I saw my first Hardy fly reel years ago while I was fishing the lower section of Oregon’s Rogue River. The reel was a Hardy Princess and the following year I was the proud owner of a brand new one. The Princess was introduced in the l950’s and 60’s in a stable of seven fly reels that Hardy called their lightweight series. Features included: A right hand crank that could be switched to left hand if needed, similar adjustable drag systems with a clicking sound that is special only to Hardy fly reels, and a machined aluminum “foot” that is dovetailed into a reel frame of cast aluminum and riveted for added strength. All models featured unique but simple chrome line guards a beautiful gray finish and a removable aluminum spool.
The Hardy reels in the lightweight series that are no longer in production include the Princes (1953-2003), Zenith (1960-2003), St Aidan (1964-2003) and the St. Andrew (1961-1964). These models, like many other Hardy reels that are no longer being produced will only increase in value as time passes. This is one reason I believe that if purchased with care on the used market these classic fly reels can be a good investment and a fly-fishing reel you can use and enjoy. The Zenith, Saint Aidan, and the Saint Andrew were all larger fly reels that included all the lightweight series features and were originally designed for Sea Trout fishing in Europe. They have stronger, adjustable drag systems with larger fly spools for heavy fly lines and more fly line backing capacity. Although sometimes difficult to find, these reels make very nice vintage Steelhead fly reels.
There are three lightweight models that are still in production, the Flyweight, the Featherweight, and the LRH lightweight. These updated versions of the classics are now machined from high quality bar stock aluminum but still have all the features of the early models. They can be purchased or ordered from most quality fly shops.
One of the most popular trout fly reels in the lightweight series has to be the LRH lightweight. The “LRH” is the initials of Lawrence Robert Hardy, who, no doubt had some influence in the lightweight series. I believe that the LRH is also the fly reel that is featured on the Federation of Fly Fishers logo. The LRH is just about ideal for most trout fishing applications. It has a nice adjustable click drag system with the distinctive Hardy “click” sound, and it can hold fly lines up to a WF-6 floating fly line or a DT-5 and about 75 yards of fly line backing. Extra reel spools are also available if the angler needs to make use of different types of fly lines during a fishing outing.
The next fly reel to consider in the lightweight series is the Hardy Princess, only available in the used market. The Princess is slightly larger than the LRH and has a spool diameter of 3-1/8″ that will hold a WF-6 or a WF-7 fly line and 100 yards of 20 lb.fly line backing. This reel also has the same type of adjustable drag system as the LRH and extra spools are also available on the used market The Princess can handle larger fresh water game fish, on rivers and lakes and is also a good “all around” fly reel that can be used when fishing streamers or fishing other types of heavy flies.