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The Stillwater Fly Reel Beauty Contest

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Fly fishermen are into aesthetics. We field phone calls and emails every day from anglers who are more concerned about their fly reel matching their Winston BIIIx or Hardy Wraith or whatever fly rod they use. Actual reel features like a sealed drag, the anodized aluminum or weight are often secondary reasons for selecting a certain fly reel.

We formed an ad hoc committee (Bryce, Ben and myself) and picked our top five fly reels for beauty and function. This was a lot harder than we thought it would be when we came up with the idea. We left several reels off the list that we use daily because as great as they are, they just aren’t as pretty as the ones we picked. Here are the ones we came up with, in no particular order.

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Einarsson Invictus Fly Reel

Einarsson made a huge splash in the salmon and steelhead world when the Invictus was introduced. The innovative Shock Absorbing Brake has reset the bar for drag technology. Surrounded by one of the most perfectly machined reel bodies manufactured today, the Invictus is the embodiment of Icelandic art and design sensibilities.

Einarsson Invictus Reels are the finest saltwater or freshwater large fish species fly fishing reels available.

Einarsson Invictus Reels

Start-up friction, or the lack of friction, is the hallmark trait of this fly reel that was originally designed for the Atlantic Salmon angler. The Invictus has found its way across the Atlantic and is becoming a favorite for steelhead, salmon and sea-run Brown trout anglers in the Western Hemisphere. The Einarsson Invictus has a classic, sleek Northern European appeal with 21st Century technology housed beautifully inside.

Abel Andrea Larko Super Series Brown Trout Fly Reel

The Abel Super Series has set the standard for reels with cork drags since Abel Automatics introduced it so long ago I still had hair.

An Abel Sup

Abel Larko Brown Trout Painted Super Series Fly Reel

Always prize for its elegant style, the Super Series has a dependable Poruguese cork drag can be adjusted in micro-increments. The incredible stopping power of the Super Series was improved upon with a unique Double Pawl system in the larger sizes that has given this reel a cult-like following by trout, steelhead and saltwater anglers. What makes this reel so gorgeous is the stylized rendition of a Brown trout by renowned artist Andrea Larko that surrounds the drag knob. Larko emblazoned Super Series fly reels are sought after by anglers and collectors of fine art. The Brown trout that she created for this Abel fly reel is so alluring you won’t stop admiring it, even when you have a fish on.

Bauer RX Classic Fly Reel

The Bauer Fly Reels have been a favorite reel for many anglers from the Northwest U.S. for years. The Bauer RX Classic Fly Reel

A Bauer RX Classic Reel

Bauer Rx Classic Fly Reel

is a new design with Bauer’s classic tear drop design incorporated into this reel with a unique combination of “Retro” and “Mod” aesthetics. As fishable as beautiful, the patented Bauer Zero-Backlash clutch is the star of the floating carbon fiber disc drag that makes the RX Classic a favorite of Spey and single hand rod anglers. Bauer paired this technology with the finest craftsmanship that Jon Bauer has demanded since he brought basic physics and elegance together in a fly reel. The Bauer RX Classic is a durable, refined reel that is one of my personal favorites and is no longer a Northwest secret.

Tibor Fly Reel with Tibor Grand Slam Engraving

When Ted Jurascic introduced the world to Tibor in 1995 he single-handedly changed the world of fly fishing.

Tibor "The Gulfstream" Fly Reel with Grand Slam Engraving

Tibor “The Gulfstream” Fly Reel with Grand Slam Engraving

Using the input of renowned anglers, like Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot, the standard for craftsmanship, technology and design for fly fishing reels was forever changed. Tibor incorporates the smoothest cork drag ever made with incredible stopping power that is also fully sealed. This truly ingenious design pioneered sealed drag technology. The simplistic look of the classic Tibor is as utilitarian as beautiful helping make the reel strong and beautiful. The solid back lends itself to Tibor’s custom engraving. But we are particular to the red Gulfstream with “The Grand Slam” of a Permit, Tarpon and Bonefish meticulously etched on the back. Pairing your name with these mythic saltwater fish on the back of this reel makes each one of these finely crafted reels a one of a kind piece of art.

Abel Derek DeYoung Super Series Rainbow Trout Flank Fly Reel


So Abel got two reels on the list,

Abel DeYoung Rainbow Flank Super Series Fly Reel

Abel DeYoung Rainbow Flank Super Series Fly Reel

so I won’t tell you how great the mechanics and machining of Abel Super Series Fly Reels are over again. What I will tell you this is a truly dazzling graphic. The whole DeYoung series of designs make it hard to select just one, but the Rainbow trout stood out because of its vibrant depiction of one of our favorite species. Once again, Abel has crafted a piece of art.

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