Shilton Reels Review of the SR9, SR10, SR12 Fly Reels & Saltwater Reel Comparison
Everyone always wants to know about Shilton reels. "I heard they are used a lot in the Seychelles and Alphonse Island for Giant Trevally?" That is correct, they are the reel of choice for remote destinations due to their bulletproof reliability and stopping power. I have been asked many times to review this famous brand that you probably haven't seen much in ordinary fly shops, if at all. These are highly specialized performance fly reels for serious saltwater use. As of the time I'm writing this review we have 27 Shilton reels in stock, so yes, I like them a lot. *If you aren't familiar with how small the fly fishing industry is, that's a huge number of custom reels to stock from just one brand.
Shilton reels are very cool, I own a few myself and I use them all the time. I have also sent them with clients to the Seychelles and other destinations around the world many times, and heard nothing but great feedback from anyone who got one from me.
"Shiltons are the reel of choice for remote destinations due to their bulletproof reliability and stopping power"
Those of you who know me know that I have tested pretty much everything there is in terms of high-end saltwater rods and reels, lines, and so on, and while that may not make me an "expert" by itself, it should at least establish that I have a pretty good frame of reference for which gear feels best and works best. If you're considering Shilton for your next reel, it's a great choice.
There are two different series from Shilton which are for saltwater, and one freshwater series as well. SR series is the top end from Shilton, more modern designs than the classically styled SL series (also a great option). The CR series are freshwater reels which are also very nice.
Overview of the Shilton SR Series Reels:
The SR series are available in SR9 (8wt/9wt/10wt), SR10 (10/11wt), and SR12 (could use it as a big 11wt reel, but it's really a 12+ for monster tarpon and GT's). Don't worry about getting something exactly the right rod size, this series is meant to be able to cover a range of weights. They are very popular for travel to remote fly fishing destinations since they are probably the most durable and reliable of any reels on the market right now. You can literally hammer nails in with these reels.
Speaking of reliable, people of course naturally ask me "Why is it better than other reels?" - It's a big cork drag, very simple and very effective. Tibor and some Abel reels also have a cork drag (previously the Abel Super series but now the Rove), they are proven for decades now and work very well. Shilton just happens to have the largest cork drags of anything on the market. More surface area helps with stopping power, since your drag on these reels basically is just pressing the spool up against the frame of the reel to slow down the fish. Yes, that's it. That's the whole system, and you can get more drag out of them than many carbon fiber sealed drag systems (yes, really). I'm not saying it's a great idea to tighten your drag until the spool completely stops moving while you['re fighting a big fish, but with a Shilton you can do that if you want to (not the case for some other brand of reels). It's simple and it works very well.
Stopping power, reliability/durability, and very nice build quality. What's not to like? Price is comparable to Hatch and other high-end fly reels. Abel is considerably more money but also very nice. Nautilus and Tibor are less money by a little bit (somewhat depends on how you compare the models). Oh and Shilton reels come in a bunch of fun colors in addition to the usual silver or black. Note that Shilton calls silver reels "Titanium" although that is not the material just how they identify the color of the matte finish on the reels. Like how Abel calls their silver plain aluminum finish "Platinum" although to me that would imply a different color than just regular aluminum. Anyway, I don't name the colors but I like Turquoise the best personally, followed by Blue.
If you have any questions about Shilton reels, let me know.
"Where are they made?" - Shilton is based in South Africa where the reels are produced, and then they are shipped to America; Shilton USA is based here as you can probably tell from the name. There is no quality issue just from being made in South Africa (some people have implied this). To me they seem like they were "Made in Germany" honestly, with this excellent build quality I'd believe it. You can tell how nice it is when you pick one up. Shilton USA has a great inventory of both reels and parts right on the East coast at their facility here so you won't need to send your reel to Africa for service or anything. I have never had to send a reel in at all because I have personally seen zero failures in years of selling (and using) these reels. But if you did need something, the guys at Shilton USA are excellent to work with so it won't be any problem at all.
*I plan to introduce a fly reel rental program at some point soon, primarily using Shilton reels because of the durability and reliability. I don't know if I'd want to rent out some of my other nice reels, but these Shiltons are tough enough for sure.
*Fairly obvious disclosure but I make money if you buy a reel from our shop here. I do not let that affect my recommendations, I want people to get the best gear because it is better for you and for me (happier customers and fewer problems for everyone when the gear is great). Doesn't have to be a Shilton but I personally like them. Shilton has given me one free reel before as a very kind gift, but I paid for all the rest myself. Including the 27 Shilton reels currently in stock here at the time of writing this review. I wouldn't do that if I didn't believe in both the quality of the gear and the wonderful people at the company.