The Rats Nest

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hatch Reels An Honest Review

The 4 Plus, Trout Town Workhorse
Unlike other gear reviews floating around on the net, I choose to wait a while before I review any of the products  I use.  It's only fair to the reader, I mean think about it, if you put a review up based solely upon your excitement for a new gadget that you haven't even used yet, are you really giving a true and honest assessment? 

I use the same approach with fly design about 95% of the time.   Most if not all flies you see have been put to the test.  So, I figured it would be fitting to give my honest assessment on these reels after they got ridden hard for a season of fishing and guiding.

You could also be biased if you are backed solely by a certain company.  I have seen this many times in the past with some of the reviews that I have had the pleasure or displeasure of reading.   I have been lucky enough to have tested, fished and handled all kinds of new products over the past 10 years.  I will be the first to tell you, yes I am on the Hatch Pro Staff.  Am I biased?  Absolutely.  I jumped ship from another very reputable reel company this past year as a result of getting to fish one of these fine reels.  And the truth is,  I never looked back.  To leave another company in the dust after 6 years says a lot, in fact it speaks volumes.  And these bad boys are 100% American Made.
 Over the last year I have heard a mixed bag of both positive and negative feedback about Hatch reels.  Most who own a Hatch, say that they are hands down the sweetest reels out there.  Non-owners complain about the high price tag, and that they are too heavy.   Although both points are arguable, I'll give you my take on both, with a little bit of comparison put in for some perspective.  I am going to base this solely around the 4 Plus model  as this is my primary trout reel right now, and fits into the overall trout category, I.E. 4-6 weight line capacity category. 

For comparison purposes, I picked two reel companies that I personally think are some of the most popular with trout guys in my neck of the woods, if not across the country.  I see reels from both of the comparison companies the most on my home waters.   The companies I am referring to are Ross and Waterworks Lamson, with two models from each.  For Ross, I chose the Evolution LT #2(own one) and the new F1 #2.  From Waterworks Lamson I chose the Litespeed #2 and ULA SL #2 (owned and fished both models, although they are predecessors of the current ones)  Here are the categories and the comparisons:

Hands down the least expensive is the Ross Evolution LT #2  at $285,  edging out the Litespeed by a mere $14.   The next in line was the ULA SL at $419, the 4 Plus Hatch at $450 and then the Ross F1 at $475.  Although the 4 Plus isn't the most expensive, coming in at only a mere $25 cheaper than the F1, it is still a high priced reel in all respects.  Here's my take, you get what you pay for, more on this later in the review, but as you can see it isn't the most expensive reel in it's class but definitely on the higher side.  I will say this, you are getting more than a trout reel here folks, although this reel is rated for a 4-6 weight rod, there are what I call "x-factor" positives with this reel.  You have the option of either a large arbor or mid arbor spool for all hatch reels, something that isn't a standard option with many other companies.    This gives you the option for more backing or the option to run lines for a  4-8 weight series of rods on one reel.  So in theory, if need be, you could use this particular reel for 4 different sets of rods.  The other "x-factor" is the Pulse and Monsoon  spools are fully interchangeable, so if you are in a pinch, as long as the model number is the same (4 plus for example) they will all work together.  BONUS!

The second category I will delve into briefly  is the overall weight of the reel.  For some reason these days, lighter is better amongst most anglers.  I personally have differing opinions in that category, although the new age "euro-nympher" (high sticker in my book) prefers a lighter rig.  That's a topic of it's own, I will say this,  a lighter reel doesn't always combat fatigue, balance typically does, but for the purposes of this review let that be decided by the consumer/fisherman. Whatever....

So, the lightest out of the group once again goes to Lamson, with the ULA SL coming in at a mere 2.95 ounces.  At a distant second is the Lamson Litespeed at 3.8 ounces, Ross Evolution LT at 4.2 ounces, the Ross F1 and 4 Plus last at 5.6 ounces.  Although the heaviest, 5.6 ounces really isn't heavy in my book.   In fact, from my experience, the lightest 3 reels when put on rods of 9 or more feet in length end up being tip heavy, as the rod tip will typically bury to the ground when held in hand.  This phenomenon will actually cause fatigue as the angler who may be "high stick fishing" will have to constantly hold the rod up to prevent the tip from falling to the water.  With a balanced rod and reel combo this is less apt to happen.  I have put my 4 plus on rods from 9-11 feet in length and they balance perfectly, right in the handle.   Enough said.    
The Reel Apart

