Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gear Review: Orvis Clearwater LA II Reel

My original 6 weight fly reel started to show some serious drag issues this past fall and winter. So I started looking for a new reel that also had spare spools that can be purchased. Then, this past February, I renewed my Trout Unlimited membership. As a thank you, I was given a $30 off coupon if I bought something from Orvis and spent $100 or more.

So after my birthday, but before my Guided trip on the North Platte, I bought the Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor II reel and a spare spool. I also purchased their last year's model Wonderline in Olive to go on the reel. I hope to review that line at the end of the season.

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Reel

Upon receiving the reel and spool, I liked that it came with a soft cloth pouch for the reel. Unfortunately no such pouch is included for the spool. This is a cast aluminum reel, but feels a perfect balance for my 6 weight rod. It was also slightly lighter than my previous Bass Pro reel. To change out the spool, is easy. You simply push in a metal lock and the spool comes off.

To adjust the drag, there is a large knob (as shown in the picture above). The drag is sensitive and very easy to use. The only downside to the drag, is that if you get the reel wet, the drag will squeek and groan until it dries out. So I suggest that you take apart the reel and lube it up immediately to prevent that from happening to you. Since that initial trip, I haven't had the issue again.

As a lefty, I always have to adjust my reels to right hand retrieve. This reel is very simple to convert. Simply remove the spool, pull out the part holding the nut and flip the one way bearing. Then you have your reel converted. Much easier than some other reels I own.

Overall I like this reel. Upon notifying Orvis about the sound it makes when wet, they quickly responded to ensure I was a satisfied customer. I liked that. Prior to this my only experience with anything Orvis was a 9 weight rod from the mid-90's that acts more like a 10 weight that was purchased from a local benefit auction.


  • Bargain price at $79 for a reel that also allows you to purchase spare spools.
  • Easy to adjust drag system, that has been reliable so far.
  • Large Arbor that allows for quick pickup of your line onto the reel when you are trying to bring that monster rainbow to hand.
  • Drag seems to need lubrication out of the box.
  • No smaller version for light weight rods.
I do believe that this reel will become my standard reel on my gear that is not ultra-light. I would like to buy one more spool for an intermediate sink tip. Currently I have this reel spool with a full sinking tip and a WF line. With the 6wt WF Wonderline that I have, it comes dangerously close if you put a full 150 yards of backing on to running out of room. But a 6 weight line is also the maximum they recommend for the size I purchased.

Get out on the water! I know I am!


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