Cortland Crown 3/5 Fly Reel Review
There's a new Crown in town. Stealthy and simplistic, Cortland Crown fly reels are back on the scene looking to offer anglers a quality alternative without breaking the bank. They may lack the exotic, intricate looks of reels costing three times as much, but I've been impressed more than once by the performance of both rods and reels with subdued looks and affordable price points. Could the new Crown be another one of these surprising reels?
Reel Size: 3/5
Advertised Weight: 4.5 ounces
Diameter: 3-3/16 inches
Spool Width: N/A
Arbor: Mid Arbor
Backing Capacity: WF5F / 180 yards (20lb micron)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 5 pounds
Spool Release: No Tools Needed
Test Reel Color: Tactical Black
Reel Pouch Included: Yes
R/L Interchangeable: Yes
Spare Spool: $89.95
Reel Price: $189.95
Sometimes, lower-priced offerings try too hard to look premium and it seems kind of cheesy or phony. Cortland kept things honest with the design of these new Crown reels. Our 3/5 tester certainly has a relatively basic appearance, but it's super clean and does look good.
Machined and anodized using aircraft aluminum, the flat black and grey colors of the reel ("Tactical Black" as Cortland calls it) don't give off any fish-spooking glare. The finish actually has a nice soft-touch type of feel to it as well. Besides the obvious porting in the spool and back of the frame, there's no additional porting to the reel foot or bottom cross member.
As a whole, craftsmanship looked great with no sharp edges or imperfections. Tolerances also seemed tight; I observed no unsightly gaps in the foot-to-frame connection or anywhere else, and the spool meshes tightly to the frame with no wiggle or excess play.
Comprised of stacked Delrin washers, the performance of the Crown's semi-sealed drag gets two thumbs up. It initiates without any noticeable startup inertia and maintains a very smooth and consistent feel all the way to the max setting. Not that it really matters in a reel of this size, but the maximum drag is also healthy at about five pounds of pressure.
I like that Cortland didn't overthink the design of the drag knob. Its basic round shape has good height and tons of texturing to provide sure grip wet or dry. About 1 3/4 turns gets you from zero to full drag, and the detents are relatively firm and loud as you turn the dial — I like that. There's no hard stop when the drag dial is maxed out, but I doubt most will be winching this thing down anyway.
The paddle-style handle is large and has added bumpy texturing to the surface for more grip and gives a bit of a finger massage to boot. It is very confidence-inspiring to hold onto when cranking fast and there is only minor play on the handle post so there's no distracting or sloppy feel. This reel is a mid-arbor design but the spool diameter of 3-3/16 inches is right around where it should be, so the retrieve speed isn't bad when filled up. I forgot to measure the spool width before sending the reel back (dohhh!!) but it was excellent — not too wide.
Removing the spool is done by unscrewing the center cap. When putting the spool back on, it easily re-seats onto the frame and the center cap (which stays connected to the spool so you won't lose it) tightens back down with no fuss. Nothing more to say here — it works.
Coming in at about $190, the Crown 3/5 represents a good value in a machined reel from a well-known brand. Cortland really seems to have put an emphasis on the function of this reel as it was very pleasing in all regards. You won't be confusing it for an $800 reel, but the dark and subdued looks should pair well with many different fly rods — but I'm sure Cortland would prefer if you chose one of their various nymphing rods! The Cortland Crown also comes in a 5/7 size ($199.95) and spare spools are available for either model.