Manufacturing a Fly Fishing Reel

We recently had the opportunity to visit Nautilus Reels at their manufacturing facility in Miami, Florida. While we have our fair share of experience using fly reels, and even a few Nautilus’s, we knew very little about how they were engineered and manufactured. Kristen Mustad, Owner of Nautilus Reels, was good enough to spend a few hours of his time showing us around and is an excellent host. He let us peek behind the curtain so to speak and see every step of the manufacturing process. They do almost everything in house, including machining spare and replacement parts for their own machines. What we found most impressive was the iterative nature of the R&D process.

Table full of the new nautilus reels x-series before they are finished

The best description we can think of for Kristen is that he is a “tinkerer”. We are sure that is a common trait among his peers, and something necessary for any business owner and inventor. His never-finished attitude has lead to some very useful innovations and uncompromising quality. Seeing what these guys do firsthand was an education in manufacturing, CNC machining, materials research, and inventing. Their newest reel, the X-Series, has a great structural and aesthetic design but what most people don’t know is that is was also purposely designed to minimize the number of machine operations and to allow the use of a rectangular bar instead of a cylinder of aluminum. Ultimately, for the end consumer this means faster production times, lower waste, and a better reel at a lower price than was possible before.

Nautilus reels drag stack cutaway to show exactly what makes these reels so smooth and why the startup inertia is so low

If you don’t have any experience in the world of precision CNC machining check out this video for a look at what goes into manufacturing a one piece aluminum fly fishing reel. Nautilus isn’t alone in the space, there are a few to choose from that are made in the USA but Nautilus is among the elite and particularly worthy of a careful look. Watch the video to see what goes into these reels.

Nautilus reels logo at the nautilus reels factory in Miami Florida


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