Expert Review: Orvis Mirage USA Fly Reel

Published on 07/13/2022 · 8 min readThis review is my own honest opinion of the reel, which I bought with my own money in June 2021.
Joseph Smith, Fly Fishing Expert
By Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith

All photos courtesy of Joseph Smith

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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