When Dan Rice from Bozeman Reel Company approached me a few months ago about field testing one of their new reels, I was pretty amped on the opportunity. After all, in today’s economy it takes some guts to start any company, let alone a fly reel company, and let alone one devoted to making everything in Montana. But that’s exactly what Bozeman Reel is doing, and I was curious to see if they were doing it well. Though their team has technically been tinkering with reel designs since 2008, this year, it seems, the brand is finally making a big push to get in the public’s face. It worked out perfectly for me because I shot north a few weeks ago to get some egg flies in some steelhead faces, and Bozeman’s RS 527 came along to battle chrome. What better fish to prove a reel’s worth?


The unforseen problem with my test plan was that in 3 days I never caught a single steelhead. Pity, because the feature that got my attention the most was the RDX Drag. The company claims, “the RDX utilizes Rulon and Titanium to create a tippet-protecting, monster-run-stopping drag system within an innovative new configuration.” Though I couldn’t check their claim on steel, I did learn that the reel was incredibly light, yet built like a tank. The tolerances were tight–like NASA tight–and it felt overall very dependable. Every guide or angler that picked it up on that trip agreed, noting the reel’s extreme smoothness as well. Still, how would it fight a big fish?

To find out, I took the reel on a big-trout quest in North Jersey just last weekend, and in truth, I never expected to catch anything that would test it quite the way a steelhead would have. I fought a few nice rainbows and the reel did well, but they didn’t really have the juice to put the RS’s guts to work. But the massive brown trout in the photo above did. That fish shot down stream with such force on its first run, and it had so much weight behind it, I thought I had foul hooked a carp. I hadn’t. The brown didn’t take long runs, but made short, powerful sprints. Considering it was on 3X tippet and I was a nervous wreck, I truly do credit the landing of that fish to the RS’s ability to take those jolts gracefully. I know that if there had been any tiny bit of “stickiness” or stutter in that drag, this fish would have been gone.

It’s not too late to talk to Santa about one of these reels. The 527 I tested is for line weights 5 to 7 and costs $495. Or check out the 325 (3 to 5 weight line, $410) if you want something smaller.