Retailer Review: Nautilus X-Series XS Fly Reel

Our gear tester at Jesse Brown’s Outdoors claims that good things can come in small packages, proven by the Nautilus XS Fly Reel.
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Nautilus X series fly reel

The Nautilus XS gets the Giga Arbor made famous in the Nautilus big game saltwater feels. The Giga Arbor has grooves machined into the spool allowing for the reel and fly line to shed water faster, thereby improving line drying times.

The average angler can’t walk into a shop and throw down hundreds of dollars for a fancy new rig. But when a product offers new innovation, better durability, and affordability, it’s hard to resist. 

The Nautilus Reels X Series fly reels offer freshwater anglers a lightweight, strong, fly reel with a smooth action and readily-available stopping power. Offered in three models: XS (2 weight-3 weight), XM (4 weight-5 weight), and XL (6 weight-7 weight), the X Series lineup offers fly shops and anglers alike value and versatility.

I've tested out the XS model. Rated to handle smaller weight fly lines in the 2-3 weight class, this CNC-machined reel can easily be up gunned to heavier line if your cast needs a boost or to handle more aggressive late season species. 

Even in the smaller line weight classes, large arbor reels have become commonplace. Large arbors allow for faster line pick up. Why is this important? The sooner we can bring a fish to net, then safely and properly release it, the healthier that fish (and the fishery) will be. This, by no means, takes the thrill out of fighting a pugnacious native brookie. Instead, it allows us to be good stewards of the water, while also potentially landing more fish as now. Who doesn’t want their efficiency to improve?

The XS also features the SCF-X Teflon and carbon fiber disc drag system. Disc brakes are ubiquitous in automobiles and mountain bikes. That trend is making its way throughout the fishing industry. In this case, Nautilus has adapted one of its most important features into its entry-priced reel. Such a drag system, complete with 21st century thermoplastics that are nearly indestructible, repel water and contaminants and improve your chances of controlling the fish on the other end of the line. 

Don Yager, of Jesse Brown's Outdoors, rigs a Nautilus XS reel with a line.

Don Yager, of Jesse Brown's Outdoors, rigs a Nautilus XS reel with a line.

Why is it selling so well at Jesse Brown's Outdoors?

All of those features—available in a black or titanium colored reel—start at $275 for your customer. Custom shop colors are available, but increase the price. Reels with similar features typically retail for $350 to $400, making them just out of reach for many anglers. Lower-priced options typically lack the fit, finish, and leading-edge technology that Nautilus has packed into the XS. As such, the XS reel price is spot on.

For the retailer, we get to enjoy 40 percent margins. What’s even better than those margins, though, is the ease with which this reel goes out the door. All models of the X series account for more than 30 percent of all of our reel sales across five brands in our showcase display. We have also found that this series attracts new anglers, veteran anglers, and those seeking the best deal they can find.

I speak from experience: the Nautilus XS reel has been one of the most important additions to the Jesse Brown’s Outdoors fly-fishing department in years. 

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