The old Vortex reels had a beefy, durable build but the drag system was widely known to fail with heavy saltwater use, especially when targeting big fish. It worked great for Bonefish, but the reels were disproportionally heavy.
Next came along the Mach, which was their first attempt at messing with using stacked plates for the drag system. It was lighter, had a great drag knob, and more drag surface overall than the predecessors. The drag system wasn’t sealed very well and the plates corroded quickly in heavy saltwater use.
In looking back on the development of the Mirage, it kind of makes sense that Orvis ended up where the did with the result being a beefy reel utilizing a fully sealed drag system composed of stacked washers to increase drag surface. The downside to the Mirage, compared to the Vortex, was that manufacturing was moved offshore and quality questions always arise in our heads when we start seeing high-end products being made overseas.
Well, the truth of the matter is that these overseas machine shops have gotten very good at what they do and we’ve all come to expect similar quality in terms of tolerances, build, and anodizations. But, the price has to be less than a comparable product made in the US and offer the same or better performance. We hear this all the time from our customers and follow this mantra in our own shopping be it for trucks, furniture, or boots for that matter. Well, the Mirage originally was priced well below similar reels made in the US and that price got the attention of a lot of serious anglers on a budget.
I have been reluctant to jump on the bandwagon as I really wanted to use the reels awhile and see how they performed and held up over time and use. Well, I’ve now got 3 full seasons on a pair of Mirage III’s that I keep on my primary boat rods, being a 966-4 Helios and a 905-4 Helios,, for guiding here in MT. These outfits see a lot of use, catch a lot of fish, and are constantly getting banged around and stepped on by old men, young ladies, and confused soles throughout the year. I’ve caught everything from trout to Bonefish on the reels, even some Catfish when I stop to think of it, and they continue to perform flawlessly.
The real test for me is that I find myself continually going for these reels, no matter where I’m headed, the time of year, or the species I’m targeting. As one can imagine, I have a lot of reels to choose from and I find it interesting that I’ve come to choose these reels day in and day out. A great testament to my confidence in the reels is the fact that the one I use for a 6 wt. has had gel spun backing on it for the last couple of years so that I have plenty of backing for saltwater trips for Bonefish and Redfish. I’m not organized enough to have extra spools, so I just switch lines back and forth for trips. It’s pretty remarkable when I stop to think about all the places, conditions, and species I’ve caught on this particular reel over the last couple of year and have never even given the reel much thought. It works great, feels great, looks great and has never given me reason to look elsewhere. I may even say that it has become my favorite reel...I do fish it everywhere I go…so I guess that’s the ultimate measuring stick!
You can read about the technical stuff online if that’s your thing. In a nutshell, they’re machined Aluminum reels featuring a sealed drag system that utilizes a series of stacked washers to create a large drag surface in small space. I like them for rods larger than a 5 wt. and generally think that they don’t balance real well on a lighter weight rod, even in the smaller sizes. They are made overseas, but backed by Orvis’ customer satisfaction guarantee, which we’ve never had to test with the Mirage reels by the way. They are a better value when compared to other high end, big-game reels once you get into the larger sizes like the IV or V models which are in the $500 neighborhood.
I live and deal primarily in the trout world and I can’t say that I see the value as much when comparing to other reel manufacturers in the $400 price range. However, there are not a lot of reels for $475 that are as much home on the backend of a streamer or nymph rig as they as are on a light saltwater outfit. At the end of the day though, I know that these Reels are going to perform flawlessly whether it’s Trout in Montana or Bones in the Bahamas. I also know that they’ll hold up to more neglect and abuse than one should ever impose on anything costing nearly $500! The Mirage has become my favorite reel, so check them out and know that you’ll be getting a reel that, despite being given every opportunity to fail, continues to be the one I reach for at the start of everyday.