Gear Review: Hatch Reels

No doubt, there are a lot of incredible fly reels out there. Ross Reels, Abel Reels, Nautilus Reels, and Taylor Fly Reels are all high quality fly reels, just to name a few. This gives fly anglers a plethora of options to choose from. Working in a fly shop in Fort Worth, Texas, I was lucky to have a lot of options. However, since I received my first Hatch reel 6 years ago, I have not purchased another reel other than Hatch Outdoor’s Finatic Series.

I was fortunate that my fly shop sold Hatch Outdoor fly reels. I contacted the general manager Andrew Dickinson out at Hatch’s headquarters in Vista, California, and he hooked me up. Since then, I have been lucky to call Andrew Dickinson my friend. This summer I flew to California to visit my friend who was from the Orange County area. I thought if I was going to be an hour north of Hatch’s headquarters, I should reach out to Andrew to see about coming down to see the facility. Andrew was more than happy to have me. I knew how the fly reels were made; however, seeing the production process first hand was much more insightful than just reading about it.

So for those of you who know about or own a Hatch reel, you know how special they are. If you don’t, you might be wonder, “Well there are a lot of ‘great’ reels out there. What makes Hatch so different?” Here lies the million-dollar question. What makes Hatch reels so incredible? More specifically, what makes Hatch reels so #FINATICAL?

Well for starters, Hatch Reels are built out of a solid block of aluminum, rather than pouring a liquid aluminum into a mold to solidify. Most high quality reels are made this way, making them much stronger and durable. Hatch reels also have a one-piece machined reel seat, eliminating any unnecessary screws and ensuring there is no corrosion causing the reel seat to lose footing ever. Next, the dimension in the frame is machined to increase rigidity and strength while reducing lateral flex. If you have ever experienced a strong fish ripping line off the reel, then you know how important this aspect is. The spool and the housing act as one. There is no lateral flex when you push or pull the two, resulting in the reel tracking truer and eliminating any shaking in a high speed run. Also, the frame/spool connection utilize a “power flower” design that locks and creates a secure fit. Finally, the reel is then finished with a Type II anodize that holds up in both fresh and salt water.

All of these characteristics mentioned make Hatch’s reels strong and durable. However, the number one thing that sets Hatch apart from other reels is the drag system. Not only is the drag system completely sealed (a big selling point for salt water fly fisherman), the drag system is unique in its multi-disk drag system, compared to most conventional one on one surface contact. This means that one surface (metal) is driven towards another surface (cork, plastic, carbon fiber, graphite, etc.).

However, Hatch reels take a much different approach. The stacked drag system is made up of disks (seen below). The size of the Hatch reel determines the amount of disks that are in each drag system. For example, the smaller 3 Plus reel (ideal for 3-5 weights) has 4 disks with 6 sides of braking surface, whereas the 7 Plus reel (ideal for 7-9 weights) has 6 disks with 10 braking surfaces.

The braking pressure occurs on both sides of these disks, making sure that the materials apply maximum stopping power. This design maximizes the effective braking surface (EBS) in square inches. If you want to learn more about the concept of EBS and how it is measured, call the team at Hatch. I only know the oversimplified version.

There are three main benefits of this multidisc drag system. First, the more surface area makes for a smoother, more durable drag. It also practically eliminates the start up inertia required to get the spool moving. Secondly, because heat distribution occurs over multiple surfaces, the stick slip problems caused by high speed runs are eliminated. Finally, the sealed, multidisc drag system require no lubrication or maintenance.

These benefits truly do translate into a better fishing experience. There is no better person to tell you about Hatch Reels than general manager Andrew Dickinson (pictured above). I was lucky to catch up with Andrew recently and do a Q&A with him.

Q: How did you get started working in the fly fishing industry? Did you start out at Hatch, or did something draw your eye towards the company?
A: “My driving motivation in business mainly focuses on the purpose of the project rather than the monetary payoff. I’ve found if you throw yourself into a project you believe in and fuel it with 110% effort, the money generally takes care of itself. This mindset plus a childhood love for fishing put me on a collision course with the fly industry early on. I learned to cast a fly rod when I was 11 and shortly thereafter found myself fascinated with tying flies and building custom fly rods. I started a custom rod building company when I was 14 and ran it through high school and college. While exhibiting the company at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show, I met John Torok and Danny Ashcraft. Pretty sure that was in 2007, only a few years after Hatch started. Both being San Diegans and passionate about fly fishing, we stayed in touch. John was very helpful in passing along business tips to me as a young business owner and eventually offered me a job in 2009. I’ve been here ever since. I was the first employee at Hatch and was able to work alongside John and Danny in a very close-knit environment as we worked to build Hatch to what it is today. We now have a bigger team of very talented and passionate folks working here. It’s been incredibly satisfying to see the brand grow and become known for quality, American products made here in San Diego.”

