Compleat Gear Review: The Hatch Iconic Fly Reel - The Compleat Angler

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June 11, 2021

The 2021 Hatch Iconic Fly Reel

The all new 2021 Hatch Iconic has been one of the most anticipated reels in the past 10 years. Hatch is known for making some of the best reels on the market, reels that combine smooth drags, waterproof housings, and rugged construction in a package that has made them favorites of both freshwater and saltwater fly anglers alike. When word got out that the new Iconic was in the works, many of those same anglers were waiting with bated breath. And while it’s been a long time coming, the Iconic is finally here. This reel has not disappointed and it is safe to say this will be one of the top selling reels for the foreseeable future. This is our take on the new Iconic. Enjoy.

The Backstory

First a little background. The Iconic was “secretly shown” at the Edison show back in February of 2020. It was not on display publicly, but vendor employees could see it if they asked. It was one of those “if you knew a guy” type things - few actually saw it. The planned launch was supposed to be sometime that year but, as we all know, Covid hit and production ceased. Bad timing was to blame and while the reel was kept fairly hush hush, murmurs of a new Hatch reel slowly proliferated within the fly fishing community. A run on all manner of fly fishing gear during the Summer and Fall of 2020 quickly saw the Hatch Fanatic Gen II sold out, leaving no new reels to fill the void. There were other options out there, but diehard Hatch fans were left holding new rods with no reels on them. And, as more anglers had more time to fish, and in many cases more money to spend on gear, demand grew to a fever pitch. Production of the reel resumed sometime in the Winter of 2021 and Hatch has worked around the clock to get the reels built in time for the much-anticipated Spring release. With all the hype around the reel, more anglers in the sport than ever before, and those anglers fishing like crazy, it is a pretty safe bet that this will be one of the hottest reels this year. Here in the shop we’re anticipating this being one of the most sought-after reels for the next year and we hope that production can keep up with demand.

A Full Redesign By One of the Industry Elites

As we mentioned at the outset, Hatch is widely regarded as one of the premier reel manufacturers in the industry today (there are about six others companies that we’d include in this elite group of premier reel producers). Hatch has achieved this status thanks to a number of models: in particular, the Storm series (Typhoon, Squall, Cyclone, Monsoon), and the Finatics, Gen I & II, which have become saltwater staples since their inception. They are trusted by serious anglers targeting serious fish, thanks to their durability, drag capabilities, quality machining, and top tier warranty/servicing. In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say that they have achieved an almost cult-like following with anglers who will only fish with these reels. Their reputation stems from glowing reviews and flawless performance over years of abuse.

Hatch Iconic Fly Reel Review

While the Finatic Gen II was essentially a 2-part upgrade to the Finiatic, the Hatch Iconic is an entirely new reel that’s been completely redesigned. While the aesthetics are quite similar, there are some very significant changes incorporated into the Iconic.

Inside the Iconic

The Drag

The bread and butter of any reel is the drag, and that’s doubly true when it comes to saltwater gamefish. With the Iconic you get one of the best in the business. The Iconic has multiple carbon-filled discs and washers in its drag system. Many other reels use a similar type of drag, but most use fewer discs or even only one disc. More discs are advantageous for three reasons. First, it eliminates startup inertia. Second, it dissipates heat throughout multiple discs as opposed to only one, which reduces the risk of failure. And last, multiple discs lead to a much smoother drag overall. The proprietary hybrid material discs are unique to Hatch and are superior to the standard all-carbon washers used in other reels. This is the smoothest drag Hatch has produced and will be more than capable of either torquing down and stopping fish or protecting light tippet at the boat.

Hatch Iconic Fly Reel Review 2

The one complaint we have heard over the years is that the Finatic did not have enough drag pressure. While a similar drag pressure is found in the Iconic, this reel should still easily be up to the challenge for 99 percent of your angling needs. Only a few notable species that require high running loads for a long period of time would give me any concerns and make me reach for a more species specific reel.

The Drag Housing

The drag housing on the Iconic has also been completely redesigned. The primary purpose of this redesign was keeping water out and increasing rigidity. The housing itself is essentially watertight, not to be confused with “sealed.” Sealed reels will not necessarily keep out water. Watertight drag housings will keep water out, which translates to far less maintenance and increased longevity. Really all you need to do is rinse this baby off and it will perform like new a year down the road. Another benefit of waterproof housings is that the drag curve will remain constant. Have you ever noticed that on a less expensive reel, when you get it wet the drag tends to loosen up a bit? That is because water is getting deep into the stack and lubricating the discs. This can be so bad that even after cranking the reel to its maximum drag setting, the line is relatively easy to pull off. That is compounded when that water is saline. The unfortunate result is that you now have an unreliable drag curve with potentially no stopping power. Oh, and did we mention that having saltwater deep in the drag may also corrode the internal components of the reel? From that point on it is only a matter of time before the reel is useless, inevitably seizing up on you and requiring a rebuild with new components. I have had that happen on some of my other, less expensive reels, which ended up needing to be tossed in the trash. Fortunately, with the Iconic’s watertight housing you’ll never have to worry about that risk.

