Ross San Miguel 4/5 Fly Reel Review
Updated: May 4
Some fly reels come and go with little fanfare. Others might register higher on the popularity meter, but still lack that truly special aura. Then, there are those reels which slot into a much more exclusive category — the reels which attain huge fan bases and are remembered by anglers far and wide many seasons later. The Ross San Miguel is one such reel. Want to label it an icon or a classic? Sure, go right ahead.
If you were a fan of that original San Miguel introduced over 20 years ago, then you're in luck...because it's back!
Yes, the reel has returned, but this is the year 2020. While the San Miguel still delivers those classic, familiar looks that helped make the original such a hit, Ross has now given it a healthy dash of modernization to put it more in line with today's offerings. We think they did a heck of a job giving it the perfect blend of old and new.
Tested Reel Size: 4/5
Measured Weight: Approx 5.94 ounces
Diameter: 3.27 inches
Spool Width: 0.88 inches
Arbor: Large Arbor
Backing Capacity (20 pound): WF4F / 90 yards; WF5F / 75 yards
Drag: Sealed carbon / stainless
Tested Max Drag: Approx 4 pounds
Spool Release: No Tools Needed
Available Colors: High-Gloss Black
Reel Pouch Included: Yes
R/L Interchangeable: Yes
Spare Spool: $446.25
Reel Price: $595.00
The new San Miguel still sports the "flower petal" spool porting and a rock-solid full frame, but now features notable upgrades like a larger arbor, new spool release, upgraded drag, and new handle design. Black remains the sole color choice, but it's impressive how truly glossy it is and the way light refracts off the rear frame. Having been a big fan of the original black Abel Big Game reels back in the 1990's, the finish reminds me of those very much.
Built at Ross HQ in Colorado, this reel screams class and refinement. My 4/5 tester was put together very well and undoubtedly exudes that high-end look and feel you expect in a premium reel like this. I found the finish to be flawless, machining precise, and tolerances nice and tight. Weighing approximately 5.94 ounces my scale (as compared to Ross' advertised 5.80 ounces), it's heavier than some other 4/5 reels out there, but that added touch of heft simply adds to the super solid feel of this reel.
Stopping power is provided by a carbon/stainless system that's fully sealed. I didn't notice any hint of startup inertia at any setting, and once the drag gets going the line flows off the spool with excellent consistency. I also dunked the reel several times during testing which of course had no effect on the drag's performance. I measured about 4 pounds of maximum pressure at the full setting.
The drag knob on the rear is somewhat low profile but has enough size and surface texturing for easy adjustability with wet or dry hands. Going from minimum to maximum drag takes about 2 1/2 turns of the dial with very mellow clicks along the way rather than firm detents. There's no hard stop at maximum drag so you'll have to really work to eek out those last few clicks, but since this is a 4/5 reel it's doubtful most folks will ever need 100% of the power.
Ross uses a canvas micarta handle on this reel and I'm a big fan. The shape, size, and grip is excellent and the soft, subtle feel of it is really unique and enjoyable to crank on. Retrieve on the San Miguel is silent and smooth, while the drag produces a modest, quality clicking sound. If you like to slap the spool to retrieve a bunch of loose line in a hurry, this reel is excellent for doing that because the spool spins very freely.
My only real gripe with the reel is the push-button spool release. I didn't find it particularly user-friendly, but since I rarely need to take spools off, this realistically wouldn't be a big issue for me. The spool does mount back onto the frame quickly and easily every time with a nice click.
I have no experience fishing with the original San Miguel, but all I can say is that this latest version won't disappoint the discerning angler. It's a wonderful reel to fish with and compliments a high-end rod very well.
Besides my 4/5 test reel, there's currently 3/4 and 5/6 sizes available. Each model shares the same price of $595. Also remember, Ross donates 10% of every reel sale to conservation efforts!
Ross San Miguel reels are available at