Hardy ended 2021 with a slew of new products. From a line of exceptional fly rods (which I’ll review in an upcoming piece, so stay tuned!) to a handful of new reels, there’s plenty of shiny, fun new toys to play with for Hardy aficionados. One of those new products which I’ve been particularly impressed with is the Hardy Ultradisc Cassette Reel. It’s lightweight, comes with three plastic cassettes for easy line changes, and has a solid drag that is more than enough for trout anglers and which Hardy is confident will serve big fish chasers, as well.
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 the company still manufactures. After using it in freshwater for large brown trout, the highly-alkaline waters of Pyramid Lake for cutthroat, and in the Alaskan surf for salmon and dolly varden, that Ultralite ASR’s cassette system is finally showing some wear. That’s due to the locking mechanism wearing out (because, of course, I’ve failed to properly clean the reel after a few saltwater adventures). On the Ultralite ASR, you swap cassettes by pressing down on a plastic lever that’s held firmly in place by a spring.
Hardy completely revamped that system on the Ultradisc Cassette reel, and so long as I actually clean this reel, I reckon the cassette system will work just fine for years to come. Instead of a spring-loaded locking mechanism, the new cassette system uses a sliding lever that gently clicks into place. I’m no engineer, but it feels like the combination of a soft-locking system and the weight of the cassette itself is hefty enough to keep these cassettes on the spool.
Whether that’s how or why it works so well probably doesn’t matter. Over the past several months I’ve fished the Ultradisc Cassette every time I’ve gone fishing. The cassettes haven’t slipped, or come loose, and switching between my sink-tip line for streamers to a floating line for nymphs and dry flies is easier than ever. To put it another way—it seems as though Hardy got the cassette system completely right on this go-round.
Integrated line guard
Line guards have been a staple of Hardy reel design for decades, but what you see on the Ultradisc Cassette is hardly reminiscent of the two-screw brass affairs of yesteryear. This line guard is split, meaning line leaves the spool from one of two slim openings. That reduces side-to-side movement of the line as it leaves the spool, resulting in exacting line management, especially when Euro nymphing..
The drag is built around a fully-sealed Rulon system, and is infinitely adjustable. The tiniest of turns of the drag knob will slightly increase outgoing resistance, enabling you to dial in a precise amount of control in any situation. After a few months of chasing trout all over the Green River — with catches ranging from 12 – 20 inches — I’ve yet to meet a fish that out-muscled this drag. For the average trout angler, the Ultradisc Cassette has more than enough stopping power for virtually any fishing situation. Considering that Hardy is packaging the same drag throughout the Ultradisc Cassette reel lineup — which includes models with line ratings as high as 9-11, it seems clear that Hardy believes the drag can perform well for anglers that like to pick fights with big fish, too.
Aesthetics and weight
While it doesn’t play a part in performance, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remark on this reel’s sleek design. It’s no secret that reels are increasingly manufactured much in the same way that flies are — to catch fisherman more than fish. Reels with gorgeous designs sell, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another manufacturer that makes them as pretty as Hardy.
In addition, the Ultradisc Cassette is surprisingly light. While Hardy doesn’t have any official weight published on their site, Devin Olsen over at Tactical Fly Fisher says the 5/6-weight model clocks in at 5.9oz, while the 6/7-weight is 6.4oz. For a reel with such a solid drag and the smooth cassette system, those are impressive numbers. For longer Euro rods, especially, these reels should do wonders for creating a well-balanced rod-and-reel combo.
At $350.00, the Ultradisc Cassette reel is reasonably priced, especially considering the ease-of-use the cassette system (and its 3 included cassettes) provides for switching from one line to another.
This would probably qualify as nitpicking, given that Hardy did such a wonderful job on this reel, but it feels worth discussing the handle. It tapers from fat to skinny as it goes away from the reel, but it’s so short that this taper feels too abrupt. Hardy would either need to make a longer handle, or — and this is my preference — make one that’s an equal width throughout its length. As far as I’m aware, this is the only reel from Hardy that features a tapered handle, and it’s a design descision I’ve had trouble getting behind. While it doesn’t affect the reel’s performance, the handle’s shape does take some getting used to.
Overall, the Ultradisc Cassette reel is a wonderfully versatile piece of gear that has all the stopping power any trout angler needs, and likely more. Whether you’re looking for a new reel for a Euro nymphing rod, or you’re using this on a traditional setup, the Ultradisc Cassette is a solid choice.