Waterworks-Lamson Speedster S Fly Reel Review
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
What are three of the main aspects you look for in a fly reel? Appearance, drag performance, and weight are likely the big ones, but what about retrieve speed? Just because a reel has a large arbor doesn't automatically mean it has a fast retrieve — a bigger spool diameter gives you that faster rate of retrieve.
With a name like Speedster, it was obvious that Waterworks-Lamson built these reels with an emphasis on rapid retrieve rates. Redesigned to retain great performance but with a new structural aesthetic that uses less material, each of the new Speedster S reels somewhat resembles a sexy sports car wheel. Though undoubtedly tantalizing to the eye, let's see how this reel does during testing and fish-catching!
Reel Size: 4/5/6
Advertised Weight: 3.83 ounces
Diameter: 3.65 inches
Width: 1 inch
Backing Capacity: WF6F / 100 yards
Drag: Conical teflon/delrin (Fully Sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 2 pounds
Spool Release: No Tools Needed (pull apart)
Test Reel Color: Ember
Reel Pouch Included: Yes
R/L Interchangeable: Yes
Spare Spool: $159.99
Reel Price: $349.99
The new reels blend features of the last generation Speedster along with an even sleeker body style that, as eluded to, uses a minimum of material. This gives the reel an incredibly "open" look along with a very light weight. To put this in perspective, this particular model is advertised at 3.83 ounces while the comparable last-gen Speedster 2 was about 4.1 ounces. It must also be noted that the dimensions appear to be slightly different between the two and this model covers 4/5/6 line weights while that line weight range was previously covered by two different models: the Speedster 1.5 (3/4 weight) and Speedster 2 (5,6 weight).
Machined from 6061 aluminum, other features include an inboard-mounted handle, counterbalance built into the spool, and the unique conical drag setup. As a whole, the reel is precisely crafted with tight tolerances and very clean, intricate machining.
At the heart of the Speedster S is Waterworks-Lamson's conical drag system. Rather than flat washers, this unique and fully-sealed system uses two cones which seat into each other to provide fish-stopping force.
During testing at higher settings, I could detect a faint blip of startup inertia when slowly pulling line from the spool. Once the spool got going, the drag felt smooth and consistent at any setting. Maximum drag on my scale tested out to be only about 2 pounds at the most, but that's plenty for most 4–6 weight pursuits. The reel's mild clicks that are heard while cranking or when the drag is engaged are provided by a small clicker mounted on the spool.
Just like the Guru S that I recently tested, the drag knob turns without any clicks or detents. Compared to that reel, I do like the Speedster's drag knob much better as it's more straightforward and easier to turn. Turning the knob about one and a half times gets you from minimum to maximum drag.
The handle is basic but comfortable and a good length for easy grabbing. With a large arbor and overall diameter of about 3.65 inches, the sizing is on the higher side for a reel that's rated for 4–6 weight lines which equals a speedy retrieve.
Here's a few other competitors' advertised spool diameters for reels falling in this range: Nautilus X 4/5 (3.5 inches); Abel SDF 5/6 (3.61 inches); Galvan Torque 5/6 (3.5 inches); Ross Evolution LTX 5/6 (3.83 inches). Another nice feature is that the Speedster S keeps things trim with a spool width of just one inch which helps you quickly and evenly level the line back onto the spool with your finger while avoiding build up to either side...and it looks sleeker.
Separating the spool from the frame is done by simply pulling both apart. I didn't run into any difficulty here but giving the spool a little wiggle back and forth as I pulled seemed to make it maybe a hair easier. The spool and frame also mesh back together very well with a nice little "pop" to let you know you're good to go.
The Speedster S -5+ proved to be a very good reel and is extremely light making it a superb companion for advanced featherweight fly rods. The previous Speedster lineup was comprised of six sizes, but that has since been whittled down to four which, in addition to our tested size, includes a -3+ (2/3/4); -7+ (6/7/8); -9+ (8/9/10) with prices ranging from $349.99 to $429.99 and spools $159.99 to $199.99. Colors include Midnight (black) and our as-tested Ember color. All reels include a protective pouch.
Support Demystifly by Purchasing at