Orvis Hydros Fly Reel Review

Orvis Hydros Reel Review – What I REALLY Think About It

The success of any fly fishing trip is determined by proper planning, timing, and fishing gear, particularly your reel, which holds your line and helps you tackle an aggressive catch. And one of the best reels I have used in a vast percentage of my fly-fishing trips is the Orvis Hydros reel. So after using it several times, I decided to create the following Orvis Hydros Reel Review – What I REALLY think about It.

Product Description

The Orvis Hydros reel is an impressive reel available in sizes that can help you fish in a wide range of water bodies, including small streams, in search of tarpons. It is a fully machined bar aluminum reel with craftsmanship and features found in most high-end reels, making it one of the best reels available.

Guide Recommended – The simple thing is the Orvis Hydros is a great all-around reel. Read more reviews and check prices at the Orvis website with this link. 👉 Orvis Hydros Fly Reel

To prevent its interior parts from getting damaged by exposure to grit, sand, and moisture, this reel comes with a sealed clutch and drag. It has a huge arbor that improves its retrieval rate by up to 12%. Its newly designed drag knob and handle play a key role in its strength and feel. Therefore, if you plan on improving your next fly fishing trip, you should go for the Orvis Hydros SL reel.

One thing that stands out is that it is very light. It is one of the lightest brands in the market.

Orvis Hydros Fly Reel
Orvis Hydros Fly Reel

How Orvis Hydros SL Reel Compares to Others

The Orvis Hydros SL is an upgraded version of its predecessor, Hydros LA; it has shed some weight, but the most notable upgrade is the range and drag knob. Hydros LA weighs about 220grams while Hydros SL weighs approximately 218grams. The Hydros SL reel is the lightest of all the reels with the same power.

Guide Pro Tip: Picking the right size reel can be tough. Capacity, size, and weight all play a roll. Even the drag system needs to be considered. If your shopping and are looking for the qualities to look for check out my article. 👉 How to Select the Right Size Fly Fishing Reel

Who Makes Orvis Hydros SL Reel?

This reel is made by an American family-owned company known as Orvis. Orvis is one of the oldest manufacturing firms specializing in sporting, hunting, and fly-fishing goods. Charles Orvis started it in 1856 in Manchester, Vermont, to sell some of his best fly-fishing tackles. It’s considered the oldest remaining American mail-order retailer.

Orvis operates ten warehouses and 70 retail stores in the United States and 18 stores in the UK. The Perkins family has owned Orvis for over five decades, and since its inception, Orvis has had 5 CEOs. Over the last few decades, Orvis has revolutionized the fly-fishing industry; their 1874 reel has been described as the benchmark of reel design by Jim Brown. (source)

Benefits Of Orvis Hydros

  • It’s easy to maintain and clean
  • High retrieval power
  • Affordable
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty
  • Rust-free material
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Produces a low sound when the reel clicks back-and-forth


  • The drag knob is quite small, so adjusting it can pose some difficulties, especially for users with huge hands.

Things To Consider When Buying a Fly Fishing Reel

Balance fly rod with reel and line
Balance fly rod with reel and line – balancing makes the setup comfortable

A fly reel does more than hold the line; it helps you fight a massive and aggressive fish species. But several types of fly reels vary in size, materials, and usage; therefore, before you make any purchase, you should consider the following factors:


Generally, the fly reel’s cost indicates its quality, but that is not always the case. After all, some budget fly reels can still surprise you. Several quality budget reels go for $100, but if you feel like breaking the bank, you should go for the high-end reels that cost about $900.

If you’re fishing some less aggressive fishes, you need a reel for just holding the line; therefore, you should get a simple but reliable reel for $50. Unfortunately, you can only get a plastic reel at this price range. (source)


The material will play a vital role in the durability of the reel. Therefore, if you plan to catch a huge fish or are doing saltwater fishing, you should get a reel made using strong materials. Many modern fly reels use anodized aluminum, which is lightweight and solid. They are also made from stainless steel, magnesium, and carbon fiber.

Drag System

The drag system is a crucial part of the reel; it lets you pressure the fish when trying to take the line while swimming away. It’s not there to wear down your catch; instead, it’s a drag system that helps prevent overrides. (source)

The drag system can prevent line breakage while helping you catch your trophy fish. An excellent drag system should have several adjustments so that you can apply as little or as much pressure as you can.

Guide Pro Tip: One of the fastest way to break off a fish is setting the drag incorrectly. No worries though, I’ve got a complete guide. Read 👉 How to Set the Drag on a Fly Reel

A great system will let you adjust the reel’s resistance on the spool, which can come in handy when fighting a huge fish. There are several drag systems, but most come with a disc drag and click-and-pawl. Unfortunately, a powerful drag system can increase the price of your reel, so if you don’t plan on doing saltwater fishing, you don’t have to purchase high-end options with a powerful drag system. (source)

Arbor Size

Orvis Hydros Large Arbor Reel
Orvis Hydros Large Arbor Reel

The size of the arbor will affect the quality and price of the fly reel, but a huge spool can support more lines which are crucial when dealing with a huge catch. It can also take up more space and make the reel quite heavy.

