks in Missouri to chasing redfish in Louisiana
  • Experience: 20+ years of fly fishing, 6 years as a fly fishing instructor and guide

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: December 2021
  • Rod Paired with Reel: Douglas Sky G 6WT 9’0”
  • Line Paired with Reel: Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX
  • Days tested: 45+
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Mostly freshwater Ozark streams and rivers
  • Species targeted with reel: Trout and smallmouth

How it performs

Performance
5/5
Quality
5/5
Versatility
5/5
Durability
4/5

What I was looking for

I was looking for something that could hold up to the elements while floating down Missouri streams and rivers. I needed something that could hold up to the wear and tear caused by dropping on gravel bars, in the sand, and even the normal wear and tear of being in a drift boat or raft.

I chose this gear

I chose this particular model because of the warranty and because it is built here in the U.S. Lamson offers lifetime protection of their reels and can get me back on the water quickly if damage occurs. I also wanted something with which I could easily change out spare spools on the go. I did consider purchasing an Orvis Hydros or Ross Animas but felt that the reputation and quality of a Lamson exceeded the competitors for what I needed. Also, the Lamson Speedster balances exceptionally well with my reel, the Douglas Sky G.

What I love about it

  • Performance: Let’s face it. Performance is key to an extent in a fly reel. When it comes to sealed drag systems, I do not spend a lot of thought thinking about the componentry because a good drag system can be found in just about any brand on the market. I do not need a robust drag system for my typical outings when fishing trout and smallmouth. A half crank on the drag knob does the trick. This is the smoothest drag I have ever had in a fly reel, and I do not have to worry about the drag knob losing tension halfway through the day. I have had this issue in former brands, which is frustrating.
  • Quality: The 6061 aluminum machined reel looks good, feels good, and performs extremely well in all conditions. I can’t find a better material for the price, and the quality exceeded my expectations after the first use. I also have a few Lamson Gurus and feel that the price point of the Speedster versus the Guru is due mostly to the componentry and “wow” factor that this reel adds to my setup.
  • Versatility: Since I mostly nymph, throw streamers, and throw dry dropper setups, this reel performs well for that. It works well when floating, and one must fight a fish in the current or fight a run upstream. My issue was resolved with the Speedster because I ran out of hands when trying to float through riffles or small rapids, all while trying to solo land a fish. I set the drag where it will stay, and I can easily adjust the conical drag for the fight with just a turn of the drag knob.
  • Durability: Like any fly reel, taking proper care of it will make it last a lifetime. The reel is maintenance-free and requires little care. I typically keep this fly reel on my fly rod at all times in my rod rock or my truck fly rod carrier with the included neoprene pouch. Keep the pouch on the fly reel, and it will be fine.
  • Use Case: I use this reel for multi-application, aside from Euro Nymphing, as mentioned in the versatility section. If needed, this reel works for Euro Nymphing, but I feel there are better, fully-caged fly reels for that application.
  • Size: I chose the 5+, which is suitable for 5WT and 6WT fly rods. I almost went with the 7+ but felt that the 5+ was better suited for the swing weight of the Douglas Sky G. Upon trying them both on the rod, the 5+ performs the best for what I need.
  • Drag System: Lamson put a spin on their drag system by creating a conical drag system that is completely maintenance-free. These materials enhance the proprietary friction and cut down on materials that produce zero start-up force and can run without any lubrication. This means the days of cranking down knobs until the cork or graphite meets enough tension to cause drag is over. I encourage anyone to look at their story.
  • Build: Being handcrafted in Utah rather than overseas is a plus. There are great reels made overseas, but Lamson wanted something that could be appreciated and possibly handed down to the next generation.
  • Features: Switching from LH/RH is effortless, and there is the option to purchase spare spools for different fly lines. Or in my case, I use this not only for my 6WT Sky G but also for my Douglas DXF 5WT.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Aesthetics: I love the aesthetic of this reel. It comes in three colors (Midnight, Ember, and Dark Smoke). My only issue is the ease of scratching on these reels. I understand that these reels will get scratched, but I was discouraged on my first outing with my new reel, that I scratched it on the tailgate of my truck while rigging for a float trip. I have learned that a clear or plain aluminum color works best, as it hides the scratches compared to the painted finishes on reels. I went for the “wow” factor of the Dark Smoke because of the way it paired with the burled wood and black blank on the fly rod. However, this does not take away from any of its real durability, functionality, or use case. Just a cosmetic issue.

Favorite moment with this gear

My absolute favorite moment with this reel was watching my wife land the fish of a lifetime on the North Fork of the White River here in Missouri. From the jumping up and down in the raft to me almost falling out of the raft to net the fish, the Lamson Speedster performed perfectly for the memory I will always cherish.

Value for the money vs. other options

The speedster is a reel that will last me a lifetime. Especially if the fly rod setup is a usual pick while on the water. For those who want something that performs roughly just as well and will save some money, I recommend a Lamson Guru. Both are USA-made, and both perform as they should.

Final verdict

The Lamson Speedster S fly reel is the best fly reel I have ever used in its price range. I am already scoping out my next Speedster for my saltwater inshore setup. Lamson’s conical drag system is revolutionary and puts a new title to being maintenance-free. I look forward to continuing to use my Speedster for future memories made here in the Ozarks.

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