I won a Ross San Miguel reel in the mid 1990s by winning the Telluride Premier Fly (one-fly) event with cousin (and Flylab partner) Andrew Steketee. (We got lucky and drew the same beat for both sessions of the competition, so we could be thorough and work all the runs.) The cool part was that the event took place on the San Miguel River in Colorado, after which the reel is named, and I have always considered it one of my home rivers. The really cool part was that I was handed that reel by none other than General Norman Schwartzkopf, who had retired after winning the first Iraq war, and was an avid angler and somewhat of a Telluride local who emceed the event. I was awestruck by Stormin’ Norman.
All of which is to say, I have a bias for the San Miguel reel, most of which is due to these sentimental reasons. I’ll do my best to separate myself from all that, however, and will focus on the newer, relaunched version of the San Miguel, which I purchased a couple years ago.
Back in the day, when Ross and Abel were competitors, I would have described the San Miguel as the most “Abel-like” reel in the Ross lineup. With a solid frame and ported spool, sizable drag adjustment knob, beefy internal drag system and a higher-end price tag, the San Miguel was the pinnacle, in my mind, of Ross creations.
Since Ross and Abel are now under the same roof (The Mayfly Group, based in Montrose, Colo., where Ross was headquartered), it made sense to resurrect the discontinued San Miguel after a long, sad hiatus. And this relaunched version still carries the classic look and feel of the original, with maybe a little bit of Abel DNA sprinkled in by way of a stacked and sealed, carbon-steel drag system, a grippier (canvas micarta) handle and a smooth, push-button spool release.
At $675, this reel isn’t cheap, but it’s a classic, a looker and a performer, with arguably the smoothest start-up we’ve tested, and with airtight tolerances and super-functional engineering. A finer reel–at least for trout–would be really hard to find.