Orvis Mirage LT III Fly Reel Review
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
When I first got wind of the coming Mirage LT, I immediately figured it was a replacement for the standard Mirage series. Wrong. The original series still exists, but the LT is a lighter, more streamlined option that borrows many of the original's features at a substantially cheaper cost. In fact, these new reels are up to 30% lighter and 30% narrower than the originals, making these perfect matches for lightweight rods and lighter applications. Available in 4 models covering lines 1–9 weight, I chose a 5/6/7 model for testing.
Line Size: 5/6/7
Measured Weight: Approx 4.57 ounces
Diameter: 3.7 inches
Overall Width: Approx 1 1/4 inches
Arbor Diameter: Approx 2.1 inches
Backing Capacity (20 pound): WF5F /175 ; WF6F / 150 ; WF7F / 125
Drag: Carbon Fiber (fully-sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 2+pounds
Spool Release: No Tools Needed
Colors: Midnight, Red/White/Blue, Olive (tested)
Reel Pouch Included: Yes
Spare Spool Available: Yes ($219)
Tested Reel Price: $398
The LT delivers several cosmetic changes when compared to the standard Mirage I tested here. The most noticeable is, of course, the thinner and more sleek-looking frame. From what I can tell, the more subtle differences include a ported reel foot (it's still rounded-off at the base so you can safely wrap a leader around it), smaller counterweight, a narrow backing channel, redesigned center cap and drag knob, and a slightly different frame spoke design.
The LT also has Type II anodizing rather than Type III like the standard Mirage models. The standard Mirage is certainly an overachiever in this regard, as most fly reels are Type II which provides durability along with the added benefit of more available color options. As you may have noticed in the specs above, the LT reels come in 3 pretty color schemes.
Some of the most noteworthy shared features between the two reel families include fully-machined 6061 T6 aluminum construction, titanium shafts, and sealed carbon/stainless drags (although it's less powerful in the LT). Oh yeah, these are made in the USA, too!
When unboxing the reel, my initial expectations were exceeded. The satin-olive color scheme accented by the silver components looks absolutely stunning. The pictures on Orvis.com simply don't do this thing justice. Inside and out, tolerances were tight and I'd put fit and finish at a 9/10.
The drag system proved to be superb in smoothness. It ramps up without any hint of hesitation and was buttery at any setting I chose. During my test of the standard Mirage II (3–5 weight) last year, I got approximately 4.5-pounds of pressure at the max setting. Although this reel is rated for 5–7 lines, its drag performed weaker on my scale at just over 2-pounds of max pressure. That might sound low, but that's more than enough brake force for many applications—I never came close to using all of it during testing.
The tall rear drag knob has an aggressive surface for even the slimiest and clumsiest fingers. It turns with modest firmness and exhibits mild clicks as its turned. Slightly less than one full turn will take you from minimum to maximum drag, and the knob stops instantly on either end so the knob doesn't have to be wrenched down to eek out the last few ounces of drag pressure. Also, minimum drag had enough tension to prevent nasty backlashes if you mistakenly try to strip off line quickly with the knob not set properly.
For being so dang lightweight (approx 4.57 ounces), the LT still feels quite solid when reeling. The smooth, mildly-contoured handle has zero play in it, and the frame-to-spool connection is very tight. The only knock here is the sound—both the incoming and outgoing clicks aren't bad, but to me they sound somehow hollow and tinny.
The center cap of the spool unscrews to allow for spool removal. It's not the most user-friendly design in my opinion, but it works. It also does stay connected to the spool so it won't just fall off and get lost which would surely ruin your day. When ready to fish again, the spool easily mounts back onto the frame without a hitch.
Orvis includes a small wrench in the box. With the spool off, this wrench allows you to remove the frame cap from the top of the shaft assembly which gives access to the one-way bearing. To change retrieve direction, simply slide off the bearing, put it back on in the other direction, and screw the frame cap back on. Don't worry, it's super easy and the reel's manual has full instructions.
Orvis did a great job in creating a reel ideally suited for lighter-duty applications, and our tester proved to be a really enjoyable piece of equipment to use. As I'm sure many of you do too, we love lightweight rods and reels, and this fly reel does a great job of delivering a solid array of features while still being able to avoid the unwanted heft!
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