Expert Review: Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel

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

The Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel.

All photos courtesy of Joseph Smith

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

My take

The Orvis Mirage American Fly Reel is the premium fly reel for Orvis® designed for use in both fresh and saltwater. This lightweight reel features a strong, sealed disc drag that is smooth with zero startup inertia and goes from zero to full drag in only one complete rotation of the drag knob.

Man using the Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel.

About the reel

  • Model: Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel IV
  • Reel size: 7-9 wt
  • Backing capacity: WF7: 225 yd/20lb, WF8: 225 yd/20lb, WF9: 225 yd/20lb
  • Arbor size: Large arbor; the VI size comes with a higher-capacity deep spool option designed for blue-water species or the standard, shallow spool for quicker line pick up when chasing large tarpon
  • Construction: Machined from 6061 T6 aluminum bar stock with military-spec Type III anodizing for finish protection
  • Drag system: Fully sealed ball and ramp disc drag
  • Drag pressure: Approx. 12lb

About me

  • Preferred fishing styles: Drys, nymphs, streamers, fresh and saltwater
  • Experience: 40+ years

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: June 2021
  • Rod paired with reel: Orvis Helios 3D Fly Rod
  • Line paired with reel: Orvis Pro Saltwater All Rounder 8WF Floating Line
  • Days tested: Roughly 1 year
  • Waters I have used it on: Ambergris Caye, Belize; Florida Keys, New Jersey beaches, and local farm ponds
  • Species targeted with reel: Tarpon, permit, bonefish, mutton snapper, barracuda, crevalle jack, snook, red fish, weak fish, striped bass, blue fish, largemouth bass

How it performs

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

What I was looking for

I was looking for a reel that would balance with my Orvis Helios™ 3D rod. As this was going to be paired with a saltwater rod, I wanted a solid, sealed drag and one that could handle large, hard-charging fish. Durability combined with a smooth drag were a must.

Why I chose this gear

My other saltwater reels are older, yet highly functional, cork-based disc drags, such as the Ross Big Game Canyon and Tibor reels. With this purchase, I was interested in trying a sealed drag. I ultimately chose the Mirage as it balanced nicely with the Helios 3D rod. I found the large drag handle easy to use and was impressed that I could go from zero to full drag in just one revolution of the handle.

Other reels I considered were the Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel and the Tibor Everglades reel (although this has a cork drag system). I briefly considered the Waterworks-Lamson Litespeed M Fly Reel as well, but this was never a strong contender as overall I do not like the feel of Lamson reels (although I own a couple on my trout setups). The Orvis Hydros Fly Reel was also considered as a budget option, but I felt it was not as high of quality as the Mirage and would not perform in the saltwater or handle larger fish like I wanted it to.

As I was purchasing this for a trip to Belize that was through Orvis travel, I received a substantial discount, and I chose the Mirage based on price and the fact that I could get it as a combination package with the rod. In this case, the rod drove the reel purchase.

The Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel.

What I love about it

  • Performance: This reel balances with the Helios very well. The drag is smooth, and I do not appreciate any startup inertia. I have not lost a fish due to the drag on this reel.
  • Quality: This reel is solidly built. The bar stock aluminum makes a strong yet lightweight reel. The super-large arbor makes line pickup quick and reduces the memory coils in the line. I did have an issue with some discoloration within the center logo after using it in saltwater, but as far as I can tell, this is more a cosmetic issue than a functional issue.
  • Versatility: This reel, although it comes in smaller sizes, is really designed for larger fish that require a strong drag. When fished in these parameters, this reel performs solidly.
  • Durability: This is a durable reel. I have fished it hard in harsh salt environments and have not encountered any functional issues. Orvis has a lifetime warranty on its reels, and the reel is also eligible for its tuneup service for a small fee.
  • Use Case: I purchased this reel as a travel saltwater setup. This reel has stopped running bonefish, handled baby tarpon, and even pulled a large mutton snapper out of the mangroves. I do use this for fishing farm-pond largemouth bass, but honestly, it is overkill for them as far as drag needs.
  • Size: I have the IV size, which is for 7-9 weights. As I was pairing this with an 8-wt rod, this was perfect. It came with a large arbor, which makes line pickup quick.
  • Drag system: The drag system is a sealed, maintenance-free ball and ramp disc carbon and stainless-steel drag. I found the drag to be very smooth and extremely easy to adjust even while fighting a fish. The large, knurled knob is easy to turn. Full drag can be obtained in just one full revolution of the knob.
  • Feel: At 8.9oz, this reel balanced nicely with the Helios rod it was on. The fully radiused reel feet prevented kinked leaders when I looped them around the reel to secure the hook. I found the counterweight to be low profile, and it did not catch any wayward fly line or bang my fingers when a fish made a sudden, unexpected run. The machined aluminum handle was ergonomic and easy to find when quickly trying to get line on the spool.
  • Build: This reel is manufactured in New England for those that prioritize “made in America” products.
  • Aesthetics: This reel comes in a midnight black or pewter finish. I chose the midnight black. The military-spec Type III anodizing finish creates a durable finish. My reel has some discoloration in the recessed areas on its center.
  • Features: This reel can easily be converted from right to left-handed retrieve. Spare spools can be purchased, and the VI size also has the option of a deep spool, which will hold more backing for chasing blue-water species.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Spool: I did have one issue with this reel. After taking the spool off and soaking it in fresh water after fishing in the salt all day, I had difficulty getting the spool to seat tight against the casing with reassembly. After spending a frustrating half hour, I discovered that a water bubble had formed in the post hole and was preventing the spool from properly seating. This was quickly solved with a Q-tip®, but the hole is small enough that the water surface tension did not allow all the water to come out while drying. I have encountered this on subsequent soakings, but now that I know the issue, it no longer bothers me. I routinely clean the hole with a Q-tip before trying to seat the spool.
Close up of the Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel.

Favorite moment with this gear

I have many favorite moments using this reel. Catching my largest bonefish to date and stopping its run with a turn of the drag and protecting the tippet made my day. I also enjoyed horsing in an unexpected barracuda before its sharp teeth could fray and ruin my leader. Another unexpected large mutton snapper tested the reel and its drag, and made a nice fish lunch. Overall, I have been pleased with this reel.

Value for the money vs. other options

For those looking for a strong, sealed drag reel that can withstand saltwater fishing, this is a good option. There are less expensive saltwater reels out there such as the Hydros, but I felt it just did not have the strength or durability of the Mirage and would not be up to the task I asked of it. Anecdotally, I do feel that the Tibor or Ross reels may be slightly better, but for the price I paid, I feel I got a comparable reel for less money.

Of note, while in Belize, I borrowed a 10-weight that had a Hatch Finatic 9 paired with it, and I preferred the feel of the Mirage to the Finatic. There are stronger drag reels out there such as a Nautilus GTX, but they are twice the price. Unless an angler is chasing giant trevally in a remote area of the world, this reel should handle most saltwater needs.

Final verdict

The Orvis Mirage Fly Reel is a high-quality reel that has a very smooth and easy-to-adjust drag. The sealed, maintenance-free nature of the drag makes it not only a good option for freshwater fishing but ideal for the harsh environment of saltwater as well. This reel has yet to cause me to lose a fish. For those looking for a dependable, solid drag reel, this will not disappoint.

Selling Orvis on Curated.com
Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reels
From $549.00
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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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