The Orvis US Made Mirage Fly Reel: Review

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

The USA-Made Mirage Makes Its Debut.

It’s been a big push for some time now… Fly rods, reels, lines, gear, accessories, clothing; Anglers want more products made stateside, as opposed to the cheaper, foreign alternatives. This typically means a steeper price, but with that also comes a more reliable, quality product. And anglers have shown they are willing to pay the higher prices to get a better product. Thankfully, many companies within the fly fishing world have listened to their customers and made the necessary moves to get more USA-made gear into fly shops.

Orvis is one of those companies that is making a big push to manufacture more USA-made products in order to continue the tradition of providing some of the finest gear to fly anglers everywhere.

The new Orvis Mirage hit the scene this past summer at IFTD and many that attended the show were impressed by the looks, features, and specifications that this new reel boasted. However, what I was most excited about was the fact that this reel was made 100% in the US of A. Finally!!! Orvis has been hand rolling some of the best rods on the planet right here in Vermont for decades, and now there is finally a high-performance reel, that is proudly made in Vermont, that will wear the Orvis name.

So what about this Made in USA Mirage is going to make it great?

At first look, the new Mirage is certainly a very large arbored reel designed to eat up line with every revolution. The design of the body of the reel is completely new, with hints of the previous Mirage (and other Orvis reels of the past) found within the design of the spool. The rest of the design is thoughtful, right down to the rounded reel foot, which wears a “Made In USA” badge. For the anglers that like to pin their flies to the foot of the stripper guide and wrap the leader around the reel foot (this keeps the fly line outside of the rod tip), this means that you avoid those annoying kinks that occur in the leader from having it stretched around the sharper corners of other reels. The counterweight carries the same profile as the spool, keeping it from catching any line, and the machined aluminum handle is comfortably shaped. The drag knob does not overly dominate the body of the reel, but it is plenty big enough to find. The drag knob is super smooth, turning easily with positive detents that indicate each adjustment. The drag isn’t labeled, but the mark on the knob is all you will need to know where you are on the clock. A full 360 degrees will take you from free spool all the way to lock down.

Underneath the good looks, this reel is built to be beaten and made like a tank. Machined from bar-stock aluminum, each Mirage is finished with a military spec, Type III anodized coating. Most anodized reels are finished with a Type II hardened coating, which offers a good amount of abrasion resistance and an array of color options. While Type III may not afford you tons of color options, it is a seriously hard coating that resists all but the worst of the worst when it comes to punishment. You’re not going to gouge this reel unless you’re doing something you probably shouldn’t be doing with a fly reel. Looking into the guts of the reel, the drag is impressive. A ball-and-ramp style drag system applies steady pressure along a non-linear plane, and max drag is achieved with one full revolution. The ramp increases just before lock-down to allow for a quick transition from fighting drag to a halt-stop when the situation calls for a more authoritative approach. Orvis also spared no efforts to ensure that this reel was absolutely waterproof. Water, especially saltwater, will wreak havoc on a drag system and eventually render your reel a useless paperweight if not cared for properly. Not all of us care for fly reels as they are intended, and though most reels are built to be waterproof, if not cared for properly, they can be susceptible to failures. Orvis wanted to make sure that this was a non-issue, so they sealed their reel with seven different seals to prevent water from entering and interfering with the drag’s performance. One of the things that Tom Rosenbauer mentioned about the reel and these seals, was that people kept noticing how the spool would not spin freely, 400 times with the drag set at zero. Which, not until a few years ago, I never understood. However, many people use this as a way to judge how much resistance there is against the spool (thus, the angler) when reeling in line. This resistance can be undesirable depending on the angler you are talking to, but, honestly, if you are whining about a tiny bit of resistance while fighting the fish of your life, you ain’t living right. Besides, when it comes to the Mirage, there is no perceptible resistance. As for you freaks that love to spin the spool and count how many times it turns, don’t fret… It still spins several times when set at free spool.

Everything about this reel is all about quality, performance, and function. No fancy bling. No gimmicks. Just a bunch of fish fighting ‘Merica packed into a sexy hunk of metal.

Like I mentioned earlier, the price takes a jump from the previous generation Mirage and enters a price range much more common with other American made reels such as Hatch, Tibor, and Abel. Much like these other American made reels, you will see a price range from $495 to $850 as you move through the family of Mirage reels. Yes, it is expensive. However, this is right in the same price range as any other highly touted, American made reel and this reel certainly delivers the goods that would be expected of a higher priced reel.

My experience so far with this reel has been nothing but positive. I’ve carried the Mirage III with me for the past several months and it has held up every end of its bargain, mainly targeting trout, as well as some bass and carp. Looking at my reel, you might accuse me of only using it to cast to hoola hoops in the yard, but that is far from the case. Despite being in the hands of clients, and putting up with my daily fumbles along rivers and creeks, only a couple of tiny dings on the reel foot that resulted from a drop that it took in my garage. The drag has been reliably solid and has the hallmark “zing” that is common with many of today’s completely sealed drag systems. The 6X-sparing, zero startup and smooth transitions needed when big fish get busy has been welcome. The adjustability has made life easy when holding fish from structure, as well as wrangling larger fish in close. The Mirage isn’t the lightest piece on the market, but I found that (when loaded with line and backing) the Mirage III balanced my H2 905-4 perfectly over the middle finger of my right hand (when gripping the cork), which happens to be my personal preference. The added attraction to this reel is knowing that I’ve been able to leave it dunked on sandy bottoms and in murky waters with no worries, despite not even trying to rinse the reel after using it all day. Day after day, this reel continues to perform without suggestion of failure and I’m looking forward to hearing the thoughts of other anglers as the USA Mirage hits reel seats around the world.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “The Orvis US Made Mirage Fly Reel: Review

  1. wow didn’t know its Type III. I have a type III that was made in 1995 that has been all over the place with me and it could basically still pass as new

  2. I currently have a Mirage IV and was disappointed that it was discontinued – until I saw the new Mirage. Your review confirms that the new Mirage is even better. Well done Orvis and G&G

  3. Interesting that nowhere have I seen any weights published for the Mirage reels. Called Orvis, didn’t have for some reason. Saw a size IV this week. Substantial weight to it.

  4. Beautifully looking reels. A distinct improvement designwise on an already good looking product.

    I was also curious about the weights and now these data are available on Orvis´ website. Mirage II 5.6 oz, 3½” in diameter.
    •Mirage III for line weights 5-7; 6.2 oz.

    Quite frankly I find these reels a bit too heavy for my rods. Superlight trout rods in AFTM 3-5. It´s not a big deal for most I guess but I prefer lighter reels for light trout rods. A matter of balance, kind of.

    These new Orvis reels will definitely be a huge hit for slightly heavier fishing. Rods in classes 7 and up for sea trout, big trout, salmon, bonefish etc


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