It’s no secret that I’ve been using an Orvis Mirage reel for the last few months. If you follow the SkinnySkiff instagram then you’ve probably seen the reel more than a few times. I’ve been using the reel through almost two seasons now, spring and summer, and the reel has held up great.
Orvis makes a whole line of fly fishing rods and reels, but the Mirage is their flagship model ranging from $425 to $545 in MSRP. The reel is solidly built, and has tons of drag to fight almost any fish. The reel sizes are marked in numerals and range from I-VII, essentially from a trout reel to a sailfish reel offshore. Orvis is known for quality products, and sometimes made in the USA products as well. For instance, the Orvis Helios 2 line of fly fishing rods is 100% hand-made in the USA by Orvis.
I was surprised, though, to learn that the Mirage series of reels is in fact not made in the USA. If I’m spending $500 on a reel, the least I would expect is that it’s made here. Don’t get me wrong, I know how global trade and the world economy works…it’s just a personal opinion of mine. Don’t let the fact that it’s not made in the USA fool you, though. The quality of this reel is on par with any other high end reel purveyor.
Here’s the reel specs from the Orvis website for the full line of reels:
- Mirage LA I for line weights 1-3; 3.8 oz., 3″ diameter.
- Mirage LA II for line weights 3-5; 4.3 oz., 3¼” diameter.
- Mirage LA III for line weights 5-7; 4.8 oz., 3½” diameter.
- Mirage LA IV for line weights 7-9; 7.2 oz., 4″ diameter.
- Mirage LA V for line weights 9-11; 7.7 oz., 4¼” diameter.
- Mirage LA VI for line weights 11-13; 10 oz., 4½” diameter.
- Mirage LA VII Shallow for line weights 11-13; 11.7 oz., 5″ diameter.
- Mirage LA VII Deep for line weights 13-15; 11.5 oz., 5″ diameter.
So, here I’ve been using the IV model reel. That means it’s meant for 7-9 line weight and weighing in at 7.2oz. The weight on the reel isn’t “light” as compared to other modern reels. This is attributed to the drag system and the way the reel is machined. As a comparison, the Nautilus FWX weighs in at only 4.2oz and then Abel Super 7 weighs a stout 7.5oz. But guess what? The Abel Super 7 is my favorite reel currently on my 7 weight setup. “Heavy” is relative to the user. How often you’re swinging the rod, how seasoned your arm is, and how heavy the rod you’re using is, can all effect the felt weight of the fly reel you’re using. Some people like the counter-balance of a heavier reel, but others who may be blind casting to a mangrove line may want the lighter in-hand weight of a super-light reel such as the Nautilus FWX.
The weight of the reel isn’t an issue for me at all (in case you couldn’t tell by my professed love for the Abel Super 7). I can hold this reel for hours on the bow of a skiff and not feel fatigued. I have used the Orvis Mirage to cast at endless mangrove shorelines in Chokoloskee and never once though about the reel’s weight. Don’t let it scare you!
With the reel’s weight, comes a beefy drag system and sturdy machining. The way the reel was designed allows for sleek and modern lines along with great performance. The reel just flat out looks amazing. The one I’ve been using has the gold finish, and I love it. One of my buddies has the Mirage in the new black nickel color, and it’s a very nice finish as well. Speaking of the finish, it’s solid. The plating on the Orvis Mirage reel is tough and resistant to scratches any time you drop or bump the reel.
The drag on the reel is top-notch, and the spool is easy to remove or switch out. It’s not super-fast-quick-disconnect like some manufacturers advertise, but you’ll be able to get the job done in a minute or so. The drag itself is sealed and features carbon/stainless interrelating washers to put some real force on the fish you’re fighting. Now, most people will say “The drag on MY reel can drop a train!”. Ummm, well, that’s kind of cool I guess. Given how I don’t think I’ll ever need to stop a train with my fly rod, I’ll stick with “The drag on my reel can stop a 15lb bonefish (which some would argue is sort of like a train).” If you lock the drag all the way down and pull on it, the reel won’t budge and you’ll be pulling the fly line/backing into itself, but if it’s all the way loosened up, you’ll be causing a backlash in short order. This is quite the range of drag…but the even better part? It’s all done with a few clicks. I didn’t count exactly how many clicks it takes to ‘set my drag up’ after stepping on the bow of the skiff and stripping my required amount of line out for whatever I’m targeting, but I do know it takes only a few clicks. Maybe 3-5 clicks max before I am at a good fighting drag for flats fishing. Some reels require a whole turn on the knob, which can be a pain.
The reel itself is a large arbor reel, meaning it has a large spool surface circumference to take in line quickly when fighting fish. If you’re a saltwater or big game fisherman, this is a must-have in any modern reel. Anything else, and you’ll be furiously spinning the spool like a Monkey trying to ride a miniature bicycle at the carnival (go ahead, picture that in your head). Along with the large arbor, the reel includes a ‘snag-free’ knurled reel knob. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly ‘snag-free’ since a fly line has the adept ability to find any and everything sticking out on a skiff or on your person, but it works well and my finger’s haven’t slipped once yet.
All of the features mentioned above make for a great package of a reel. I would actually say the reel itself can handle bigger fish than it’s made for. I use my Mirage IV for my 9 weight setup, which is at the top of the 7-9 weight range Orvis specifies. I wouldn’t put it past the reel to handle large tarpon, bonefish, or permit. I’de be willing to bet it can handle them with ease as a matter of fact. I feel confident in throwing my 9 weight setup at some solid fish, and that says something about the reel’s abilities.
Get to your local fly shop, if they carry Orvis, and try one out for yourself. I would recommend it!
After months of use, here’s how the reel currently looks: