Orvis Battenkill fly reel review

The Orvis Battenkill fly reel is based on a classic Orvis design and uses a click pawl instead of a disc drag. If you look after it, it should last you a lifetime.

Orvis Battenkill fly reel review
© Fly and Lure
Orvis Battenkill fly reel review
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Orvis Battenkill fly reel review
Orvis Fly reels Fly lines Estimated reading time 6 - 10 minutes

What's special about the Orvis Battenkill fly reel?

The main difference with the Battenkill is that it uses an old fashioned click pawl drag system, instead of the usual more modern disc drag system found on most other fly reels. For trout anglers, the drag isn't especially important so it's not a particularly crucial thing to consider when choosing a fly reel, it's really just personal preference as far as trout are concerned.

The Battenkill uses a click pawl system so there's little too go wrong or wear out.

What's a click pawl drag?

A click pawl system consists of a little clicking ratchet mechanism inside the reel which provides a little bit of resistance when the line is being pulled out.

Although there are four different settings for the click pawl on the Battenkill, none of them provides very much resistance, which is partially the point.

The Orvis Battenkill II is a very lightweight reel.

What's the point of a click pawl drag?

Click pawl drag systems are as simple as they get. There's very little to go wrong, so they last for years and are very hard wearing. They're not designed to put the anchors on a fish like a modern day disc drag.

Instead, a click pawl system is designed to let you control the speed of the fish by "palming" the reel. Basically, the click pawl provides a little bit of resistance, but you do most of the work by putting the brakes on the fish by resting your palm against the spinning spool as the fish runs.

Are there any downsides?

Not really. Like most trout fishermen, I don't really use the drag on my reel that often. Most fish are usually played by hand by pulling in the line and it's fairly unusual to get one onto the reel, so the type of drag doesn't really make much difference to me. 

I'm using my Battenkill on my Orvis Superfine Touch 8' 4 weight rod, and the chances of me catching something that needs a hefty drag on this outfit are pretty rare. Most of the fish I catch on it are a pound or so.

In fact, I rarely see anyone at any fishery I visit playing a trout off the reel, unless it happens to take their fly at range and then runs. Disc drags are cool, and you do need them sometimes, but in most cases a click pawl drag system will do just fine. 

The deep spool is surprisingly capacious.

Is the Battenkill hard wearing?

I've had nine months of use out of mine and its coped very well and still looks pristine. Or it did until I dropped it on some rocks last week.

That's caused it to bare a couple of tiny chips on either side (and to scuff the reel seat of my rod). Like any reel, it seems to be the black ones that tend to show scratches more than others.

The Battenkill is fairly hard wearing.

In what sizes are Orvis Battenkill fly reels available?

The Battenkill comes in five sizes: the Battenkill I is for 1-3 weight lines; the Battenkill II is for 3-5 weight lines; the Battenkill III is for 5-7 weight lines; the Battenkill IV is for 7-9 weight lines, while the big Battenkill V is for 9-11 weight lines. 

The Battenkill I, II and III all look like the Battenkill II that I own, but the Battenkill IV and V feature a different design with a solid side plate rather than one that's drilled out to keep the weight down. 

How heavy are they?

Reel Line weight Weight Diameter
Battenkill I 1-3 2.8oz 2.75"
Battenkill II 3-5 2.9oz 3"
Battenkill III 5-7 3.2oz 3.25"
Battenkill IV 7-9 8.5oz 3.75"
Battenkill V 9-11 9.5oz 4"

How does the Battenkill compare to the Orvis Access fly reels?

The Orvis Access is a mid arbour reel, while the Battenkill is an old style small arbour reel. The larger arbour of the Access means that line comes off in wider coils when you get closer to the spool, though at the outer edges there's very little difference.

The Orvis Access fly reels also use a carbon and stainless steel disc drag rather than a click pawl, so they've got way more stopping power than the Battenkills. The disc drag of the Access is also much quieter.

However, the Access fly reels are also more expensive. They're both equally as lovely, but if you don't need a disc drag and don't mind the slightly noisy high pitched click as you pull off line, the Battenkill's probably ideal.

It's a perfect match for the brilliant Orvis Superfine Touch fly rod.

How much do they cost?

The Battenkill I, II and III cost £89 in the UK, while the larger IV model is £129 and the biggest V model is £139. That's not bad for a mid range reel of this quality. 

They also come with an unconditional guarantee against defects in workmanship or materials and if you can get them serviced for just a few pounds by sending them back to Orvis. 

There's so little to go wrong with these robust reels that one could easily last you a lifetime if you look after it. 

The reel comes with a drawstring bag.

Would you buy one again?

My Battenkill II feels the perfect match for my Orvis Superfine Touch 8' 4 weight rod. It's just the right size and weight for this tiny and featherlight fly rod, and I think it looks great too.

Mine was a Christmas present and I've been really pleased with it. I'd definitely buy another, in fact, I'm pondering getting the Battenkill III to use on my Helios...

Available from: Amazon

About the author



  • paul_r
    paul_r About 3 years ago

    I've owned my Battenkill I for three years. I fish Sierra streams and I have it on a St. Croix 2wt that I purchased used. It's never failed me and looks pretty much like it did the day I bought it. Perfect for the light rod and small brookiess and 'bows I target. Much fun!

  • matt
    matt About 3 years ago Author

    Yes, great reels and a timeless design, Paul. Nice and light too, so ideal for smaller rods.

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