Fortunately, large and medium-sized arbors can wound faster than reels with smaller arbors. By increasing the size of the reel’s arbor, manufacturers managed to double the wounding rate of the reels, which had small arbors. (source)

Little trout caught with the Orvis Hydros Reel
Little trout caught with the Orvis Hydros Reel

Features And Their Benefits

Design And Aesthetics

Other than being efficient, the Hydros SL fly reel is a beautiful reel that stands out. Its neutral finish and color will marvel as it did mine translating to an exceptional feel. It is a fully functional fly reel well-engineered to tackle many fishing challenges, including fighting massive fish in the sea.

Plus, the fact that it has a sealed clutch and drag means that nothing, not even salt water, can access the interior parts and damage them. Another thing that shows that Orvis cares about your hands is the easy drag adjustment with this reel. Therefore, you can even adjust the drag without wearing your gloves.

Fly Fishing Reels
Fly Fishing Reels


You should consider purchasing this reel if you plan on getting more than the value for your cash. As an upgraded version of the Orvis hydro, this unit is lighter and more durable; after all, it comes with a beefy rim, which also helps with weight distribution.

Orvis also tightened tolerance on the wheels, ensuring that there is very little-to-no wiggle, giving you less wear and smooth drag. (source)

Another upgrade is the introduction of a fully sealed drag system, which was partially closed in Orvis Hydros. The seal prevents moisture, grit, and sand from getting to the interior part of the drag system, which can interfere with its pressure.

It is also made from aluminum that doesn’t rust. Plus, its spool is thick enough to prevent it from warping or bending when fighting your catch.  

Retrieve Power

It is an enormous arbor reel, meaning that one spindle wound gives you 8.2 inches of the line, which is quite fast. Another thing that makes it stand out and gives it a fast-retrieving power is that it has a very thin spool; therefore, you will never have to worry about the line winding in one part of the reel. (source)


The clicks between the ridges of the reel don’t produce too much noise. The sound is fairly muted. But it clicks in either direction, which can be a turn-off for some people, but it isn’t a deal breaker.


Orvis Hydros SL fly reel is loved by anglers, and most of the reviews I have seen so far were very positive. Besides its fast retrieval rate, most anglers loved the drag system’s seal, which meant it couldn’t be spoiled by moisture or grit.

Some of them loved that it is one of the market’s lightest and most powerful fly reels.

My Experience

I have been fly fishing for over a decade with a huge reel my father gave me when I was 15. And back then, it was very heavy, so I believed that reels had to be huge and heavy to hold more lines and also help reel in my catch. But everything changed in 2020 when my brother surprised me with the Orvis Hydros SL reel.

Guide Pro Tip – Balance fly rod setup with line. Test rod, reel and line for balance

The first thing I noticed was that it’s very light, which had me doubting its capability at first, but it did not disappoint. Despite having a huge arbor, it is one of the most lightweight reels I have ever used. Another thing that stood out is that the drag system is sealed, which means I can do saltwater fishing without worrying about my reel getting damaged. I have used it for fishing all over the rivers in Montana.

Are you thinking about getting the Orvis Hydros? Before you do, check out the reviews and prices on Orvis with this shortcut link 👉 Orvis Hydros SL Reel

One More Cast

There are several market reels, but most tend to be heavy and have a slow line retrieval rate. Some don’t even have a sealed drag system which exposes them to dirt, moisture, and grit, but this will not be an issue with the Orvis Hydros SL reel.

The Hydros SL has a huge arbor that guarantees a fast retrieval rate, and its lightweight makes it an exceptional tool. Therefore, you will get value for your money with this reel. 

Want To Learn More about Fly Fishing Reels?

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


  1. Wikipedia contributors, Orvis, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orvis/, accessed August 18, 2022
  2. Mad River Outfitters, Picking your new fly reel- what to look for in a reel! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXOCGV31uY8/ accessed August 18, 2022
  3. Trey Combs, Steelhead fly fishing, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=YUYJ6EacqJsC&pg=PA29&dq=drag+system+of+a+reel&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjUyPm6xeL5AhUO_IUKHS0rCzgQ6AF6BAgJEAI#v=onepage&q=drag%20system%20of%20a%20reel&f=false/ accessed August 18, 2022
  4. Tom Rosenbauer, Large, mid, standard arbor reels, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Hzt3c-F3v-sC&pg=PA34&dq=reels+with+large+and+medium-sized+arbors+can+wound+faster&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwius9X-yeL5AhUDWBoKHRpYBT0Q6AF6BAgIEAI#v=onepage&q=reels%20with%20large%20and%20medium-sized%20arbors%20can%20wound%20faster&f=false/ accessed August 18, 2022
  5. Tom Rosenbauer, Orvis Hydros SL fly reel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7QyhbXv3Ts/ accessed August, 18 2022
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