Review by Richard Post, Telluride Angler
There is something big in the works from the folks at Ross Reels in Montrose, Colorado: the Ross Evolution R. This reel will come in as Ross’ top of the line freshwater fly reel and it will be offered in four sizes, a 3/4, 4/5, 5/6 and a 7/8. Retail prices will range from $455 for the 3/4 to $495 for the 7/8 and it is available in Matte Black and Platinum. The design and features of the Evolution R are unique and innovative. We field tested the new reel on the Dolores River, where big fish are caught on light tippets.
Evolution R Design and Features
The Evolution R is a fly reel that is comparable to none. This reel looks stunning. It sports the classic Double R logo machined into the drag knob and the spool release. The reel foot is ported and features the Evolution R logo along with the model size underneath the foot where it rests on the reel seat. The first thing you’ll notice is the extensive amount of machining and the unique and intelligent porting on the frame and spool. You’ll also look for the drag knob for just a second until you get your hands on the frame side of the reel and find a large round six spoked drag knob that rests cleanly along the frame.
The shape and size of the drag knob allow you to rotate it with your finger tips and also with your palm. Think fishing with gloves on. It also aligns perfectly with the machining on the frame and sports the classic double R machined into the knob.
Another unique feature is the shape of the spool. The inner arbor of the reel is asymmetrical with smaller diameter on the frame side that becomes progressively larger toward the handle side. This feature allows the line to stack more naturally and neatly without as much input from the angler. Are you the guy that blindly cranks your fly line back onto the reel only to have it jam up against the frame? This reel will solve that problem. (The asymmetrical spool shape is also found on the Ross Colorado LT).
The machined platinum color spool release knob screws securely into the drag housing and is connected via a hexagonal nut (see image below of drag housing for detail of the hexagonal connection).
Looking at the reel handle you’ll notice another really smart touch. It is actually a machined canvas micarta handle that surrounds a 7075 machined aluminum spindle. The handle has a completely unique feel and becomes tackier when it gets wet.
The spool counter balance is the same piece used on the all-time classic Ross San Miguel reel.
https://tellurideangler.com/fly-fishing-gear/fly-reels/ross/ross-reels-evolution-r-fly-reel/The drag system is a completely new design from Ross and features alternating disks of carbon fiber and stainless steel stacked and sealed in a central hub. The drag is very, very strong. The model in this review is a 4/5 and that reel has drag pressure I would expect to find in an 8 weight reel (or better). Start-up inertia is negligible and unnoticeable. The drag feels very smooth and the pressure increases incrementally across its range of two and a quarter full rotations of the drag knob.
Finally, I want to take a page out of fly rod reviews and talk about the feel of this reel. Feel is something we talk a lot about when reviewing fly rods, but less commonly with reels. This reel just feels special when you pick it up. There’s nothing like it on the market from a cosmetic standpoint, but it doesn’t look so funky as to beg the question, “Is this a fly reel?” The clicker sounds metallic in the way of a quality ratchet, but quieter and subtler than that of the original Gunnison. The spool and frame attach confidently, securely and easily to one another. The spacing is tight and precise between the spool and frame with no wobble. The lines on the reel are undoubtedly modern and the overall aesthetic is very sleek and clean. I’m very impressed with this reel and guarantee I’ll put one of these to work this spring and summer.
Field Testing the Ross Evolution R
I was lucky enough to be handed one of the first production models of this reel and got turned loose on the Dolores river for a guide’s day off. Flies were cast, drifts were made and fish were found. I walked away from the day very impressed with the new hardware from Ross.
I fished a two fly nymph rig for most of the day. The water was low and clear and I fished 5X tippet to my top and bottom nymph. I caught a handful of nice rainbows and browns in the 12” to 14” class and the river was kind enough to offer up one rather large cuttbow that taped out at 21”. That last fish was the one I needed to test the drag on the Evolution R. The drag engaged smoothly and protected the lighter tippet very well with a Sage X 590-4. Line pickup was instant with the large arbor and the reel made it extremely easy to get the fish onto the reel and control the fight.
Overall, the reel left me wanting nothing except a longer day on the water. The sound, the look, the balance on the rod and the overall feel of the reel impressed me. Often times super light large arbor reels that have a lot of metal taken out tend to feel a little flimsy. I notice this on the reel winder when loading them with line and backing and I tend to be a little protective of them while fishing. These aren’t reels that I would like to drop or take into a place like the Gunnison Gorge. The Evolution R, while as light as other similar reels on the market, made me feel like it could stand up to day-in and day-out guiding. It just feels solid. The spool fastens to the frame securely, there’s no wobble or play between the frame and spool. I can’t yet speak to long term durability, but I can tell you that I have no misgivings about handing this reel to a client and telling them to have fun. Get one of these awesome new reels in your hands and see for yourself.
~ Richard Post, Telluride Angler