Orvis Hydros Reel Review in 2024 – Fly Reels

orvis hydros reel review

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In this Orvis Hydros reel review, we prove to you that Orvis makes quality reels. The Orvis hydros reels are what the modern age Orvis brand stands for in the fly fishing world.

Orvis also has an excellent reputation for designing and making exceptional fly fishing reels. The Orvis hydros are one of these great reels. It had various upgrades over the years, and the latest version is ticking all the right boxes.

The impressive features of the hydros are not only evident in its performance but also in its appearance. The hydros reel looks excellent and will catch fish as well as everyone’s eye.

The Orvis hydros SL reel is an upgrade on the Orvis hydros LA, which was a great reel, but the Hydros SL fly reel has had the past concerns sorted out, and it is now a reel that punches well above its weight.

If you consider its shop price of $239, it is in that upper-middle range of reels, the range most experienced fly fishers look at for a backup reel or a newbie looks for an excellent first investment.

Without further a due, let’s look at the new Orvis Hydro series and why you should buy one.

Buy the Orvis Hydros Fly Reel

Orvis Hydros Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 Overall Weight: 4.7 – 7.7oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: –
Spool Diameter: 3.1 – 4.25in Colors: Matte Olive, Silver, Black, Ice Blue, Matte Green
Spool Capacity: – Warranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: – Country of Manufacture: USA

Overall Score

Drag System Quality
Weight and Balance
Line Capacity
Ease of Maintenance
Aesthetic and Design
Price to Value Ratio
Brand Reputation & Customer Service

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Reel Sizes

  • 3/4
  • 5/6
  • 7/8
  • 9/10


  • Refined, lighter-weight large arbor fly reel.
  • Improved fully-sealed drag clutch bearing.
  • Radiused reel foot for kink-free leader protection.
  • Improved, easy-to-use drag knob. 
  • Zero start-up inertia. 
  • Excellent retrieval rates and less line coiling.
  • Hydros I for line weights 1-3; 4.7 oz, 3.1″ in diameter. 
  • Hydros II for line weights 3-5; 5.0 oz, 3.4″ in diameter. 
  • Hydros III for line weights 5-7; 5.5 oz, 3.7″ in diameter. 
  • Hydros IV for line weights 7-9; 6.6 oz, 4″ in diameter. 
  • Hydros V for line weights 9-11; 7.7 oz, 4.25″ in diameter.

Orvis Hydros Reel Review

Seeing the Orvis hydros sl reel for the first time, you immediately know that you are holding a piece of quality. With the trademark Orvis look and feel combined with a more modern fly reel deliverance, the Orvis hydros sl fly reel is a thing of beauty.

Machine cut from anodized aluminum, the Orvis hydros sl reel has had the excess weight removed to produce a lightweight fly fishing reel with great drag power while much lighter weight.

This is an excellent approach by the company to shed some weight as most big reel producers are focusing on this these days.

The Orvis hydros reels have a lovely matte type II anodized finish, available in silver, black, or grassy green.

The Orvis hydros sl fly fishing reel foot has been radiused to give a rounded foot to prevent a leader kink or any other damage. This is a significant improvement, one that all reel producers should follow.

There is nothing worse than when your leader, generally the tippet end of the leader, gets damaged due to a sharp foot. These small changes show you the reel design has been thoroughly thought through.


The Orvis hydros sl is a classy-looking reel, machined form solid stock bar anodized aluminum it has the functionality of a high end fly reel.

orvis hydros construction

The new hydros reels have a heavily ported spool and rear plating, allowing you to see through the narrow spool. This sheds weight off when compared to the older models.

The matte silver, matte black, or green finish is the available color option.

The large arbor and narrow spool spins freely, allowing minimal line stacking with a thicker fly line and a fast retrieve rate. The new hydros sl II has an even thinner spool when compared to the old hydros sl, but they have the same performance.

The combination of a super large arbor and depth of spool allows for a greater backing capacity.


The fully sealed powerful drag with staked carbon and stainless steel disc washers is a significant improvement from the previous series reels.

The new Hydros reel has the best drag by far, and many anglers will say it is the deal-breaker after all. The drag is what is needed most, especially when fly anglers are chasing those larger fish species in saltwater.

The sealed drag will help prevent corrosion when fishing in the saltwater, but you can’t open it up to clean then after the session.

The 16 disc drag system is smooth with no start-up inertia. This is perfect on the smaller weight reels for the lighter tippet protection.

As the smooth drag goes and tension is applied, it handles the strain well with minimal jerking and a more baseline resistance.

orvis hydros drag

The maximum drag is far less than the older models, which is fine for the freshwater but could be an issue if used as a saltwater reel.

Previous models of the reel had issues with the drag knob. In earlier models, it wasn’t easy to hold, grip, and turn when needed. The newer models have had the drag knob made higher, and it has been given plenty more grip to it.

The drag knob engages the drag system entirely with 1 1/4 turns locked. This is a great quick way to set max drag in no time. The start-up inertia is minimal in the max setting and is acceptable under 4 pounds of tension.

Remember that the reel is in the upper-middle class price range so that these small things can be expected.

The improved crank handle is a little longer and easier to hold when compared to the earlier versions and has the reverse spin ability.

The drag system sounds crisp and clear in the outgoing direction, which is always an attraction to fly fishers.

The spools are relatively easy to change up. It involves pulling a small lever on the cover cap, and then the spool is released. This is a classic Orvis style of spool releasers.



Performance-wise, this is a quality reel for its price range. It does well in all the line weights covering most of your scenarios. The interesting thought that Orvis classes the reel size to cover two weight ranges, shows they have thought about the design and applications for when you fly fish


orvis hydros features

  • Fully machined frame.
  • Colors matte silver, matte black, and grass green.
  • Backing capacity -I=50-100 yards 20lb,II=100-150 yards 20lb, III=100-150 yards 20lb, IV=150-225 yards, V= 200-250 yards 20lb.
  • Drag fully sealed carbon, stainless.
  • Lever active spool release.
  • Left and right retrieval.
  • It comes with a reel bag.
  • Reels price- $239
  • Spool price- $119


  • The ree looks great, it has all the appealing aesthetics.
  • Very light because of the porting.
  • Large arbor
  • Solid drag system for stopping fish.
  • Easy to adjust drag knob.
  • Reels have a range of sizes for everything from trout to saltwater uses.
  • The light weight reels works great on a lighter rod


  • The reel could take the punishment if bumped or dropped.
  • There is slight start-up inertia on the larger models of the series.
  • The slight play in the handle is still evident but nothing to worry about.
  • It can be tricky when replacing spools, to line the lever up with the spool, especially when you are in a rush.

orvis hydros conclusion


Overall the Orvis Hydros series of reels are great. They are cost-effective and won’t break the bank. You will get a reel that will stand up to most tasks thrown at it. The Hydros SL’s smooth delivery and perfect machined design are all the qualities of a great fly reel.

With all the history and experience that Orvis has, it is no wonder they can produce such a high-quality reel that is up there with all their other greats.

As with all things in life, a little TLC will go a long way in ensuring the life span of your reel. The sealed drag is excellent, so you don’t have to worry about grit and dirt, but it is up to you as the angler to wipe it down from time to time.

The reel looks great and does sell itself without even having to fish it. Once fished, it is even more convincing.

The Hydros provides perfect all-around performance, something that can be expected from Orvis. They make phenomenal gear and are setting the bar higher each time. The Orvis Hydros sl fly reel has raised the bar, and we look forward to seeing what else Orvis can produce.

Get yourself an Orvis Hydros. You won’t be disappointed.

Tight Lines!

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