Orvis Access Mid Arbor fly reel review

The Orvis Access Mid Arbor Reel is a stunning and beautifully made fly reel and comes in a range of sizes to suit most line weights.

Orvis Access Mid Arbor fly reel review
© Fly and Lure
Orvis Access Mid Arbor fly reel review
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Orvis Access Mid Arbor fly reel review
Orvis Fly rods Fly reels Fly lines Estimated reading time 6 - 10 minutes

What's the Orvis Access Mid Arbor fly reel made from?

The Orvis Access Mid Arbor Reel is a bar stock reel and is exquisitely machined from a chunk of 6061 aircraft aluminium. Cheaper fly reels are typically made from plastic or die cast from molten aluminium. The build quality is absolutely flawless and these Access reels are as beautiful to admire and hold as they are to use.

In what sizes does the Orvis Access reel come?

The Orvis Access Mid Arbor comes in five sizes from a tiny 2.75" diameter model for 1-3 line weight rods to a 4" diameter model for 9-11 line weight rods. All Orvis Access reels are available in three colours: black, titanium or Mirage gold anodised. I have a gold one and a black one. 

Model Line weight Reel diameter Reel weight
Access Mid Arbor I 1-3 weight 3" 4.45 oz
Access Mid Arbor II 3-5 weight 3.25" 4.62 oz
Access Mid Arbor III 5-7 weight 3.5" 4.62 oz
Access Mid Arbor IV 7-9 weight 3.5" 5.28 oz
Access Mid Arbor 5 9-11 weight 4" 5.88 oz

How much backing do they take?

Obviously that depends on the thickness, breaking strain and type of backing you're using. Dacron is thicker than gel spun backing, so if you're using gel spun you're going to need to add a lot more to fill the arbor properly. The ratings below are based on 20lb Dacron backing, except for the largest V model which is based on 30lb Dacron backing.

Model Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
Access Mid Arbor I WF1 + 100m WF2 + 75m WF3 + 50m
Access Mid Arbor II WF3 + 150m WF4 + 125m WF5 + 100m
Access Mid Arbor III WF5 + 150m WF6 + 125m WF7 + 100m
Access Mid Arbor IV WF7 + 225m WF8 + 200m WF9 + 175m
Access Mid Arbor V WF9 + 250m WF10 + 225m WF11 + 200m

Are they left or right handed reels?

By default, the Orvis Access Mid Arbor reels have the drag installed for left hand wind, which is for people who cast with their right hand. However, you can select right hand wind when you order and Orvis will set the reel up so you can fish with it the opposite way round.

Like most fly reels, it's also fairly straightforward to change the Orvis Access fly reel from left to right hand wind. You unclip the retainer by squeezing a couple of retaining tags, remove the one-way bearing and turn it over. Then you just fit the clutch retainer back on and it should work with the wind and drag set in the opposite direction.

How resilient are they to scratches and general use?

My Orvis Access Mid Arbor Reel and the Orvis Helios rod were so shiny and beautiful when I got them that I was a bit worried about getting them scratched or dirty. That wore off after a few trips and now the reel gets a regular dunking in the water and is sporting some dirt and the odd small scratch from being laid on the rocks.

I've used them quite a bit and taken a bit of care to keep them clean, but they've not been wrapped up in cotton wool. They've been fairly resilient and, while they have some small scratches, they're not battered and seem quite robust and hard wearing. I think they should continue to look good for many years to come.

Picture copyright © Fly and Lure.

How does it balance the rod?

I'm using the Orvis Access Mid Arbor III on a #6 10' tip-flex Orvis Helios and it feels spot on. The Orvis Helios is a similarly spectacular bit of kit and weighs next to nothing, so the last thing you'd want to do is put on a reel that's too big, heavy or unbalanced. The Orvis Access Mid Arbor seems to be just right.

Like most barstock aluminium fly reels, the weight of the Orvis Access reel has been reduced by drilling holes into the spool through a process known as porting. This maintains the strength of the reel but removes quite a bit of metal, thereby reducing the weight. The pattern of holes also looks pretty good, too.

Are spare spools expensive?

Unfortunately, they're not cheap, but Orvis stuff isn't. I've yet to splash out on a spare but they retail for £59-85 from Orvis. Like the reel itself, the spools are also made from that bar stock aluminium, so there's quite a bit of craftsmanship involved, which justifies the highish price. You're not paying a load of money for a piece of plastic.

What kind of drag does it have?

Unlike the slightly less expensive Orvis Battenkill fly reels, the Orvis Access Mid Arbor range have a carbon disc drag instead of a click and pawl drag. It's a sealed drag utilising carbon discs and stainless steel. It doesn't need any lubricating and it will happily take a dunking.

The drag is really smooth and the application of power seems to be very consistent. To make it even easier to set, it's also numbered so you can see how much pressure you're putting on. The drag knob is also simple to adjust, even when your hands are numb from the cold. I know it's only a small thing, but the drag also sounds great, especially when a fish is pulling line off the reel.

The gold Access matches the Orvis Helios metalwork.

Does it come with a case?

Yep, and it's quite a good one. The Orvis Access fly reels come with a neoprene case which wraps around the reel while it's attached to the rod. This means you can put the case on the protect the reel from scratches while you're on the way to your fishing spot.

How much is the Orvis Access Mid Arbor reel?

Prices start from about £109 for the Orvis Access Mid Arbor I and go up to about £155 for the V model. I paid about £135 for my Mid Arbor III and I think that's pretty decent value given the quality and the pleasure that comes from using such a smooth and classy looking reel.

Of course, the Orvis Access Mid Arbor fly reel is also backed up by Orvis' legendary guarantee and you buy one with the confidence that, should anything not be to your liking, or if it develops any kind of issue, Orvis will sort it out.

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