Let me tell you the story of the Nautilus. Being an old
English teacher, when I first heard about them I thought "cool, Nautilus,
just like Nemo's sub" and I was looking forward to getting a demo to play
with. First, it was supposed to go to
the Dean with me but the courier messed up and it arrived from Florida 2 days after I left so
it sat on my doorstep for 2 weeks. No matter--the Dean was blown out and I
didn't catch any fish so
I wouldn't have had much fun with it anyhow. Then the Thompson was closed so I
sent the reel north to the Skeena with a friend of mine who only took light speys
to fish on the Bulkley and found the Nautilus 12S too big for these rods. I finally got the reel
back in November and was able to fish it on the Thompson once the river opened.
All the misadventures were worth it though, as I managed to hook a few fish with
it and can now report on its performance.
The Nautilus 12S is one serious reel. Crafted of aerospace aluminum with
stainless steel fastenings, the Nautilus is designed to handle the worst that the
waters can throw at it. The 12S is a saltwater reel designed for big, hard
fighting, fast running ocean species like tarpon, but its size and capacity make
it a perfect match for speys in the 14ft 9 weight plus range. The spool
turns on five stainless steel bearings so it is smooth as smooth can be, and the drag has a huge
range from freespool to bust-him-off that will put
the brakes on anything in freshwater and a whole bunch of stuff in saltwater
too. This is a reel I'd feel safe fishing fresh run chinook salmon in Alaska
and on the Dean, and large Atlantic salmon in the rivers of Europe. The drag adjustment knob on the back of the reel is a comfortable size so that drag adjustments are easily made with gloved or cold hands. The reel foot seems small for a reel so large--but after all it is designed for ocean single handers and it fits nice into all but the largest Spey-sized reel seats
the Denver show, the AFFTA published new reel seat specs, and all new Nautilus
reel seats are made according to these new specs. The new 12S reel seats will be
available later this spring. In the meantime, if your reel is loose in your reel
seat you can shim it with a popsicle stick). And these are large arbor reels so they pick up lots of line in a hurry which is a good thing if you have a fish run at you like I did on the Thompson last fall.
The handle is intelligently designed by someone who must have hung a
few loops of shooting line on reel handles before. While it is long, it is set
flush up against the spool so that if you do hang up a loop or two of shooting line
it won't get stuck down in there--a little thing perhaps, but to me a
really important thing as I've lost a few steelhead over the years this way. Of
course this design feature won't prevent pilot error but it will make it easy to
get any line outta there in case you goof up.
Miles of capacity on these
reels. Here's a RIO 10/11 GrandSpey and a gazillion yards
of backing (50 yards 30# dacron; 250 yards 50# gsp; another 50+ yards dacron):
As you can see--no problem.
Like a few other hi-tech ultra smooth reels the Nautilus has one
small "flaw"--it tends to want to reel itself back up again while you are
fishing. The start up inertia is so low and the reel so smooth that every cast you make causes
the spool to turn and so the reel slowly reels itself back up again, and
if your aren't aware of it you'll notice that after a while you're really
rocketing out the most amazing casts. Well my friends, you haven't suddenly been
transformed into Steve Choate, it is really that you are casting less line than
you were 20 minutes ago. The remedy is simple: every few casts I just pull out a little
line, and in that way counteract the "reel up" effect (the folks
at Nautilus are planning to add an additional feature to the Spey versions of this reel
so that this won't happen).
tested the 12S on a number of rods, including Loop, CND, and Sage in line
weights 8 through 11. On the shorter, lighter rods (13ft or less, 8 weight and
under) the fully loaded reel seemed
a little on the heavy side, but it was a great match for the longer, more
powerful rods. Loaded with a RIO GrandSpey or XLT, the reel was a superb match for my Loop
Grey 11160, the CND Thompson Specialist, and the Sage 10161.
The Nautilus also comes in a 10 and 12, and these somewhat smaller reels would
be perfect for lighter two-handers (my local Nautilus rep tells me his standard
12 holds a Windcutter 7/8/9 and over 150 yards of 30# Dacron).
Oh, and did I mention that the Nautilus is just a
really cool looking reel too? I love the stylized porting on the rear frame that
looks, well, like a Nautilus (the sea creature, not the submarine). Plus you can mix and match the spool and frame
finishes to get a really unique looking reel, like a silver spool with a black
to protect your investment the reel comes in a neoprene field case that did a
good job fending off the rocks thrown from transport tires on the Trans Canada
Highway just outside Spences Bridge last fall.
Nautilus 12S would make an excellent addition to any spey rodders reel bag, and
Nautilus will be a company to watch for further innovative spey reel designs.
special thanks to Kristen and Andreas
Mustad for making this reel available for review, and to Poul Bech for his
unless otherwise noted images courtesy