Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hand made fly reels by William Olson

Hand made fly reels by William Olson

I first met William Olson on a river in the Pacific Northwest in 2004. Rob and I were driving out of steelhead camp towards a mid-day run through a pool, when we spotted William. Rob stopped the car and mentioned that this guy makes his own reels. Sure enough, William was kind enough to show us his reel. It was a classic American s-curve handle model similar to the reels made famous by Vom Hoffe and Bogdan. The first thing I noticed is that every surface was perfect and polished to perfection. There were a few small screw holes that were not filled in, but I was told that he was still tweaking the design.

A few years later I had the privilege of fishing with William. His new reel design was coming along, and I got a demonstration of the most perfect buttery disc drag I have ever felt. In 2008, William decided to go into reel production full time. He designed and built a gear and pawl version of his reel that was a work of art. I had the privilege of hearing it when a chrome hen smashed his waking bomber and flew all over the river. The sound was unique, loud, and clear. William has an infectious laugh and smile, and I almost thought I could hear it in the reels’ singing.

Since then, William has continued to develop and tweak his reels to the finest tolerances and performance. He is a true perfectionist, building one reel at a time, and spending countless hours hand finishing it.

The reels are not cheap, but nothing that approaches art really is. The years that William has spent pursuing steelhead and Atlantic salmon around the world show in his functional and beautiful designs. He puts his passion into every reel.

William’s reels can be ordered through my products site here.


  1. Ahhh. And I'm about to order one....

  2. They look pretty nice but heavy? But I have a real weakness for niche and unique gear that lasts longer that I will. Something to hand on and cherish. Something with soul. And a bit of wabi-sabi thrown in for good measure!In the end, priceless.

  3. Soul.
    I like that.
    As to weight, they are designed for two handed rods, and weight them perfectly. So many modern drilled out hubcap reels are too light.

  4. can they hold a 15' 700 grain skagit head, full spool of slickshooter and 200 yards of backing?

  5. Anon.
    I am sure they will. If you are serious about the question, follow the link in the post to the Redshed fly shop, call poppy and ask him. He would know for certain.

  6. Thanks. I will email Poppy and ask him. They look like a nice reel for my switch rod.

  7. Hey that reel looks really familiar.......oh yeah its mine, lol
    Great site Erik

    Bruce Kruk


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