My first experience fly fishing in saltwater was super fun but ultimately, I ended up with a reel that no longer worked. The salt had pretty much killed it. To be fair the reel I was using wasn’t really designed for fishing in saltwater. I vowed that the next time I was going to take a trip to the beach, I would purchase a proper reel to handle the harsh saltwater conditions. Like with everything I buy, I researched and watched reviews on a great number of reels. After some debate, I ended up going with the Ross Evolution R Salt.
My Evolution R Salt arrived right on time for a trip to Florida. I had no doubts that a reel with “salt” in the name would be able to handle everything I could throw at it wether on the boat or sight fishing from the beach. At the time this was the nicest reel I had ever purchased, the Evolution R Salt 7/8 retails for $595.00. I am a firm believer in “You get what you pay for!” and with the Evolution R Salt, you get quite a lot.
The build quality on this reel is an amazing accomplishment. It’s a large arbor reel and built like a tank but all the while it doesn’t feel heavy. One thing you will notice immediately is the drag knob is not your typical drag knob. You almost don’t even realize it’s there, it just looks like it’s part of the frame. For me, I love this design and I think it works very well. I really liked using my palm to adjust the drag and if you must it is just as easy to adjust using your fingers. One of my favorite features is the micarta handle, it is super grippy when wet. It is so much more durable than wood and has way more grip than metal.
One thing for certain, the drag on this one has some stopping power. It has a sealed 16 disc drag system that is more than adequate to put the brakes on a fish. I know from reading its specs it has a proprietary carbon disc and stainless steel drag system that is double the stack of the Evolution R. Simply put, the reel feels like it could stop a truck. I had a very large king mackerel take a Clouser minnow and had it not been for the exceptional drag system, I probably would have been spooled very quickly.
One of my favorite fish to sight fish from the beach is pompano, permit’s little brother. They are powerful fish and will put a nice bend in the rod and cramp in your forearm. Listening to the Evolution R Salt sing as the pompano peel off the line was like music to my ears, the reel has a great sound. The large arbor really picks up line quickly, which was super helpful when a couple of fish decided to u-turn and come back at me. I spent most of my mornings and late afternoons of that trip walking the beaches sight fishing along the sand bars. I was alone most of the time and while unhooking a fish or taking a break my rod and reel would end up in the sand. A quick dip and shake in the water would clear any sand and I never once had any issues. At the end of each day, I would simply give the reel a good rinse with some freshwater and hang my rod back up till the next morning. I find the Evolution R Salt to be very low maintenance which I right up my alley.
I usually only get to the beach a couple of times a year and in between those times, I usually use this reel for carp, pickerel, pike, and steelhead. The drag on this reel has bested some rowdy carp and has a way more than enough power for pike and musky. For steelhead, I find this reel incredibly beneficial because of the sealed drag. When temps get as cold as they do in Steelhead country, a frozen up reel can end a day very quickly. If you do plan on fishing salt and freshwater this reel can meet all the demands.
If you plan on getting a new reel that can handle the demands of saltwater fishing make sure to do yourself a favor and check out the Ross Evolution R Salt.
Article and photos from Landon Brasseur, an avid angler based in upstate New York. He spends most of his time fly fishing the small creeks of the Catskills for trophy trout. Give him a follow on Instagram at @lbrasseur.