Orvis Battenkill Reel Review

by | Jan 5, 2023 | Reel Reviews, Reviews | 0 comments

Orvis is one of the most trusted names in the fly fishing industry with various rod and reel offerings over the 150 years. If your grandpa was a fly fisherman, he probably had an Orvis rod and reel. Today we’re going to look at one of Orvis’ reel offerings that has been around in many versions since the 1960s; so here’s our Orvis Battenkill reel review.

Ross Reels Colorado

The Orvis Battenkill Background

Orvis was started in 1856 and the HQ still resides in Sunderland, VT. This reel gets its name from the nearby Battenkill River where there’s little doubt that many Orvis products were probably tested.

Of all the current Orvis products, the Battenkill reel is probably the most long-lived. The nostalgia for the past lives on with this reel that features modern design with a retro name and memory.

The reel has existed in various versions since the 1960s. Some of the earlier models were manufactured by JW Young and British fly reels. The current version is manufactured in China.

Currently there is a click-pawl version as well as one with a sealed disc drag. This review is specifically for the model with the disc drag.

Orvis Battenkill Specs:

Line Weight: Four models:

  • Battenkill I (1-3wt)
  • Battenkill II (3-5wt)
  • Battenkill III (5-7wt)
  • Battenkill IV (7-9wt)

Model Reviewed: Battenkill III

Arbor Size: 2.75″, 3″, 3.25”, and 3.5″

Weight: 4.4 oz, 4.6 oz, 4.9 oz, and 5.9 oz

Color(s): Black Nickel jewel finish

Drag System: Sealed disc drag

Orvis Battenkill Reel Review: Hands On

Orvis Battenkill Reel Review: Features

Ross Reels Colorado Features

1. Sealed disc drag modeled after the Hydros reel

2. CNC machined from solid 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum

3. Striking black nickel jewel finish

    4. Delrin bushing handle

    5. Lightweight Mid Arbor 

    6. Simple, yet time-tested design

    Orvis Battenkill Reel Models

    Battenkill I (1-3wt)

    Battenkill II (3-5wt)

    Battenkill III (5-7wt)

    Battenkill IV (7-9wt)

    Orvis Battenkill Reel Review: Our take

    Sometimes there is power in simplicity and reliability. The tried and true design that has survived decades with minor adjustments means that the Battenkill has continually given rock solid performance to anglers.

    In the current world of fly-by-night boutique fly fishing companies, there’s a lot of value in purchasing a from a solid brand like Orvis that has been around for so long, and relying on an updated design that has stood the test of time.


    The life of a Battenkill reel starts as a solid block of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum that is machined into shape. This process enables the use of the high-quality aluminum and tighter tolerances than a traditional die cast process.

    The reel features a mid arbor design with a more traditional size and weight. A lot of more modern reel designs utilize a large arbor to maximize line retrieval, but the tradeoff for that is added weight. The Battenkill weight comes in roughly about a half ounce lower than most other reels in the same price range due primarily to the mid arbor design.

    Fly fishing historically was reserved mostly for trout fishing where most of the time the fish could be brought in by stripping line. But as fly anglers target larger and more exotic species, the large arbor becomes more important. The Battenkill really serves the purpose for a traditional fly angler targeting trout.

    The molded and contoured Delrin handle provides a solid grip for reeling in the fish. And the classic Orvis laser engraved logo on the center of the spool provides a nice touch.

    Drag System

    As stated above, there are two versions of the Battenkill: one that utilizes a click pawl drag and one that uses a sealed disc drag. This disc drag system is based on the the same drag utilized by Orvis’ higher end Hydros reel.  The large drag adjustment knob moves in preset intervals that give a satisfying click and can provide a large amount of resistance to fight larger fish.


    One of my favorite things about this reel is the striking Black Nickel jewel finish. It gives a very classy look that matches the history of this reel. It gives a glossy, yet subtle finish that sometimes doesn’t come through that well in photos or videos. You’ve got to see this thing.

    The classic design with ported holes on the spool enable you to see the colored fly line and backing. And the small spool release lever is fairly inconspicuous.


    One of the best things about the reel is the price point. The simple design paired with the sealed disc drag provides a lot of functionality, but it comes at a price that won’t make your jaw drop to the ground.

    Usually, sealed drags and CNC machined reels come with a higher price tag. But the fact that this reel is manufactured in China probably contributes to the affordability.


    This reel fits into a niche for serious anglers who want a solidly designed and manufactured reel that isn’t terribly expensive. It’s solid and durable construction means it will endure years of abuse. The Black Nickel finish give a very classy look to what is actually not a terribly expensive reel option. 

    The reel performance exceeds expectations for classic trout fly fishing in smaller to medium rivers. Personally, I would pair this reel with a bamboo or glass rod to complete a classy and nostalgic rig that is dependable, durable, and a lot of fun.

    Orvis Battenkill Reel Pros and Cons


    √High quality CNC machined aluminum

    √Lightweight design

    √Sealed disc drag

    √Affordable price


    ! Mid arbor design limits use cases


    Orvis Battenkill Disc Reel Review: Ranking

    LooksStriking Black Nickel finish looks great8.5 / 10

    Solid design with CNC machined high quality aircraft grade aluminum.

    7.5 / 10

    Sealed disc drag provides a lot of resistance. Mid arbor design means it may not be the best choice for heavier weights and larger species

    7 / 10

    A good value for a time-tested and durable design that’s been around since the 60’s

    8 / 10


    Overall Ranking

    7.75 / 10

    Orvis Battenkill Reel Deals

    Amazon Product Listing

    Trident Product Listing

    Accessories: Rod and Fly Line

    Orvis Superfine Glass Fly Rod

    RIO Mainstream Trout Fly Line

    Orvis Battenkill Starter Pack

    If you’ve decided to pick up the Orvis Battenkill, or found another reel that suits your needs, there are some bare essentials you’re going to need to get read yot hit the water. Check out some of our suggestions below:

    Orvis Battenkill Accessories

    Orvis Battenkill Spare Spool

    Tacky Daypack Fly Box

    Loon Essentials Kit