Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nautilus NV - The Big Red Disc

It's not that I have a fly fisherman's version of Tourette's Syndrome which causes me to spout socially inappropriate fly reel reviews in close proximity to one another. I've been using the Nautilus NV for about 6 months now, and feel it represents a key challenge to Lamson's Vanquish lineup.

Why? Simply put, it's excellent and costs less. It's the perfect timing for a back-to-back review.

Nautilus NV Rear Spiral

Nautilus NV 5/6 Reel: $540 (Spool $225)
Lamson Vanquish 5.6 Reel: $599 (Spool $269)
Difference: $59 (Reel) $44 (Spool)

This becomes more significant as you move up the scale:

Nautilus NV 8/9 Reel: $595 (Spool $245)
Lamson Vanquish V8 Reel: $799 (Spool $359)
Difference: $204 (Reel) $114 (Spool)

Light weight is an obvious goal with big reels, and both the NV and Vanquish are heavily machined to reduce weight and maximize strength. The result?

Nautilus NV 8/9: 7.1 oz
Vanquish V8: 7.2 oz

The NV offers a fully sealed disc drag made out of carbon and cork (CCF). This approach eliminates the maintenance needs of typical cork disc brakes and the heat build up of carbon materials. The open-face design of most cork drags such as Tibor and Abel is prone to contamination, hydroplaning, and ice up in cold temperatures. The CCF system eliminates those concerns as well.

Sage Xi3 & Nautilus NV

One down side of this design is that switching from right to left-handed retrieve is best left to the factory or your Nautilus dealer. Most people never change this anyway, but be aware of this gotcha if it's a factor for you.

I love the spool release used by Nautilus. It's a knurled screw knob easily accessible with gloves in any conditions. A few turns and the spool is free, yet it's very secure at high RPM and under stress.

Nautilus NV Front Logo

When I first started using the NV, the drag knob raised my dander a bit. I love numbered drags, or at least any system that allows easily repeatable settings. The Nautilus has a checkered knob with no markings, and for me this is less than ideal. The adjustment tension is excellent and it's hard to accidentally change the setting.

Nautilus NV Roll Rearward

It was not until later that I found out the Nautilus Custom Shop offers a numbered drag option, and not surprisingly it happens to be one of the most frequently requested features among guides and pros. This numbering is beautifully done, and will be on any future reels I order. Nautilus also excels at color anodized finishes, and offers engraving and other custom work. Check out the NAUTILUS CUSTOM SHOP for details.

I was curious to see how the CCF drag would work under extremely cold conditions since I have experienced issues in the past with disc designs.

Nautilus NV Chaos

I went out this winter in temperatures down to -6° F and submerged the reel completely, then allowed it to freeze solid in the frigid air. Each time, a little pressure on the reel handle would easily break the ice build up and the NV would function without a hitch.

Nautilus NV River Ice

Nautilus NV Frozen Falls

The NV is simply outstanding within its price range, and I can't think of any reasons NOT to buy one.

Weight: ☆☆☆☆☆ (7.1oz for the 8/9!)
Engineering: ☆☆☆☆☆ (The CCF drag is a brute, numbered drag available by order)
Price: ☆☆☆☆☆ (Very reasonable at this level of performance)
Overall Design: ☆☆☆☆☆ (Among the best visual designs in the industry)

First ever 5-star sweep.

Nautilus NV Roll Forward

Nautilus NV & Sage Xi3

If you'd like to shop for the NV, or other Nautilus models like the Featherweight and CCF, check out STILLWATER FLY SHOP. They include any fly line up to $75 with the purchase.


  1. Thanks Scott. The NV is the bruiser of the lineup with a drag system that won't back down from fast moving saltwater species. Check out the Nautilus Featherweight 3+ or 5+. They start around $240, and if you get them from www.stillwaterflyshop.com it will come with a free fly line.

  2. I read both reviews and need to rob a small bank to claim them both. I do have the reasonably priced Lamson Guru 2 and have been happy with it.
    And I only had to raid my daughters piggy bank for it =)

  3. @Rebecca: With the Outdooress groupies accumulating at a rate of 10³ per week, I see endorsements lining up in the future. Be ready to change domains to Gearess.com.