Ross Evolution R 5/6 Fly Reel Review
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
At IFTD 2016, I had my first glimpse of the upcoming Ross Evolution R reel here. Despite scarce details and the release date being many months off, it was a treat being able to hold and examine one of these specimens in person. Well, fast forward to present-day, and the Evolution R is finally here...literally...on my desk! Taking its place at the top of the Ross lineup and well above the Evolution LT, the R has some big shoes to fill as the flagship offering. I was eager to test this thing out to see if it's worthy of top dog status, so let's get to it!
The Evolution R is a reel that definitely doesn't look dated. There's heavy-duty porting throughout with a heavy focus on both weight reduction and beauty. I'd say they nailed both of those aspects easily. All Evolution R reels come in at under 4.5 ounces and deliver a striking appearance from whatever angle you choose. This is a reel that looks great now and will look good 20 years from now.
Reels in this series are all machined from proprietary 6061-T6 aluminum with a Type II anodize. Aside from some inconspicuous machining marks that most folks will probably never notice, the fit and finish is otherwise excellent. Our tester was bright, smooth, and didn't reveal anything abnormal that would turn off a potential customer.
The drag of the Evolution R is comprised of carbon-fiber/stainless components and is fully-sealed. Our tester's drag ramped up with zero startup hesitation regardless of the setting, but as line flowed off the spool there was some bumpiness at certain settings. Two-and-a-half turns of the rear drag wheel takes the drag from zero to full, and there's soft detents throughout the range of settings. When maxed out, the R boasts enough drag power to seriously slow down any trout on planet earth.
I want to backpedal a moment to the drag adjustment. Rather than a standard knob as found on most reels, the Evolution R sports a massive rear drag wheel that nears the diameter of the actual reel frame. Integrated into the frame, it provides an easy-to-grab way of tuning the drag and also adds to the overall style.
The drag wheel works well and looks pretty spiffy, but I personally prefer a standard drag knob that protrudes out from the frame more. When turning the wheel, my fingertips had a tendency to contact the structure of the reel underneath which was a minor annoyance. My verdict is that the wheel looks cooler, but a knob provides more of a fluid adjustment—at least for me.
The R's arbor has a nice wide diameter which helps it retrieve line at a speedy clip. I'm a big fan of reels designed with narrower spools/frames, and thankfully this one has just that. It helps me retrieve line quicker (since my finger doesn't have to sweep back and forth so far to level the line) and, in my opinion, just looks more sleek.
Speaking of leveling the line back and forth, the spool's arbor has a uniquely-designed base that's offset to "force the even winding of the line across the face of the spool as it is retrieved." Despite this, I always leveled the line with a finger both out of habit and as added insurance. Whether line is coming on or off the spool, the modest clicking sound is mellow yet pleasant.
Just like the Colorado LT I previously reviewed here, the R comes equipped with the oddly-named canvas phenolic handle. I don't really know what that is, but its size, shape and texture makes for some very comfy crankin'. Handle grip is great and it even sports a sort of "dry" feel to it. I wouldn't mind seeing more reels using this handle material. I like!
Time for a spool change? Unscrew the center cap a few times and the spool slides right off with the center cap still attached. If you go overboard and keep unscrewing the center cap it will eventually come off, so don't do that unless it's on purpose! The center cap is a bit thin and doesn't have the most user-friendly texture I've encountered. The spool attaches just as easily as it comes off.
With flagship reel offerings being far outside of many peoples' budgets, it's nice to see Ross is at least keeping these under $500. I know, I know, still not exactly cheap, but this reel appears built for the long haul and the aesthetics are some of the best around.
Evolution R reels come in weights 3 through 8 with prices spanning from $455 to $495. Each reel comes paired up with a protective neoprene reel pouch. Did you know that when you buy a USA-made Ross reel that 10% of the sale is contributed to conservation efforts? If you decide to grab an Evolution R, you can feel even better about your purchase!
Line Size: 5/6 weight
Weight: 4.41 ounces
Diameter: 3.775 inches
Arbor Width: 0.975 inches
Backing Capacity: WF5F+110 yards/20lb
Drag: Carbon Fiber (fully sealed)
Machined/Cast: Machined Aluminum
Easy Release Spool: Yes
Colors: Platinum (tested) and Black
Reel Pouch: Yes
Reel Price: $475.00
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