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Nautilus Reels

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Interview with owner Kristen Mustad

Nautilus (@nautilusflyreels) was started in 2003. Our first reel was the CCF – success story comes from popularizing carbon fiber for a drag. Nautilus wasn’t the first to have a carbon fiber drag but made it common to see on big game fly fishing reels. Before carbon, everyone was fishing cork, and if you fished big game fish, you had to fish cork, but it was very high maintenance. CCF means Cork and Carbon Fiber, and we did that to convince people that carbon fiber would work on a reel. Once the market was convinced that carbon fiber would work for a drag, we began using all carbon fiber. No one took us seriously until 2012 when a dealer called and said, “you have a target on your back.” When that happened, we knew that we had finally made it.

WAYPOINTS Podcast: KRISTEN MUSTAD - Reel Design, Technology, and Innovation for the Traveling Angler

Kristen Mustad is the founder and owner of Nautilus Reels, a Florida-based company that strives to make the “world’s best fly reel.” Fly reels are obviously an integral part of any angler’s kit, and they play an incredibly important role when it comes to success in destination angling – especially when chasing large, strong, or exotic fish that demand the most from our gear and equipment. In this episode of Waypoints, host Jim Klug sits down with Kristen to talk reel design, the importance of finding the right reels for the traveling angler, what to look for when buying a reel, different drag materials and technologies, the pros and cons of different types of backing,  and his perspective on the “next big thing” for fly reel design and innovation.

Rapid Fire Questions

What types of fly fishing experiences do you enjoy?

“It’s being out in the woods. Either that’s hunting, fishing, or hiking. I get meditation, peace, tranquility. It’s where I belong. When I was younger, I would tell people I need to live near water or the mountains. Living in Florida, I have water everywhere, but I miss the mountains. One of the most important parts to me is saving up to go on the perfect trip – even if that means not going for a year to save more. I’ll happily fly economy but I’m going to splurge on where I stay. I want good food and good accommodations – I want to be catered to and to be pampered. I’ve worked very hard to be there and I want to go all out when I’m on the trip.”

If Nautilus had a post fishing cocktail named after them, what would it be?

“Man, I always go for a beer first. I don’t drink a lot of hard liquor, but it’s a vodka martini when I do. Dirty, one olive. Secondly, I enjoy rum – a good dark rum and tonic with half a lime squeezed in. Great way to end a day of fishing.”

Why Nautilus reels for fly fishing destination travel?

“As far as Nautilus goes, we provide people peace of mind while on their destination trips. People call to buy spare drag units, and we won’t sell them. Anglers can have complete faith in our reels and that means a lot when you’re halfway around the world on the trip of a lifetime.”

What are a few pieces of gear, besides Nautilus reels, that you never leave home without?

“I’m a sucker for a fly box. An absolute sucker. Flies are the one piece of gear I want to have in excess. I’m actually tarpon fishing tomorrow, and I’ll take 100 flies, but I know I’ll just fish my guide’s flies. But other EDC items would be a small knife and a good flashlight. A good hat, too, since I’m going bald and readers cause I can’t see sh*t!”

Why Fly Fishing Destination Travel?

“It’s unique for me that fly fishing travel has to be somewhere meditative. It’s when your mind is off wandering somewhere else, maybe your vision gets blurry, you just fade away then suddenly a fish eats your fly. It’s getting caught in the daydream that makes destination fly fishing so amazing. To me, being in a boat just doesn’t allow you to get into a meditative state.”

A Day in the Life at Nautilus Reels


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