Gear Review: Ross Evolution R Reel

Whenever I tie a fly, build or buy a rod or reel, examine a fly line, etc. there are three questions I ask myself; Will it help me catch more fish, is it a hassle-free product that is fun to use, and is it a good value. Those are my criteria from the tiniest tippet ring all the way up to a drift boat. If the answer is “no” to all of the above, then I simply pass it up. It’s tough, though, because there is a lot of cool gear that comes out year after year.

On a trip to drop off some flies at a local fly shop, while standing at the counter, a platinum-colored skeleton reel caught my eye. I picked it up to inspect it and immediately I knew I had to fish one. It wasn’t until a thorough inspection (and a glance at the tag) that I realized it was one of the new Ross Evolution R reels. I had seen some video clips and read some product releases that this reel was the new flagship model of Ross Reels but it was the first time I had a chance to see it in person. And let me tell you; photos and videos don’t do this reel justice.

A few things drew me to this design:

  • The light weight without sacrificing durability
  • The integrated drag knob into the frame
  • The simplistic skeleton design of the reel
  • The shape and texture of the knob

The reel disappears into your hand when you hold it. It is shockingly lightweight but is extremely solid. How light? We’re talking the kind of weight that, when you first get it into your hands, it’ll incite expletives. I don’t know how Ross did this but I’d be inclined to say it would be a huge challenge to design a reel of a certain size, with the durability, ergonomics, and function that is lighter. In fact, after it was spooled up with backing and topped off with my favorite cold water streamer line (Scientific Anglers Anadro), the reel disappears onto the rod. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea and it certainly took me a few hours to get used to. Think about it, with a rod that is 9-10th long with flies, tippet, a leader, and fly line out the end of it, you expect some sort of counterbalance which comes in the form of the reel seat, reel, and line on the other end. This wasn’t the case and the rod felt tip-heavy. It was an easy adjustment over the first few hours and after you get used to it, honestly, you probably won’t want to go back. I see what you’re doing, Ross. Sneaky, sneaky.

Let’s talk about the drag knob. Fair warning, I’m a drag knob snob. I don’t like a great big honking knob, nor do I like one that looks like a bottle cap. I like a medium-sized knob that is easy to grip and adjust easily when you need it the most. This is one of the first features that caught my eye. Ross incorporated easy-to-adjust drag into the frame of their reel. The range of drag is huge but you don’t have to keep cranking away. A simple turn of the wrist and you’re dialed in where you need to be. The coolness factor is secondary to the function.

One thing I haven’t seen anywhere else that is worth noting is the smooth operation and extremely unique feel and sound when stripping line off of the reel and reeling line onto it. It is most unique. It’s not metallic or loud but it’s rather a noticeable, satisfying quiet “tick” that provides just enough feedback. When hooked into a fish that peels drag, there is zero start-up inertia and there isn’t a fish that can’t be tamed by this reliable drag. Not to mention it doesn’t sound like you’re playing “Rock em Sock em Robots”. Having a sealed drag is also a big deal since my same reel will be with me on saltwater flats to gravely/sandy steelhead rivers in Michigan. So far, neither fish nor the elements challenge the Evolution R.

Getting back to my three criteria of equipment. Have I caught more fish? No, probably not. But this reel is a pleasure to use and easily became a workhorse. For the type of fishing I do, an 8 weight is most common. I fish for largemouth, smallmouth, pike, carp, salmon, steelhead, and redfish with this reel. Granted, I take good care of my equipment, but this reel looks as good as the day I first got my hands on it. Which leads me into my next two questions and the answers are, “yes”. It’s maintenance-free and hassle free. Not to mention it’s a sexy looking reel whose black or platinum colors will compliment any rod. When you fish some equipment and you simply forget what’s in your hands, make the casts, and catch fish without having to think too hard….that’s when I know I have something special. This is a piece of equipment that you don’t have to think about, is up to any task, and operation comes naturally. You forget it’s there until you look down and it catches your eye all over again. Their flagship model is pricey. It’s not for everyone but it’s a reel everyone will definitely want. If you’re looking for the best, go try one out. And with any of their reels, Ross stands behind their products if there is an issue. Use it with confidence….I know I will.

You can find specs and more about the Ross Evolution R by visiting

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