Gear Review: Speyco Reels

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The Spey Trout reel from Speyco Reels is one of the more interesting pieces of gear I’ve reviewed lately.

That’s a good thing, by the way. New fly fishing gear, while always exciting, isn’t always interesting. That’s not the case with the Spey Trout reel from Speyco Reels, however.

I had the chance to meet the folks behind Speyco at the Wasatch Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo in Sandy, Utah, back in March 2018. Mike Pantzlaff, who handles a lot of the building and marketing of the reels, knows his way around the spey fishing world. Being a trout guy from Utah, I know exactly squat about spey fishing.

But Mike’s knowledge is evident in the reels produced by him and his father. They’re built in the classic spey reel style (I know that much about it, at least) reminiscent of the old Hardy Perfects, or the modern Cascapedia. While Speyco offers reels for the most avid steelhead and anadromous fishers in the world, what caught my eye was their new Trout Spey reel.

Machined from standard 6061-T6 bar-stock aluminium, the Trout Spey reel is built with a 1/3 arbor to ensure ample line storage space. The frame is ported on one side of the reel, with a solid face on the other.

You have a bevy of options with handle colors, plate coatings, bearings, and the roll all available for customization. The drag type is a quad-based HEXAD click/pawl. These reels don’t weight terribly much more than standard trout reels, coming in at 4.5oz for the narrow spool and 5.1oz for the wide spool.

A Speyco Reels trout-sized reel will set you back around $325.00, depending on how much you customize the reel. They’re all handmade in Wisconsin. If you’re looking for a “retro” style reel, love click/pawl reels, or want to class up your spey outfit with something different than the standard large-arbor reels, the Speyco Trout series is worth looking at.

What I Liked

Quality

Branding something as hand-made in America automatically ups the standard for quality in the eyes of most anglers. The smallest imperfection cause cause suspicion as to a product’s true origins.

Aside from the Spey Trout, I played with other Speyco Reels models. All of them were, without a doubt, handcrafted to the highest quality Mike and his father can produce at a reasonable price. From a quality standpoint, I don’t have a hard time recommending this reel.

Classic Style

I love a slick-looking reel as much as the next gear nut. Maybe more so, given my propensity to hoard anything and everything fly fishing. The new Ross Evolution LTX is gorgeous, as is the Hardy Ultralite MTX.

But there’s something alluring about the classic styling of old-school reels, and Sepyco did a great job designing a product that looks classic but functions like a modern piece of gear.

Fighting Fish

I used this reel on a variety of rods — the new TFO Drift, a few single-handed 5wt rigs, and my trusty Winston Boron IIIx Super 10 3’wt — and while it got the most use on my Euro nymphing rig, I was pleasantly surprised at how it handled fish. The drag isn’t easily adjustable on the Speyco Trout, which leaves you with your fingers and palms to stop big runs.

It’s worth noting that the startup inertia was almost nonexistent. I’ve seen some reels made that look great but retain that notable hitch when you suddenly pull line.

As far as click/pawl reels go, Specyo Reels is firmly middle-of-the-pack in fish-fighting. It won’t blow you away like an Abel TR or the Hardy Duchess, but it gets the job done. The spool is recessed into the frame just enough that, combined with the dime-edge, palming the reel is a breeze.

What I Didn’t Like

Disassembly

One of the first things I do with a new fly reel is take it apart. Writing isn’t a profession known for lucrative salaries, and fly fishing writing even less so. That means I service, clean, and repair as much of my gear as possible.

Speyco Reels makes their products to last, and to prevent as much damage to the drag system as possible. But even drag adjustment requires a screwdriver or, in a pinch, a quarter or dime. The drag components are all stainless steel and brass, so cleaning them is easy. Getting to the innards, though, takes a few minutes.

Limited Drag Range

This is a knock against almost all click/pawl reels. I’ve only fished two that have a truly adjustable drag (both built by Hardy). The Speyco Trout isn’t a bad reel because the drag range is limited. That’s part of the nature of click/pawl reels, especially in this style.

Even so, I’d like to see a bit more adjustment available to really add more torque to this reel.

Weight

I know, I know — I’m complaining about the weight of a spey reel, and a click/pawl one at that. It’s not so much a complaint, though, as it is a suggestion for improved design. While I love the look of the solid frame, porting both sides, or even partially porting one, would help reduce weight.

Final Word

Speyco Reels has put together an impressive reel at a reasonable price, especially when you factor in that it’s made in the U.S.A., machined, and features a large arbor. The styling and build quality are impressive, and these reels look good on most any fly rod.

The weight, limited drag range, and difficulty of disassembly are legitimate knocks, but not enough to rule this reel out completely. As it stands, the Spey Trout reel would be an excellent choice for Euro nymphing rods, since the weight of the reel helps balance the length of the rod. All in all, I’m impressed with what Speyco Reels put together, and I look forward to seeing what else they come up with in the future.


Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. He’s the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum, Owner/CEO of Cutthroat Creative Media, and has written for a variety of national and local publications including Field & Stream, American Angler, Sporting Classics Daily, Hatch Magazine, and many others. Find him on Twitter/Instagram @Spencer_Durrant.