When Ross Reel’s Animas was introduced in 2015 I was more than curious about how it would fish compared to the classic Ross reels that I have owned over the years. I purchased my first Ross Gunnison Fly Reel over half a lifetime ago and have since acquired four more over the last 25 years. I still fish with all of them today.
This means that when I review one of their reels, the standard that I hold Ross to is pretty high compared to some of the other reel manufacturers.
Fly reels can’t be tested Stillwater’s lawn or some casting pond to figure out their pluses and minuses. Reels need to be tested on fish and in a fishing environment. After almost a year of dropping, freezing, submerging and sometimes catching with a couple of different sizes of the Ross Animas I figured, or the boss figured, it was about time to write something about the reel.
In the purest sense, a fly reel is the connection between the angler and a fish. This connection can be seamless or more frustrating than trying to tie a #22 Giffith’s Gnat on in the dark. Most anglers use the term “feel” when they talk about their favorite rod. The “feel” of the reel(kind of sings, huh?) is an afterthought, even though it is ultimately the most important piece of gear when it comes to landing fish. How a reel feels boils down to two things: drag and weight.
The Animas is somewhat typical for Ross’s newer designs when it comes to weight. Highly ported machined aluminum makes this reel very light compared to several other reels of similar size. The weight issue is one that it took manufacturers, including Ross, several years to get right. There was and is an arms race to build the lightest reel possible. Light is great for the lower weight rods out there, but once you start fishing for larger fish with heavier weight rods the reel needs to have enough weight to balance the rod. There were some manufacturers who forgot this for awhile. Ross’s designers didn’t forget this and the larger Animas’s are the perfect weight for the rods they are designed to be on.
The drag system is typical Ross. It has a semi-sealed, maintenance free and self-lubricating drag with almost 0 start up inertia. It is a reel that is great for fishing light tippets and leaders solely because of the drag. The light starting speed is great for newer anglers to the sport. The small incremental increases that the huge drag know knob allows for makes utilizing the reel to its fullest easy and instinctual. This makes the Animas great for new fly fisherman to get the experience of how to use a drag to fight fish.
Where the drag falls down a bit is its lockdown strength. It maxes out at around 2.25 lbs. This is great for most small species of fish but it is lacking for most larger species. I hooked a medium sized steelhead on the 9/10 that I used on my Winston spey rod and the Animas’s drag was just barely enough. Fishing for salmon or a majority of saltwater species might be interesting, but if you like palming then there is no issue.
Like flies are meant to catch fishermen more than fish, so are many of the reels designed today. I have never been one who cares about how a reel looks as long as it feels good and works well.
This is not the norm in today’s world of aesthetically minded anglers. Ross has made the Animas as pleasing to the eye as it is functional.
The unique look of the Animas is hard to describe. It has a bit of an industrial look smooth outer lines offset by an angular center hub that holds the quick release button. It has a very modern, workman-like appearance that exudes a tough reliability that made me immediately confident in the reel. I liked that its appearance isn’t over the top other than the accent of the different colored drag knob and handle.
The handle and drag knobs are perfectly sized. My stubby fingers had no issue finding or turning either one in the heat of the battle. A reel handle is something most anglers don’t think about until they have problems with it. In a year, not once did I have to tighten the handle on or did it get bent from being dropped or stepped on.
So it looks good, has a typically dependable Ross drag and its weight is proportionally perfect for the rod size for which it was designed. Durability is where it stood out from other mid-priced reels. I need a tough reel.
Gear, to me, is to be used and tested to its fullest. To say that I am hard on my fly gear epitomizes understatement. The two Animas reels will never be the same. The 9/10 was stepped on-twice. Once while my buddy improperly entered my drift boat, his size 13 cleated Simms wading boot supporting the full weight of my friends body. There was 220lbs of cheeseburgers and beer standing precariously on the reel for several seconds. So stunned was I, that it took me a bit fathom what was happening. He fell onto my lap with a feeble; “Sorry.” Amazingly, there was only a slight scratch.
The 4/5 was dropped from about 15’ over a canyon rim by the same guy who stepped on the 9/10. Having already half sliding, half falling our way into the steep desert canyon that held the river that we were chasing Brown trout on that day wasn’t good enough for my buddy. He had decided that he needed the exercise of the treacherous climb back to my truck by breaking his rod. Without thinking, I told him to grab my Winston that had the 4/5 Animas on it out of rod rack. A short fifteen minutes later I heard sliding rocks and a loud expletive. I looked just in time to see my rod and with the Animas on it clatter into the scree just above me.
There was only a little ding in the spool that I could see when my very sheepish friend let me inspect what I thought was to be a disaster. It sounded like a coffee grinder when I turned the handle so I popped off the spool and gave it and the frame a quick dip in the river. I figured that the spool or frame was bent but I would get the grit out and hope for the best. Miraculously, the reel turned easily as I cranked it.
What Did I Reel-ly Think?
Let me get what I didn’t like about the Animas out of the way first. The drag in the larger models needs to have more lockdown power in my mind. The 2.25lbs of drag pull is perfect for trout, bass and smaller bonefish. I had no problem with the steelhead I landed but I prefer to use the drag and not have to palm the reel like I had to with several fish. If you have lots of room for the fish to take off then this point is moot.
The other, very minor negative was the speed of line retrieval. It isn’t super slow, but it isn’t the fastest ever. Only once did I have issues with not being able to keep up when I reeled. But quite honestly who cares? I have yet to find a reel that can retrieve fast enough when a fish decides to run towards me at full speed. So I am splitting hairs on this one.
The Animas is a Ross Reel, so that says something in itself. The machining and craftsmanship is outstanding. There were no mechanical issues with either reel over the year. My favorite features of the reel were the new fully anodized LARGE reel handle, the easy reeling-hand conversion from right to left or vice-versa, and the large drag knob. The drag was drama and maintenance free, which is normal for every Ross reel. The 6061-T6 (whatever that means) proprietary fully machined aluminum alloy frame and spool are obviously tough and scratch resistant with the type II anodization encasing them. I would recommend this reel for its durability alone.
The Animas is a darn good reel. It is very solid and dependable reel that most fly fishermen would love to have in their arsenal. There are very few comparably priced fly reels that have a state of the art drag, the craftsmanship and the pleasingly aesthetics of the Animas Fly Reel from Ross Reels.
FEATURES & BENEFITS
• Smooth disc drag system to protect the lightest tippet.
• Push button, positive lock release with tool-less right-to-left conversion.
• Large arbor for a fast line retrieve.
• Custom 2-tone anodized finish.
• Solid 6061-T6 aluminum frame components.
• Highly ported for maxiumum weight reduction.
• Rod Coverage: 3wt to 12 wt freshwater, warmwater and saltwater.
• Colors: Stealth Black and Granite.
• Made in USA
• Limited Lifetime Warranty.