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Hardy has been making fly reels as long as anyone and we have been a fan of Hardy from day 1 at Trident. The SDSL replaces the little talked about SDS in the Hardy lineup and sits between the hardcore Fortuna and the freshwater oriented Ultralite series. While I always thought the SDS was a fabulous reel, it seems like the Hardy marketing team just forgot about it and I doubt if we sold 5 throughout its lifetime. They’ve stepped it up bigtime with the SDSL and we’re excited to see how it performs.


8-Weight Shootout Full Results



8.8 ounces. One of the heavier reels.





While the SDSL lacks the massive drag of the Fortuna, its 10lbs are no slouch. Because it’s got a hard stop on the end, all of those 10lbs is actually usable! That ranks the SDSL in the top 10 in terms of usable drag. Unfortunately, with a mere half turn this drag drops below a pound, losing over 90% of its power! Back it all the way off and you’ll be looking at a free-spooling .16lbs. It’s another case of a reel that lacks the necessary adjustability.

The SDSL also lost some points for having a bit too much startup inertia.

Drag Test Graphs




We’ve come to expect great sounds from Hardy. Heck, they practically invented a great sounding fly reel. The SDSL doesn’t really live up to these expectations. It’s a little too muted.


Spool & Retrieval Rate

The SDSL just screams middle of the road here. It picks up line at 8.9 inches per turn and, despite being labeled a “6/7/8” can hold a very reasonable 300 yards of backing.


Looks & Ergonomics

The SDSL is a good looking reel, but it’s not going to turn any heads. It’s got the very familiar finish that we’re used to seeing on many overseas built reels. On the ergo front, we really would have liked to see the Fortuna’s great big game handle on the SDSL. The current handle, while adequate, just leaves something to be desired. It’s the same story with the drag knob. It’s big enough to grab, but has a slippery surface and that makes it just a bit too hard to turn on the top end.


Finish and durability



While it took scratches like a champ, the SDSL seems to have a softer finish and/or be made of softer aluminum than some of our other reels. The pot marks from the drops are much more noticeable.



Lifetime to the original owner + $35.


Price: $399



While this reel has been dubbed the “Hatch killer” by some, I was pretty skeptical. While not a bad reel, the SDSL is just a touch behind the competition across the board, and that kept it from being a real competitor in the shootout.



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  • Great, historic brand
  • Reasonable price



  • Not a lot of drag adjustability
  • Just left us wanting a little bit more across the board