As a trout guy who’s spent his entire life in the Rocky Mountains, it’s not often that I use a disc-drag reel. Most of the water I fish is small, and the fish smaller still. Unless I’m throwing streamers on the Green River, I almost always have a click-pawl reel on my rod.
For the past month, though, I’ve swapped that out for the new Ross Animas. And while I miss the song of my click-pawl reel when a hot fish pulls line, I’m realizing how great the Animas is for the type of fishing I do.
Reels balance out a fly rod. The best reels weigh just enough that they’ll balance most any fly rod, and the Animas does just that. My 5-6wt model clocks in a 4.43oz, and never felt too heavy – or too light – on any of the rods I used it on. From my Orvis Helios 3D 9’ 6wt to my Winston Boron IIIx 9’ 5wt, the Animas was the perfect pairing for a day on the water.
One of my favorite things about click-pawl reels is that they tend to not have any startup inertia. When a fish pulls line, the reel just goes, without any sudden hitch. Cheaper reels have this problem often, especially if you have the drag just a bit too tight.
The Animas’s drag is buttery-smooth, and line pulls off the reel without pause at all drag settings. Ross built the Animas with an improved composite disc drag and a stainless steel interface, so I have no worries about this past month’s performance lasting over the lifetime of the reel.
Perhaps most importantly, the drag on the Animas has plenty of fish-stopping power. I successfully put the brakes on fish in a variety of water situations, fishing everything from streamers to dry flies. I was very impressed with how little give the drag had at its higher settings.
In fact, one moment stands out as the point where I realized that I might need a drag like this one more often. I was on the Provo River in the middle of a blue-winged olive hatch. A big fish was upstream about 30 feet, sipping duns. I slipped a cast into its lane, watched the fish take, and set the hook. Immediately, the fish shot upstream towards a logjam in which I’ve lost countless trout. I cranked the drag down on the Animas, lifted my rod high, and pulled the fish away from the logjam.
The end result was an 18-inch rainbow in my net.
Those results speak for themselves.
Ross has long been known for building great reels, and the new Animas is no exception. It’s all machined from high-grade aluminum, with some pretty intricate details in both the spool and the frame. Ross’s signature machined mountain silhouette sits directly above the drag knob, which is easy to grab and adjust during a tussle with trout.
Ross also touts this reel as having an “ultra-large arbor.” While I didn’t bother busting out my calipers and measuring it for myself, I did notice very quick line pickup, so there’s no reason to believe the arbor is anything but what Ross claims.
My model is in platinum, and it just pops on every rod I own. The colors complement my Winstons well, but I was surprised at how effectively it “dressed up” my Orvis H3, and even my old Orvis HLS.
What Doesn’t Work
This is a pretty petty thing to get uptight about, but I’m not a fan of the machined canvas handle. Yes, it gets easier to grip when wet, and that’s a nice feature. But aesthetically, it just feels out of place. I’m a fan of wood handles, but even a stainless steel handle to match the color of the reel would be great, too.
The Ross Animas is a fabulous reel. It retails for $295, which is a stellar price point for the performance packed into this reel. The drag is outstanding, the build quality is hard to beat, and if you’re in the market for a rock-solid reel for trout fishing, this should get serious consideration. Like I mentioned earlier, the new Animas has almost made me want to switch from my go-to click-pawl reels. And that’s saying something, seeing as I have a modest collection of those old-style reels.
Regardless, this is a reel that’s worth looking at. Stop by a local fly shop, get a feel for one, and go test it on some fish. You won’t be disappointed.
Words By Spencer Durrant
Spencer is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. He’s the News Editor for MidCurrent, and a regular contributor for Hatch Magazine. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.