Review: Hardy Ultradisc Cassette Fly Reel | Hatch magazine

Hardy ended 2021 with a slew of new products. From a range of great fly rods (which I’ll review in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!) to a handful of new reels, there are plenty of bright and fun new toys to play with for Hardy aficionados. One of these new products that particularly impressed me is the Hardy Ultradisc Cassette Reel. It’s lightweight, comes with three plastic spools for easy line changes and has solid strength that’s more than enough for trout anglers and which Hardy is confident will serve big fish hunters as well.

What works

Cassette system

The big selling point on the Ultradisc Cassette Reel is, perhaps obviously, the cassette system itself. Now I own a Hardy Ultralite ASR, which is an older model that the company still makes. After using it in freshwater for big brown trout, the highly alkaline waters of Pyramid Lake for cutthroat, and in the Alaskan waves for salmon and dolly varden, Ultralite ASR’s cassette system finally shows some wear. This is due to wear and tear on the locking mechanism (because, of course, I failed to clean the reel properly after a few saltwater adventures). On the Ultralite ASR, you swap cassettes by pressing a plastic lever held firmly in place by a spring.

Hardy has completely revamped this system on the Ultradisc cassette reel, and as long as I actually clean this reel, I think the cassette system will perform just fine for years to come. Instead of a spring-loaded locking mechanism, the new cassette system uses a sliding lever that engages smoothly. I’m no engineer, but I feel like the combination of a soft latch system and the weight of the cassette itself is heavy enough to hold these cassettes on the spool.

Whether it’s how or why it works so well probably doesn’t matter. For the past few months I’ve fished the Ultradisc cassette every time I’ve gone fishing. The cassettes didn’t slip or come loose, and switching from my dip tip line for streamers to a floating line for nymphs and dry flies is easier than ever. To put it another way, it looks like Hardy nailed the cassette system perfectly on this round.

Integrated line guard

Line guards have been a staple of Hardy reel design for decades, but what you see on the Ultradisc cassette bears little resemblance to the brass twin-screw affairs of yesteryear. This thread guard is split, which means that the thread exits the spool through one of two thin openings. This reduces sideways movement of the line as it leaves the spool, resulting in tight line handling, especially when nymphing European.

To glide

The drag is built around a fully sealed Rulon system and is infinitely adjustable. The slightest turn of the drag knob will slightly increase the outgoing resistance, allowing you to dial in a precise amount of control in any situation. After a few months of trout hunting all over the Green River – with catches ranging from 12 to 20 inches – I have yet to come across a fish that has outperformed this drag. For the average trout angler, the Ultradisc Cassette has more than enough stopping power for virtually any fishing situation. Considering that Hardy packs the same drag across the entire Ultradisc Cassette line of reels – which includes models with line ratings as high as 9-11, it seems clear that Hardy thinks drag can work well for anglers who like to snuggle up. fight with big fish, too.

Aesthetics and weight

While this doesn’t play a role in performance, I would be remiss if I didn’t notice the sleek design of this reel. It’s no secret that reels are increasingly being made in the same way as flies – to catch anglers more than fish. Reels with gorgeous designs sell out, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another manufacturer that makes them look as good as Hardy.

In addition, the Ultradisc cassette is surprisingly light. While Hardy doesn’t have an official weight posted on his site, Devin Olsen on Tactical fly fisherman says the 5/6 model weighs 5.9 oz, while the 6/7 weighs 6.4 oz. For a reel with such strong drag and a smooth cassette system, these are impressive numbers. For longer European rods, in particular, these reels should work wonders for creating a well-balanced rod and reel combo.


At $350.00, the Ultradisc Cassette Reel is reasonably priced, especially considering how easy the cassette system (and its 3 included cassettes) is to use to switch between lines.

What doesn’t work

To manage

This would probably be called finicky, considering Hardy has done a terrific job on this reel, but the handle is worth discussing. It tapers from fat to skinny the further it gets from the spool, but it’s so short that this taper seems too steep. Hardy would either need to make a longer handle, or – and this is my preference – make one that is equal in width all the way. As far as I know, this is the only reel from Hardy that features a tapered handle, and it’s a design decision that I struggled with. Although this does not affect the performance of the reel, the shape of the handle does take some getting used to.

Last word

Overall, the Ultradisc Cassette Reel is a wonderfully versatile piece of equipment that has all the stopping power any trout angler needs, and probably more. Whether you’re looking for a new reel for a European fishing rod or using it on a traditional setup, the Ultradisc Cassette is a solid choice.