No Screwed In Reel Seats Here....
So let's get down to the meat and potatoes of the reel.  Let's start out with the options, 5 color combos for starters.  4 in a clear finish with colored insets, and one black with a clear inset allowing the buyer to match their reel nicely with just about any of the rods on the market.  All of the models not just the 4 Plus have Type II anodizing making a nice rugged finish.   As you can see the reel has very few working parts, the reel seat is even machined out of the same solid piece of aluminum as the frame.   These reels are pieces of engineering art, but are also extremely functional and rugged enough to take a beating.  A simple turn of the knurled spool knob and the spool is detached from the frame.

A quick peak inside and you see very little.  A colored end cap that has a gear shaped top, that sits snug into the spool as one cohesive unit.  Inside that colored cap is the sealed internal drag that sets these reels apart from the pack.  That's right, sealed drag, that means no problems with anything getting in the way of the reel performing to standard.  

Closer Look At The Sealed Drag
Hatch uses a unique drag system, which they refer to as a "Stacked" disc drag incorporating steel and rulon together.  In short, a stacked drag system has equal pressure on both sides of the discs which in turn has even wear and is self lubricating.  So what does all this mean?  Three things, straight from the guys at Hatch;   1.  " More surface area makes for a smoother, more durable drag and virtually eliminates start up inertia.   2.   Heat distribution occurs over multiple surfaces, rather than one to one contact, thereby eliminating stick slip problems caused by extreme heat in high-speed runs.   3. Disc materials require NO lubrication or maintenance".  That's right, you read it, no maintenance.  No changing of cork, or rubber pads every other year, no greasing or cleaning of any gears, no synthetic parts that fail after a season, nothing.  Spool up your line and go, and go hard.

The Inside View Of The Spool
Exterior View Of The Spool With Spool Release Knob
That being said, here's my experience with this reel this past season.   I've had several clients drop these reels, both on hard and soft surfaces like sand, gravel, pavement, concrete, rocks, etc.  They may have a small scratch here and there but they work the same as the day I first spooled them up with backing and line.  If a little sand gets in between the spool and frame, no sweat.  Twist the spool knob till the frame and spool separate, shake them back and forth in the river your standing in real quick, snap the spool back in place and boom your good to go.  I have had grit and grime issues stream side with other reels, and they were virtually useless afterwards, typically ruining a good day on the water, not the case here folks.   These babies take a licking and keep on ticking, to date I have not had a single problem with all 6 of my Hatch Reels.  Like the day I first got them

Knurled Drag Knob
Just to give you an idea of how you can outfit yourself with these reels, read on.  For trout fishing I have 3 4 Plus's  like the one in the pictures in this review.  The beauty of this reel is with a few different spools both large and mid arbor, I am using the same frame for my 4,5,6 and 7 weight rods.  So with this one reel, I can fish for a wide variety of species, trout, bass, carp and pike for starters.  The 5 Plus I use, I consider my other   work horse, I spooled that bad boy up with all of my integrated lines on mid arbor spools.   A floater, intermediate, 150, 200, 250 and 300 grain integrated streamer lines, even a 6, 7 and 8 weight line for the steelhead, pike and carp just like the 4.  The 7 Plus I have, is my primary reel for all of my saltwater needs, one reel, a couple of spools, and all of my surf and flats needs are met.  Then there is the 9 Plus that I teamed up with two mid arbor spools for all of my two handed rods.   I have a separate diameter running line on each spool for  my switch rod and spey applications.  The reel has been voted by many notable people in the two handed realm, including the modern day guru, Simon Gawesworth, as "The" reel for any two handed rod under 14 feet.

So in closing, I look at it like this, if you want to buy a reel for your next fly rod, or one to outfit your arsenal, you have a lot of choices out there.  If you are willing to shell out a few more bucks and buy not just a reel, but a work of art and an investment, then spend your money on a Hatch, they are arguably one of the best reel investments you will ever make.  They not only look sweet, they work hard and won't let you down, besides, you get what you pay for.  

For more on these works of art, check them out at

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