Orvis Access Mid-Arbor Review

October 26, 2012
Orvis Access Mid-Arbor
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Drag Performance
Line Pick-up
Ease of Spool-Changes
Durability / Abuse Resistance

The Good

  • Lightweight, well-balanced on a rod, especially the lightest rods in the 4- and 5-weight class
  • Adjustable for left- or right-hand retrieve mode
  • Machined from bar-stock (as opposed to being cast from molten metal) for greater durability/strength
  • Smooth click-drag system with carbon-fiber rings for smooth drag adjustment

The Bad

  • Smaller arbor means slower line pick-up
  • Spool release is difficult to use if you have large fingers or are wearing gloves

The Orvis Access Mid-Arbor II, designed for line weights of 3 to 5, provided a well-balanced fit on any of the 9-foot, 5-weight rods we tested. We loved the smooth, trouble-free drag system as it ensured fish could be allowed to run when necessary without worrying about free-spooling or over-pressuring the line (which could result in break-offs of the fish). A solid reel for any trout angler.


Orvis’ Access Mid-Arbor II offers solid workman-like performance in a clean, simple design. Machined from bar stock 6061-aluminum, the reel proved incredibly durable and tough. The smooth click-drag features a fully sealed carbon-fiber disk system that can be finely adjusted and which stayed in adjustment without ‘drag drift.’ The problem-free operation of the entire reel made it a favorite of our testers who prefer function without flash.

Size and Weight
The three-inch diameter reel, weighing a mere 4.5 ounces (empty), balances nicely on 4- and 5-weight rods. Indeed, this reel seemed especially nice on the lighter rods we tested (especially the Sage One [LINK to REVIEW] and Orvis Helios 2 [LINK to REVIEW]) as it didn’t overweight the butt-end of those featherweight sticks.

As the smallest diameter reel in the test, it was a little slower in line pickup than most other reels (but not the slowest, thanks to the smooth operation of the carbon-fiber backed click drag that made cranking quick and easy). The Access Mid-Arbor II holds up to 100 yards of 20-pound backing when loaded with a 5-weight floating line – more than enough for even the biggest trout waters.

The performance was smooth, functional, and workman-like. This reel just plain does its job, day-in and day-out. During testing, I dropped it on rocks (as I tossed it away to catch myself as I fell onto those same rocks), once booted it sand bar while clambering into a raft, and dunked it repeatedly into waters of questionable clarity. Through it all, the reel showed no let down. Sand never affected the drag. The stout reel frame was scratched and dinged, but never cracked or chipped (though another brand’s reel – manufactured from cast aluminum – did lose a big chunk off its rim during a similar fall the next day).

The line pick-up speed isn’t as great as you’ll find in large-arbor reels. We also found the tiny lever on the inside edge of the spool shaft to be slightly difficult to operate – especially for thick-fingered anglers. Then again, the location of that tiny lever in a narrow space virtually guarantees it won’t accidentally be tripped during use of the reel. Bottom line: for solid, overall performance, the Access stands at the head of this class.

The classically styled Access II looks like what it is – a blue-collar worker of a reel. Nothing flashy or fancy here. It also endures tough conditions like a solid professional. Twice the reel was knocked against the jagged basalt rocks that line the Crooked River when the test-angler took a fall (two different anglers, same reel). The reel frame received a nice deep scratch, but no change in performance. It did collect a little grit around the spool, but a flush in clear water took care of that. Good, solid performance in a clean, attractive package.


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Testers used a selection of salt-water reels fitted with 8-wt lines in a variety of conditions. The reels were used in pursuit of bonefish and permits in Belize, Mahi Mahi and assorted reef fish in Hawaii, and salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound. We loaded the reels with 30-pound backing and fished both weight-forward floating lines and sink-tip lines.



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