Hatch Iconic Fly Reel Review 3

Lastly, the drag housing is also no longer a cassette as in previous generations or other reel manufacturers. It is machined directly into the frame of the reel providing a level of stability and durability rarely found in other reels.

Construction

Construction of the Hatch Icon is exactly what you would expect for a reel with a price tag north of 500 bucks. The reel is machined from solid aluminum blocks. That accomplishes three things. First, it makes it far stronger than molded aluminum reels. It will be far more rigid which enables it to take far more punishment should, or likely when, you drop it or give it a good scrape. It will also withstand torsional forces far better as well, and won’t bend or contort when under significant drag pressure. That not only translates into durability, but will also keep the drag performing up to a high standard. Second, the reel will be lighter as a result of not needing to be reinforced with thicker sidewalls, which you sometimes see in less expensive designs. And third, machining the reel out of one piece of solid aluminum means that the tolerances will be much tighter. These things are milled out by robots with miniscule tolerances, and the difference between that level of precision machining versus molded or cast reels is enormous. Is it more expensive to do? Of course. But at least you know what you are getting for your dollar when you buy a high quality reel like this.

Hatch has also updated almost every component on the new Icon too. The handle and counter-weight are now all like metals to prevent electrolysis and galvanic corrosion. The spool nut is now a single piece, unlike the Finatic, which had multiple pieces (in the scheme of things that may seem like a small consideration, but I like the fact that they’ve reduced one more failure point). The spool arbor has been ported to allow for a lighter weight and more complete rinsing of the reel after use. Even the reel seat is machined right into the frame so there are no screws, and no chance of wobble or play in the fit. While that can be a bit of a drawback if you drop the reel and bend the foot, I think the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. Not to mention that should the worst happen, Hatch will fix the reel if you send it back to them.

The anodizing on the Iconic is Type II - that is just about as corrosion resistant as it gets! While there are harder and more corrosion resistant options for reel manufacturers (Type III, for example), Type II is sufficient and it also gives you more color options. It’s a good move that doesn’t give up much and also makes these reels a bit more stylish. Speaking of stylish, the finish on these reels is flawless and you won’t find any dark blemishes or lighter areas where the anodizing did not take hold. Ultimately, you can pick one of four corrosion resistant matte color options to match your rod because, let's face it, who doesn’t want their outfit to look sweet?

The Look

Shop appeal for the Hatch Icon is as good as it gets. They just look good. The finish, porting, and inlaid paint just scream “I’m a damned nice reel.” Oversized handles let you know that this reel means business. Personally, I think this is one of the nicer looking reels on the market, and many of our customers (or at least those who have seen photos of them in advance of their arrival) have felt the same way. If I had to quibble on style, it might be that Hatch missed an opportunity to change the style of their porting, which has stayed basically the same as it was on the earlier Finatic. In fact there is only one change on that front - the porting on the inside of the spool is circular as opposed to triangular like on the earlier Finatic. The text on the front and backside of the reel has been enlarged a bit as well. However, aside from that, the Iconic looks almost identical to the Finatic. A missed, albeit small, opportunity in my humble opinion. While it does still look great, a fresh and updated look would have been nice. In terms of available colors Hatch has decided to stick with their 4 proven schemes, Clear/Blue, Clear/Red, Black/Silver, and Grey/Black. The finish looks identical between each reel and the color consistency looks great. While these will be the first 4 color options available, we know Hatch likes to get crazy with colors so don’t be surprised if we see some new custom colors a year or so down the road.

Hatch Iconic Fly Reel Review 4

Conclusion

So, at the end of the day, what can we say about the Iconic? In short, I think this will be one of the best reels on the market. Based solely on performance it looks like one of the best companions you can have when targeting saltwater and large freshwater gamefish. We are excited that it has finally been released and can attest to the quality and durability of this fantastic reel. While Hatch is not the only quality reel manufacturer out there, they have certainly cemented their reputation as one of the best, as many serious anglers will attest. If you’ve been waiting for it to arrive, the wait is finally over, and if you haven't fished a Hatch reel yet, this is a fantastic opportunity to take your rig to the next level.

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