Home Fishing Review: Orvis Mirage III Fly Reel

Review: Orvis Mirage III Fly Reel

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Outdoor Empire top pick for trout fishing 

The Orvis Mirage series of reels was initially developed to withstand the abuse of big-game saltwater fishing.

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After battle-testing and perfecting the large arbor spool design and butter-smooth drag system of the Mirage, Orvis released an extensive range of reel sizes to cover everything from delicate dry fly fishing for cutthroats to muscle pumping tug-of-war with tarpon.

The Mirage III is a great trout-sized reel for five, six, and seven weight rods. Essentially, it’s a scaled-down version of the big-game Mirage reels, featuring the same large arbor design, smooth, powerful drag, and light but strong machined aluminum frame and spool.

If you are the type of fly angler who likes to fish big streamers for trophy-sized brown trout, or swing wet flies for steelhead on single-hand rods, the Mirage III fits the bill nearly perfectly.

That said, the Mirage III isn’t cheap. So it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting, and whether or not it has any flaws hidden in its oh-so-pretty design.


Notable Features 


Both the frame and spool are CNC machined from a solid block of 6061-T6 bar stock aluminum.

The reel is made with extremely tight tolerances and the aluminum construction makes the reel extra-stiff and rigid, which is helpful when applying serious pressure to hard-fighting fish.



The large arbor reel design is a hallmark of the Mirage series of reels.

While definitely smaller than the 12 and 14 weight models, the Mirage III has a very large spool for its line class. You get a ton of line capacity, and the large arbor gives you a higher than average line retrieval rate — perfect for regaining line quickly on a meaty rainbow trout.


Drag System

The beefy drag on the Mirage III is fully sealed which means water, dirt, sand, and grime can’t enter. Even though most anglers use the Mirage III for freshwater fishing, it is 100% saltwater compatible.


Carbon Drag Surface

Inside the drag housing, the carbon fiber drag washers provide the muscle of the reel.

The Mirage III offers 6 pounds of maximum drag pressure that’s incredibly smooth throughout the entire range. There is barely any noticeable start up inertia. So when a fish wants to run, the drag lets out line smoothly without any stutters or hiccups.

Positive-Click Drag Adjustment Knob

The drag knob on the Mirage III has diamond knurling which gives you extra grip when your hands are wet or covered in fish slime. When you turn the knob to adjust the drag, you hear an audible “click” sound that allows you to make accurate, repeatable drag adjustments.


Unique Handle Shape

The handle of the Mirage III was designed to keep fly line from getting hung up.

While the design works as intended, you may notice the quality of the handle doesn’t necessarily match the quality of the rest of the reel.


Quick Release Spool

Swapping out spools takes only a few seconds, thanks to a quick release spool design. Plus, you can easily change the reel from the standard left-hand retrieve to a right-hand retrieve.



Backing capacity: 125 yards
Reel weight: 4.8 oz
Max drag pressure: 6 lbs
Line retrieval rate: 7.74 inches per turn



Compare Similar Products

Product:Orvis Mirage III
Orvis Mirage III

Nautilus NV-G 5/6
Nautilus NV-G 5/6

Lamson Litespeed 2
Lamson Litespeed 2

Reel Weight4.8 oz5.1 oz3.74 oz
Line Weight5-74-64-6
Width1.09 in1.10 in
Backing CapacityWF6+125 yardsWF6+125 yardsWF6+100 yards
CostCheck Current PriceCheck Current PriceCheck Current Price


No matter how you look at it, spending several hundred dollars on a reel is a big deal.

To help you get a solid understanding of what the Orvis Mirage III brings to the table, we’ve done a side-by-side comparison with two of its direct competitors: the Nautilus NV-G 5/6 and the Lamson Litespeed IV.


Nautilus NV-G


The Nautilus NV-G series are saltwater fly reels at heart but are made in trout-friendly sizes.