Q: Freshwater or saltwater? And which species is your favorite to target?
A: “I’m a junkie for anything with fins so it’s tough to pin me down to one species. Some of my favorites would be Dorado here in San Diego, Roosters in Baja, Browns on Silver Creek, and Permit in the Keys. Cuba is happening in 2017 so I’ll probably add a couple more favorites to the list shortly.”

Q: What has been the craziest story you have heard or experienced regarding Hatch’s products? For example, catching a 30” trout on a 1 Plus or a 1000lb shark on a 12 Plus?
A: “Oh man, ask an angler for a story and you better sit down and prepare to listen for awhile. I’ve heard a few and been apart of a few. A few years ago, one of our Pro Staffers found a 7 Plus in the river, cleaned the mud off it and fished with it for the rest of the season. We had a guide down in Texas who caught redfish over 35” with a 3 Plus. When I was at the Fly Fishing Show in New Jersey, I had a guide and customer tell me they used our 12 Plus to bring in 450 lb Bluefin all season. Numerous stories from customers and guides who forgot to buckle down their rods to the car before hitting the highway and then back tracking to find their rigs miles up the road. Most of the Hatch reels survive the fall just fine, except I have one 5 Plus on my desk that collided with an Idaho beet truck. It’s a very low profile fly reel after it’s roadside alteration!”

Q: What have you enjoyed most about working at Hatch Outdoors? And working in the fly fishing industry in general?

A: “Working in the fly industry, you quickly realize it’s small in dollars but big in passion. Dollars-wise, the fly industry is about $800 Million annually for everything sold in the fly fishing space. Flies, Leaders, guide trips, clothing, reels, rods; everything! The small size of the industry makes for a tightly integrated group of manufacturers and dealers who maintain relationships with a passionate crew of customers. I really enjoy the ability to have 50 names in my contacts list connecting me with every important aspect of the fly industry. It’s a tight knit community of folks who know each other and work together to build better businesses, protection for waters we love, and satisfy a wonderful group of consumers.

Hands down, favorite aspect of working at Hatch is the daily interaction with our team of pro staffers, dealers, and customers. I really enjoy working with my dealers to grow their business with our brand. I also really enjoy customer relationships and learning about how we can provide them with the best fly fishing tools ever made. Ultimately fly fishing is an outdoor experience that you hope to replicate over and over again. My desire is to provide gear that will consistently perform to your top expectations when you hit your favorite river or flat the next time.”

Q: What does the future of Hatch look like? Do you see any new product lines or major improvements coming soon?
A: “One of the advantages of making your own gear is having the ability to make changes, customizations, and advancements literally at your fingertips. Any machining change to our reels happens 50 feet from my office. Also, being a small company allows us to be nimble to respond to not only sales demand but also technological improvements. We are continually working on improvements to our products; believe me, new stuff gets us excited!! I can tell you that we would be bored stiff if we weren’t always working on something new, whether it’s new t-shirt design, fly line taper, plier cutters, or improved drag mechanism in a reel. We really appreciate the support of our customers who get behind our crazy ideas.”

 Head over to Hatch’s website for more information or find a Hatch dealer here.


Photos provided by Bryan Gregson and Jim Klug. You can find more of their incredible work on Instagram at @bryangregsonphotographyand @jtklugphotography. Both also work with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures, @yellowdogflyfishingYellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures is a hands-on, specialty travel and destination angling company that delivers the finest “insider” knowledge you need to find, book and arrange the perfect fly fishing trip.

Tanner Poeschel, The Taylor River Trout Bum, is a creative content intern and ambassador for The Fly Lords. Tanner has grown up fly fishing in Colorado, specifically on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. For more of his work, check out his website, Facebook, or Instagram

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