Review - Hardy CLS Fly Reel
Andy Buckley reviews the Hardy CLS Fly Reel...and finds just the reel he has long been looking for!
Source: Farlows, Andy Buckley
I have always liked the idea of cassette fly reels for my fishing. Often manufacturers see these reels as entry level with low quality parts butHardy have changed this mindset – first with the Demon and now with the new Ultralite CLS range. These reels are perfect for the angler who wants to swap between a range of fly lines in a day’s fishing. Spare spools are inexpensive too!
Unfortunately until recently it had been impossible to find a cassette reel that ticks all of the required boxes. Many of the options available were either too heavy, too cumbersome or too fragile. I myself have, in the past, suffered at the hands of cassette spools that simply weren’t up to the job, as the effect of constantly having to force the cassette on and off the o-ring of the spool eventually took its toll. Thirty yards of fly line and a hundred of backing falling from a spool that has literally crumbled in your hands whilst being battered by a force five on a trout reservoir is no laughing matter... I chose that moment three years ago to reconsider my options and take the extra hit of the expense of standard spool reels.
The introduction to the market of the Hardy CLS reel caught my attention immediately. I began to need more spools for my pike fishing kit and so became more and more interested in the design. A chat with Hardy design gurus Howard Croston and John Henderson persuaded me to take the plunge back into the cassette reel market and I must say I have been very, very impressed.
The first thing I’d like to say about this reel is that for a cassette set up I think it looks absolutely stunning! The super-large arbour and hard anodised 6061 bar stock aluminium in gunmetal grey give the reel a sharp and minimal look. Weighing in at a fraction over 7.5 ounces, the CLS is really no heavier than comparable eight / nine weight reels either, this is a great advantage when throwing a nine weight rod and big flies around all day. The super large arbour gives the reel tremendous retrieve speed and also gives the angler the opportunity to put more pressure on a fish through the reel, you simply gain winding power and torque.
The genius of this reel however is far more than skin deep. Upon unscrewing the captive locking nut and separating the spool from its cage you are faced with what I believe makes this the by far the best cassette reel on the market – the patented Cassette Locking System (CLS). Instead of using the tension of an O-ring which over time can compromise the structural strength of the cartridge the CLS uses a simple lock/unlock mechanism to hold the cassette in place. Not only is the system fantastically easy to use but it still amazes me at just how sturdy the cassette locks in to place, there really is no play or movement at all. The innovative spool and cage design ensure that the plastic spool is entirely protected by the ultra tough bar stock aluminium frame.
On the side of each cartridge is another very clever feature which the dedicated reservoir and competition angler will find very useful, the Line ID System. This gives the angler the opportunity to very clearly mark which line is on each particular spool with small plastic pegs which sit in recesses denoting line weight and density, rather than using line ID stickers which invariably fall off or having to use permanent marker which is fine until one wishes to spool a different line on to the reel. When the time comes to fit a different line on to each spool the plastic pegs can very easily be pushed out and placed back in to the correct position for the line being used.
The multi fibre disc drag on the cage of the reel is exceptionally smooth, very positive in adjustment and gives a very low start up inertia. In truth the drag on this reel is far better than one would need for almost any fresh water fish in this country, but to have such an exceptional set of brakes only adds to the quality of the CLS.
At a little over two hundred pounds I really do believe that this reel is not only the best cassette reel on the market but for freshwater use I am hard pressed to think of a better reel for the money at all.
The style, build quality and sheer innovation of the CLS ought to seal its place as one of the modern reel design classics. Whether you’re a small water trout angler who uses three different lines, a hardened reservoir competition enthusiast who needs a reel to take some punishment and lots of inexpensive spare spools or like me, a pike angler who needs something with the guts to be able to pull back on a thirty pounder then the Utralite CLS from Hardy is the perfect reel for you!
This review was first published by Farlows and the reel may be purchased, and this review read in full, HERE
Articles by the same author
- Sage TXL-F - Tried and Tested
- Early Season Trout Fishing on the River Usk
- Fly Fishing in the Footsteps of Giants
- Review - Hardy CLS Fly Reel
- Wychwood River & Stream Reel Review