The Hardy Duchess

The H word — Hardy. We can’t have a site called and not showcase Hardy reels. At nearly 150-years-old, the Hardy name is been synonymous with beautiful, classic “Made in England” fly fishing tackle. The “Perfect” fly reel, first introduced in 1891, is their most well-known click / pawl but they’ve made many other solid models with similar cult-like followings (we’ll cover the Perfect and others soon).

Hardy started making fishing equipment in 1874 in Alnwick, England. Books can and have likely have been written about every Hardy product and variation since, the rare and coveted fetch high prices at auctions, and some just live in glass cases. Vintage Hardy gear is a world unto itself and while I love learning about them and other vintage click / pawl reels, I’m far from an expert.

Today, I want to highlight the Hardy Duchess — a classic-style Hardy click / pawl fly reel that came out around 2014 – 2015 in North America. I tried it because it was the latest new “classic” reel model to be released from Hardy in a long time. It’s not a reissue of or update to an old model — it’s a new design, done in a classic style, built using modern tech, and made by craftspeople at their Alnwick, England facility.

The Sound

The sound is slightly deeper than other ported click / pawl reels but you don’t get that super deep, loud sound that a closed frame reel will give you. To us, the classic Hardy sound comes from the Perfect (coming soon here) and some of their other un-ported models.

The Design

The classic design is where the Duchess shines.

From the spool side, a quick glance says it’s just your standard, ported fly reel. Get closer, look a bit longer, turn it, and let the light catch it — wonderful little details start to emerge and you notice the little “Made in England” stamp on the foot. After a minute with it, you’ll have built a short list of and appreciation for the little choices that went into its design.

Holding it, the first thing I noticed was the jeweled rim of the frame and the spool. It gives the reel a slight antique look and invites you to hold and fish it with your fingertips. It’s also lighter than it looks.

The unique “split cage” frame design creates space for two, polished- insert line guards, one for RH retrieve and one for LH. The drag adjustment knob is on the outside of the reel, directly opposite the foot. It protrudes out to the side just enough to allow you to find it and adjust it with a simple swipe of the finger. I still prefer to keep my finger on the textured edge and applying drag that way.

Overall, it’s the type of reel I’m way more mindful with when I’m fishing (particularly when placing it down on the ground). Available in 4 sizes — three that’ll cover weights 1-6 (we fish the 3 1/4″ 4/5/6 model) and a 4″ model for click / pawl fun on a 9/10/11 setup.

Under the hood

Where to buy

The Duchess ranges from $399 to $549 depending on what size you choose. Don’t let those prices scare you as I’ve seen plenty of deals for these if you look around.

Note: I’d link to the official dealers map on Hardy’s site but it doesn’t work.