If you’re curious about fly fishing with click / pawl reels, dropping >$250 can be a hefty price of admission for some of the higher-end click / pawl reels we’ve featured here. Embracing the simplicity and challenge of a click / pawl fly reel doesn’t have the break the bank — it may eventually.
Meet the Orvis Battenkill (click model). With a price starting at $98 for the 1-3WT ($109 for the 3-5WT model here and $119 for the 5-7WT), it’s an easy way to get into a quality reel from a brand synonymous with fly fishing. The larger, un-ported models for 7-9WT and 9-11WT are on clearance for $98.
Where did you go, CFO? Right now, the Battenkill is the only reel from Orvis available with click / pawl. Will the prayers for a new, Made in Vermont, Mirage finished, click / pawl CFO fly reel be answered?
Be sure to check out our Q&A with Shawn Combs, a Director of Product Design and Development at Orvis below for more!
The Battenkill reel is named after the river that flows near Orvis HQ in Vermont and Orvis has offered a “Battenkill” reel on and off since the 1960s. Older models were made by a number of different manufacturers including BFR (British Fly Reels) and JW Young. The current model is made in China.
While they don’t have the same following or cachet the Orvis CFO, they can hold a special place in people’s hearts as a reel they fished with growing up. We came across this 2008 post and photo (below) on Fiberglass Flyrodders from a poster who collects them.
The sound is classic, ported click / pawl but ends a bit tinny to my liking — may be less pronounced when fully spooled / palmed.
We have a Battenkill II for 3-5 WT — a simple ported design, made with 24 pieces and finished in a slate gray color.
Under the hood
Tension on the spring can be adjusted by removing the spool and rotating the rectangle in one of four positions. Here we’re setup for LH retrieve and it can be easily switched to RH without any tools.
Meet the Makers
We had a chance to catch up with Shawn Combs, Director of Product Design and Development from Orvis.
Can you tell us a bit more about about yourself and your role at Orvis?
My story is pretty simple. I grew up in Kentucky, where my parents owned and operated a specialty outdoor retail store. Fueled with the goal of designing outdoor equipment, I attended school at the University of Louisville, where I received a Masters in Mechanical Engineering.
After a dozen years working in the energy sector, I met Steve Hemkens (VP of Orvis fly fishing) on a airplane and as luck would have it started working at Orvis 6 months later. Nine years later, my title is Director of Product Design and Development for Fishing and Wing Shooting. Fortunately, I have been able to stay close to rod and reel design and get to work with some of the most driven and passionate product people I have ever met.
Do you fish click / pawl fly reels? If so, why and do you have a favorite?
I do fish click / pawl reels often and for two reasons.
1. They are fun to fish. I like the interaction you get to have with a hot fish.
2. I like to pair them with my glass rods, regardless if it is my 2wt creek rod or a 8wt carp rod, I find that they offer a perfect match and add to the fun factor of glass.
Can you tell us a bit more about keeping the current click / pawl Battenkill in the lineup? How has the response been to it compared to your more modern reels?
I love the current Battenkill Click for its simplicity and value. Most barstock reels would cost 50% more with a disc drag and honestly you are paying for overkill in most light line applications. I think for this reason alone, we see a fair amount of customers choose the Battenkill Click.
Have you seen any changes in the interest for click / pawl fly reels recently? We’re biased and know they’re niche but are they due for a comeback?
I think they have been mounting a come back for the last 5-7 years. Trust me, as a reel designer, it is hard to practice restraint and leave the disc drag out. That is why I like the simple “set it and forget it” adjustable feature of the Battenkill Click. The number one question that often comes up in reel design insight collection surveys is when are you bringing back the CFO? More on that later….
Orvis has a rich history in fly fishing and innovation. Is there a go-to place people can learn about the history of what you all have done in the past?
It is remarkable that to me that most people don’t know that Charles Orvis designed and patented the ventilated fly reel in 1874 which is considered by many to father of all modern fly reels.
In 2006, Orvis published a 150 year anniversary book that chronicles the history of the company called The Orvis Story, 150 years.
We are big fans of the CFO (and all the interesting little variations). Can you tell us a bit more about its life / death? How about a 2021-22, 50th anniversary “Made in USA” CFO?
The Orvis CFO was first offered Christmas 1971. The first prototype CFO was designed and made by Stan Bogdan, while we didn’t commercialize the drag used on the prototype, much of the dimensions and styling cues came to life. For nearly 25 years, Hardy was the selected manufacture of many variations of the CFO.
One of my favorite versions is the rare freashwater size VI CFO with a full cage. It stays mounted on my two hander when swinging for steelhead. In 1992, the no rivot machined CFO’s were introduced in sizes 123, II, III and IV.
In 1992 Orvis started contracting British Fly Reels (BFR) to supply CFO’s along side of Hardy and by 1996 all CFO’s were made at BFR. Over the last 25 years, the CFO gone in and out of production based on demand. In 2012 we released a Hardy made version of the CFO III. A year later we offered a US made version with significant updates and stopped selling them in 2019.
I really don’t think the CFO will ever die so to speak. It has had an interesting almost 50 year life with lots of changes.
Who knows what will be under the Christmas tree in 2021…
For an angler who is impossible to buy presents for, Christmas 2021 just might be a layup.