Similarities with the Mirage III

  • very large arbor spools
  • extremely strong and smooth drags
  • fully sealed and corrosion resistant


  • The Nautilus NV-G costs more than the Mirage III.
  • It’s heavier — the Mirage III weighs 4.8 ounces while it weighs 5.1 ounces.

You might not notice the weight difference unless you’re holding them next to each other. But if you’re spending this kind of money on a reel, it’s a good idea to get the lightest option available.


In all other regards, the two reels have superb performance. In terms of appearance, the NV-G has more negative space within the arbor, giving the reel a high-tech, futuristic look, while the Mirage III is more of a modern interpretation of a classic fly reel design.

Style aside, the choice between the two reels comes down to weight and price. The Orvis Mirage III is the lighter and less expensive of the two.


Lamson Litespeed 2


Lamson Litespeed Series IV

The Lamson Litespeed 2, which is a specific model from the Litespeed Series IV, puts the heat on the Orvis Mirage III on some aspects.

Similarity with the Mirage III

Regarding startup inertia, the two reels are very comparable — both offer silky smooth drag startup with very little resistance.


  • Weighing a full ounce lighter, the Lamson Litespeed 2 makes the Mirage III seem a little husky, even though it’s very light compared to other reels of this caliber.
  • With 6.78 pounds of maximum drag pressure, it casts a shadow over the Mirage III’s 6 pounds of drag.


To top it all off, the Lamson Litespeed 2 costs less than the Mirage III. And it’s made in the USA while the Mirage III is made overseas.

Learn more about Lamson Litespeed IV series fly reels here.


Rating the Orvis Mirage III Fly Reel

The following is based on a 1 to 5 stars rating.

Drag Strength

four and half star ratingWhile its 6-pound maximum drag isn’t as strong as some of its competitors, it is in the upper echelon of trout-size reels. 5 stars for its drag strength.


Drag Startup Inertia

five star rating
Its drag system is truly world-class.

There’s practically zero startup resistance when a fish starts ripping line off the spool. This works well for fighting big fish but it’s also beneficial when fishing with delicate 6X and 7X tippets that could snap at the slightest hint of resistance. 5 stars for its drag startup inertia.


Line Retrieval Rate

four and half star ratingThe large arbor spool gives it a whopping 7.74 inches of line recovery per turn. The Lamson Litespeed IV has a slightly higher line retrieval rate at 7.76. So the Mirage III has a bit of room for improvement, but it’s negligible. 5 stars for its line retrieval rate.


Corrosion Resistance

five star rating
With fully-sealed drag housing and a high-quality anodized finish, it has impeccable corrosion resistance. Even though this is the trout-sized Mirage, it’s made for saltwater use through and through. 5 stars for its corrosion resistance.



four and half star ratingThe Mirage III is a very light reel, but it could be lighter.





With a final performance rating of 5 stars, an impressive list of high-quality specifications and very few complaints, the Orvis Mirage III fly reel is one of the best large-arbor trout reels on the market and would make any angler happy.


● High-quality CNC machined aluminum frame and spool
● Extremely tight tolerances
● Very large arbor design for fast line retrieves and minimized line memory
● Smooth, powerful carbon drag with very little startup inertia
● Fully sealed drag housing and anodized finish, completely corrosion resistant for saltwater use
● Quick release spool design


● Handle quality doesn’t match the high-quality of the rest of the reel
● High price considering the reel is made overseas
● Not as light as some of its competitors

While it’s on the expensive side considering it’s made overseas, the Mirage III has the world-renowned backing of the Orvis Company who has been cranking out fly fishing products of the highest quality for over 100 years.

But if you’re not completely convinced that the Mirage III is the right reel for you, do yourself a favor and check out the Lamson Litespeed IV — a reel that’s lighter and has a stronger drag.


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Patrick Morrow is a true fisherman, starting at 4 years old, fishing for bream in his small home lake. This initial childhood fun turned into an almost full-time hobby, often traveling the country to find out new exciting waters to fish in. Favorite species to catch are pike and king salmon. When he is not fishing Patrick is a freelance writer and editor for outdoor blogs.


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