I am new to fly fishing and was wondering if any of the Orvis reels are good quality? Before starting research on a rod and reel Orvis was the only company I had heard of. How does the quality compare to some of the names Ive seen such as Abel, Lamson, Hardy, Galvan, etc.
I'm not an expert, but one would have to define "quality". IMO, Orvis makes fine reels. I have several. I also have reels from Allen, too, which I find to be of good quality.
Orvis is a big name, but they didn't get to be a big name by selling junk. I think they are on the upper end of the gene pool (and you'll pay for that upper end of the gene pool). There are other manufacturer's that make better reels for specific things, like Lamson or Abel for saltwater. I'm not endorsing them as I don't own any, but when you do enough research, you'll see what floats to the top rather quickly.
Let me start by stating that I have a 'reel addiction problem'. I have way more than I will ever use or need, but I just cannot resist acquiring ones that catch my eye, with hopes of matching them with future fly rods
I have owned several Orvis reels (Battenkills, Old CFOs, Large Arbor Battenkills etc.) & never once had a failure or issue in terms of breaking off a fish due to reel drag failure. I also happen to own and like Ross & Lamson reels.
Ultimately, your decision should be based on cost, aesthetics (to your eyes) on the fly rod & balance. I don't really don't need a high tech carbon disc drag for trout (steelhead, etc are exceptions) unless I am fighting them in streams with large amount of branches etc where they can break you off. Having said that, I have fished with anglers who have subdued an angry steelhead in the tight confines of the Pere Marquette with a simple click drag reel.
Saltwater fishing is an entirely different ballgame and one probably needs all the latest in reel technology.
Another point to consider: Orvis & Ross have excellent warranties. I advise taking the time to visit a local fly shop (if you have one closeby) with your fly rod and see which reel matches it well.
They are not cheap reels nor are they top of the line reels. Some of the reels you mentioned like abel and galvan are high end reels that are still hand machined and are smaller companies. Therefore you get a better reel with more attention to details and these companies focus only on reels not the entire industry.
The new Orvis reels are nice, and will do the job just fine, but not in the same class of precision quality as Abel, Galven, Hatch, or Nautilus. Everyone has different tastes and requirements though, and if you're chasing 10" brook trout, there is absolutely no need for an incredible drag system. Looks can make a big difference, and balance on the rod can be important (depending on taste). Check out each reel, filled with line, on your rod to find out which feels best to cast.
Orvis reels are good. There are a lot of good reels out there now. Look for features you desire over a spread of a lot reel brands,,and it you see it in an Orvis...I am positive you can trust the quality. They stand behind their products as good as anyone. Personally, I really , really like Orvis. But I have other brands of fly fishing gear too. This is the Golden Age of being about to get good quality from almost all companies.
I've found Orvis has good customer service and I've found their reels very useable. However, I could say the same about a number of companies including Allen, LL Bean, and Lamson (just got my Konic back from being serviced - quick service!). I got a battenkill mid arbor for my 8wt because the price was right and it had a good reputation.
Otherwise, the reasons I've gotten Orvis over the other companies is the aesthetics, I think the Battenkill Bar Stock is a great look for my 2wt (below) and the CFO on a bamboo. The other brands have reels that would work well, but I wouldn't like the pairing as much. For some it doesn't matter, but once I've spent time thinking about colors of thread wraps, grip material and style, wood for reel seat insert, and color of hardware I want a reel that fits the aesthetic for me.