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Too often in fly fishing, designs are replicated. One company finds a design that we fly anglers like, and everyone repeats it with their own small twist. After a while, you feel like you’re using the same gear regardless of the company. Dedicated fly anglers notice when companies do something different, and when done properly, people love it.
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I put the Orvis Battenkill fly reel in that unique category. It’s an old-school click-and-pawl reel paired with some modern technology. It gives anglers the opportunity to return to the good old days and feel as if they’re in control of the entire fishing process from start to finish.
We’ve seen the positive reviews for the Battenkill online and wanted to try it. We purchased it ourselves and gave it a full test.
Our Fly Reel Reviews:
Why Trust My Orvis Battenkill Reel Review?
I was able to test out the Battenkill on the Animas River in southern Colorado and hook into some solid fish with it. It’s a medium-sized river with numerous smaller tributaries running into it. I tested it on larger and smaller water with a 5-weight 8′ rod. It felt more like a finesse setup but performed well in all of the different fishing situations.
Plus, at Into Fly Fishing, we only test the gear we use. I’ve tested numerous budget-friendly reels throughout my career, so I know what a quality reel should feel like. I enjoyed my time with the Orvis Battenkill and think it’s a quality reel.
Watch the Orvis Battenkill Reel Review
What’s in the Box?
Orvis sends anglers a heavy-duty reel sock with a strong cinch strap. While it’s still cloth, it feels heavier duty and more protective than many other reel socks I’ve tried. The reel socks help keep the reel itself affordable.
You don’t get the neoprene case many anglers want for the reels in their regular rotation. I switched it to a neoprene case but wouldn’t hesitate to keep it in the reel sock for the season.
When I received the reel, there were no scratches or blemishes on it. The reel performed without flaws right out of the box. Everything was properly greased and felt exactly how I wanted it.
It also came with instructions on how to operate the drag and switch the retrieve. I’m a left-hand retrieve, so I didn’t need to do any switching, but the instructions made it clear.
Orvis Battenkill Reel Features & Specs
The Orvis Battenkill is on the expensive side of budget-friendly. Some of the components are higher quality than what you’d find on true budget-friendly reels, but many anglers would say they’re well worth it.
We purchased the Orvis Battenkill III, so it’s built to handle fly lines between 5 and 7-weight. It is the largest of the models that Orvis offers.
The Battenkill is made with machined, heavy-duty bar stock aluminum. It’s one of the most solid-feeling reels we’ve reviewed thus far.
The porting on the sides helps dry the line and the backing. It feels better than some of the other die-cast aluminum and composite reels we’ve recently reviewed.
The anodized nickel can withstand drops, bangs against trees, drops on pavement, and various other mishaps. It keeps its shiny appearance despite some drops.
The internal components are bronze and stainless steel. It doesn’t only have solid components on the outside. The heavy-duty internal components keep the reel functioning for many seasons.
The reel handle is made of composite plastic, and that’s the only plastic component on it. The handle is known to get loose after many uses, so anglers have to tighten the screw every once in a while.
The Battenkill is a mid-arbor spool. Plus, it’s narrower than most other reels you’ll find. There’s far less line stacking on retrieve, and the diameter of the spools gets a little higher retrieve rate than you would think.
It’s a perfect lightweight, finesse setup.
The Orvis Battenkill was built to be one of the lightest reels on the market. You won’t find many reels that can compare to its weight.
The I model weighs 2.8 ounces.
The II model weighs 2.9 ounces.
The III model, which we reviewed, weighs 3.2 ounces.
When fully spooled, the reel weighs a little more, but it’s still far lighter than what you’d find elsewhere. They weigh around half as much as the Orvis Clearwater and many other reels with similar prices.
The lack of a drag system and aluminum keeps this reel lighter than most.
The drag system is what makes the Battenkill unique. It’s a 4-position click-and-pawl drag system, so anglers are in charge of controlling the drag with your palm on the outside of the reel.
To adjust the position of the drag, anglers have to remove the spool and turn the adjusting block within the drag mechanism. None of the adjustments provide much resistance, but they do enough to keep it functioning properly.
As you’re fishing, you don’t have the luxury of turning a drag knob to pin a fish. You have to adjust the setting once you’re done. As mentioned, you’re in charge of keeping tension on the fish by holding the outside of the reel and determining how fast the line can exit.
It takes some getting used to, but it gives you a chance to get back to the way fly reels used to operate.
The Battenkill is loud both ways. Whether you’re stripping or retrieving, you’ll always hear the Battenkill. It’s awesome to hear fly line screaming out of it and even fun on the retrieve.
It’s definitely the loudest reel we’ve reviewed and one of the loudest on the market.
Aesthetics & Color Options
The blue/grey anodized nickel is the only color option Orvis provides.
They claim it’s black, but it looks much more blue and grey than black. It’s a classic design that I haven’t seen on many other reels. It looks classic.
It comes in three sizes: I, II, and III.
The model I is built to handle 1 to 3-weight fly lines.
The model II is built to handle 3 to 5-weight fly lines.
The model III is built to handle 5 to 7-weight fly lines.
Currently, the Orvis Battenkill costs anglers around $100 wherever you can buy it.
At full price, the model I is $130.
At full price, the model II is $140.
At full price, the model III is $150.
FAQs About Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel
The Orvis Battenkill is a unique reel with features that most fly anglers don’t use. Below are some answers to questions anglers often have about the Battenkill.
Orvis offers anglers lifetime warranties on their reels for any manufacturing errors. The warranty does not cover accidental breakage, excessive wear and tear, or breakage from abuse.
Depending on the model you choose, Orvis Battenkill reels have anywhere from 100 yards to 200 yards of backing.
You’ll have to remove the spool and turn the adjusting block in either direction or increase or decrease resistance.
The Battenkill is not made in the USA.
You can purchase Battenkill reels to hold anywhere from 1-weight to 7-weight line.
Orvis Battenkill Reel: My Personal Thoughts
The Battenkill is extremely fun. When I’m fly fishing, I always like a new challenge and wrinkle. The click-and-pawl drag system performs as it should. As soon as I hook into a fish, I almost hope it gets me to the reel just so I can give the self-drag a test.
It gets you up close and personal with the entire fishing process. It’s lightweight and made me want to cover as much ground as I could. I felt like I was unstoppable as I was using it. I never felt dragged down or in a place I felt like I couldn’t fish.
I used it on smaller rivers and streams. I think it belongs on a little smaller water if you’re inexperienced. While the III model is rated for 5 to 7-weight fly line, I wouldn’t take it to big water without some practice. Beginner anglers would struggle to control drag if they happened to hook into a giant.
Advanced anglers wouldn’t have trouble controlling the drag if they tied into a large bass or steelhead with the III model. You’d get the full challenge of not only hooking into the fish but also fighting it as you’re controlling the speed it can rip line off the reel.
If you’re targeting fish you know won’t get to your reel, it’s also fun. I use it to teach my wife the ins and outs of fly fishing because I know she won’t land fish that get to the reel.
The Battenkill is a low-maintenance reel that offers some great fun. Whether you’re new to the sport or looking for an added challenge, it’s the ideal option. You’re getting a high-quality reel that won’t break the bank.
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