Review of Two Great Saltwater Fly Reels: Hatch and Nautilus

Here is one of my Hatch Finatic 11 Plus fly reels in action offshore La Ventana, Baja.

Here is my Hatch Finatic 11 Plus fly reel in action offshore La Ventana, Baja. A large dorado is on the end of my line.

Having just returned from a fine week fly fishing Baja, I wanted to say a little, and I really mean a little, about the two fly reels that I fish most often these days. These are fly reels that I have great confidence in and highly recommend to anyone seeking to fish the highest quality, most reliable fly reels.

Note please, that there are certainly other very fine fly reels available these days, and I have fished several of these in the past. At present, however, the only fly reels I fish in the salt are the Hatch and the Nautilus. I consider these reels interchangeable in quality, durability, and appearance, and functionality.

I will also note (with surprise) that I just discovered an “old” review I wrote on Hatch fly reels for the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog some years ago. Oh well, the story isn’t significantly different now.

Ask me to choose one brand of fly reel over the other and I would stall and change the subject. Fact is that I have fished both fly reels for years and found both to be trusted companions. I suppose if I had started off fishing different high-end fly reels I might feel the same about some other fly reel — but it didn’t happen that way, so here I sit with my stash of Hatch and Nautilus — and perfectly satisfied.

Hatch fly reels I fish at present:

Hatch Finatic 5.
* this is my trout fly reel, and I fish this for sea run cutthroat, half pounder steelhead, and even silvers in the ocean
* a superior fly reel at its size class
* I can fish summer steelhead with 5X tippets and depend on the drag of this reel to be super smooth and so light as to not overrun or strain the tippet – no small feat for sure

Hatch Finatic 7.
* now we are getting into the realm of the offshore saltwater species like silvers and pacific black rockfish
* a great fly reel for floating and fast sinking fly lines
* plenty of heft to fish spring chinook in the estuary

Hatch Finatic 9.
* this reel bridges the span between my estuary chinook fishing and the ocean albacore game
* plenty of backing especially the Hatch premium backing) to carry 300 yards plus a fly line

Hatch Finatic 11.
* now we are in the territory of the offshore species game and I fish albacore, and recently dorado and skipjack on this reel
* plenty of room for 500 yards of 30 lb dacron, or 80 lb power pro – plus a fly line
* this is my favorite fly reel for both estuary chinook (even though it is far larger than I need) and offshore saltwater environs

The Nautilus fly reels I am fishing at present include:

Here is one of my Nautilus fly reels in action offshore Baja recently - with skipjack on the end of my line.

Here is one of my Nautilus fly reels in action offshore Baja recently – with skipjack on the end of my line.

Nautilus Silver King CCFX2
* This is a very large diameter and narrower spool than you would usually expect to see, especially for example compared to a reel like the Hatch 11 fly reel
* the large diameter provides super fast line pick up on the retrieve

Nautilus NV eleven-twelve and ten-eleven
* I’m afraid these models may not be in production any longer, but they are trusted companions and will always be so

In conclusion, I fish both Nautilus and Hatch fly reels nearly exclusively. Ok, the exception is that I fish clicker Hardy fly reels when I’m swinging flies for steelhead. These fly reels are relatively inexpensive and have a nice screech when a steelhead makes a run. I fish these reels when a disc drag is not an essential part of the equation. When dealing with saltwater species – and decent size kings in estuaries – I stick with my Hatch and Nautilus.

For full disclosure, I was overtaken with nostalgia one year and fished Pfluger Medalist 1498 fl reels that were roughly 60 years old. I fished them a full salmon season. I never lost a chinook due to reel failure. That said, after that one season, I wen back to my modern fly reels with modern drag mechanisms.

May your days be filled with dreams of agreeable fish.

Jay Nicholas July 2017

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