Expert Review: Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel

This review is my honest opinion of the reel which I purchased in December 2021.

The Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel on a Douglas rod.

All photos courtesy of Danny Salinas

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About this review: This review is my honest opinion of the reel which I purchased in December 2021.

My take

The Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel is a lightweight, sealed drag, machined-aluminum reel at a great price with the durability to last a lifetime of fishing.

A fish hanging from a rod in a boat.

About the reel

  • Model: Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel
  • Reel Size: I (1-3WT)
  • Backing Capacity: 20-lb & WF1: 100 yds; 20-lb & WF2: 75 yds; 20-lb & WF3: 50 yds
  • Arbor Size: Mid Arbor
  • Construction: Machined Aluminum
  • Drag System: Disc - Fully Sealed
  • Drag Pressure: Not Disclosed by Orvis

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): Dry fly
  • Experience: 10 years of fly fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: December 2021
  • Rod Paired with Reel: Douglas Upstream 3wt 7’3”
  • Line Paired with Reel: Orvis Superfine 3wt
  • Days tested: 15 days
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Small freshwater streams
  • Species targeted with reel: Panfish & Trout

How it performs


What I was looking for

When I got my new Douglas Upstream 3wt rod I knew I needed a new small reel to match it — one that was going to be lightweight, durable, and a good value. It wasn’t super important to me if the reel had a disc drag or not.

Why I chose this gear

After looking around at several options, including the Sage Click, Ross Colorado, and others, I chose the Orvis Battenkill because it was lightweight and fit my budget. Also, it’s hard to beat a fully machined reel with a sealed drag, and old school aesthetics that matched my rod, for under $200.

The Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel on a fly rod.

What I love about it

  • Performance: The reel performance is great, it’s easy to strip line off the reel, with minimal startup inertia. While I didn’t buy this reel because of the disc drag, it has come in handy the few times I caught an unexpected bass while targeting small panfish.
  • Quality: The Battenkill is based on the design that has been around since the 1970s; it’s a solid machined aluminum reel with a retro design and solid feel. While the reel may be simple and not as eye-catching as others on the market now, I know it will get the job done for years to come.
  • Versatility: This lightweight reel is made from machined aluminum and includes a sealed drag that handles most waters I throw at it. It can handle just about any size appropriate fish I might be going after and it covers all water conditions with its sealed drag system.
  • Durability: This is a durable reel that is designed to last a lifetime, and is backed up by Orvis’s lifetime warranty. I’ve put it to use mainly here in the Texas heat both wading and kayaking. While it has some minor dings from the occasional rock it has found, I don’t expect to have any issues and it should be able to withstand the rigors of a heavy use reel that I’m not having to baby.
  • Use Case: This is a great all-around reel that can match up with any appropriately sized rod and technique I might use. This reel has matched up and balanced perfectly with my 3wt rod, be it light nymphing or throwing light streamers. For use all day casting dry flies I could not ask for a better reel for my setup.
  • Size: This Battenkill model has a medium arbor and is a perfect match for my 3 wt. rod.
  • Drag System: This specific model has a smooth drag that handles any fish I target with a 1wt to 3wt rod, and with the sealed drag, I don’t have to worry about debris getting into it.
  • Feel: The Battenkill is a great feeling reel. While not the lightest reel on the market, it balances well with most rods.
  • Build: Orvis builds these reels overseas, which allows the reel to be priced competitively for a machined-aluminum reel with a sealed drag.
  • Features: The Battenkill can be switched from left- to right-hand retrieve easily, and spare spools are available.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Aesthetics: Aesthetically the Battenkill will not win any awards; it’s a simple ported functional reel with a retro-style, dark silver finish. It may look like the reel your grandpa or dad used, so if you are looking to have the most visually appealing reel this may not be for you.
The Orvis Battenkill Disc I Fly Reel.

Favorite moment with this gear

I’ve been taking my 3wt setup on my travels for work, it's super lightweight and easy to pack. While I don’t have a particular favorite moment that sticks out to me, I love being able to pull into a stream where I may be working and quickly being able to throw this reel on to my rod and be ready to disconnect from worries of work for a little bit.

Value for the money vs. other options

There are prettier, and even lighter, options on the market, but they cost double the price. Since I wanted a reel that outright works, and would last me a lifetime, without breaking the bank, this was the best option for me.

Final verdict

The Orvis Battenkill is a great value reel that is made of machined aluminum and includes a sealed drag. While not the most eye-catching design, it’s a solid reel that has not let me down.

Selling Orvis on
Orvis Battenkill Disc Reel
From $169.00
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Written By
I spent 10 years chasing the music dream playing bass for Cody Johnson, Josh Ward, Clayton Gardner and others, but most recently my career has been focused on the information technology realm as an auditor and consultant. While I do not travel nearly as much as I did when I was a musician, I do stil...

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