Nautilus CCF No.8 Review

Nautilus CCF No.8 Review

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Angler: F Davis
Make: Nautilus Fly Reels
Model: CCF No. 8

Rod weights: 7 – 9 (and #10 – #12 if you are desperate)
Years fished: 4

Weight: 246g / 8.7 oz
Frequency: 150 days a year (2010 – 2012), 30 days a year (2013 onwards)
Failures: yes (drag almost seized due to sealed drag letting water in); slight corrosion on thread of the drag tightening post.

Manufactured: USA

Price: $ 500 retail
Parts replacement cost: drag tightening screw: postage to States, free replacement

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This Bohar had to pulled out of several coral caves before I could land it, the drag held as needed!


My Nautilus family.
My Nautilus family.

– sealed drag
– ability to communicate with factory
– smooth drag
– easy to change spools
– perfect size/weight for an #8 or #9 rod
– no click while reeling and a very pleasing screaming reel noise as a big fish takes off 
– capacity more than enough for flats fish that run fast and far (think bonefish/permit)
– great drag strength
– good service from manufactor (to date)
– USA made!

– the brand is poorly represented in South Africa
– can’t swop left/right hand retrieve – must be sent to factory
– sealed drag means limited self service – must be sent to The States for full service
– drag post can corrode
– average arbor width in comparison to similar reels from other brands
– slightly on the heavier side
– small drag knob


I realise that the CCF No.8 is getting on in years now. It has been replaced by the CCFX2 which seems to deal with a couple of the cons listed above. There’s also the  NV reel to have a look at. However, I love the CCF No. 8. I worked this reel extremely hard while I lived in the Seychelles – it literally lived on the boat and in the salt and sand.

I am HARD on my gear. I think the majority of South African salt-water anglers are too.

Because I do the majority of my fishing on foot, a sealed drag seemed a no brainer. I have often been criticised about putting my reel in the sand, it seems a South African habit, but I’m happy to get my reel sandy and wet if there’s a trophy fish that needs attention!  I have a feeling that guys like me aren’t in the forefront of a reel designer’s mind – for any reel to get used almost every other day of the year, be submerged in the salt and left lying on the sand, bumped around in the back of my bakkie (pickup) and to often only get a brief wash after long day of work is not a normal occurrence for most reels.

The sealed drag drum, out for a clean.

The fact that there was only one failure during two and bit years of hard fishing in tropics impressed me.

A reel failure is always a negative thing. And reflects badly on the brand. The failure, I believe, came from the O-ring on the staff failing and compromising sealing system. This led to a gradual leaking of salt water into the sealed drum. Over time this tightened up and caused the drag to be become difficult to tighten and ineffective.

The drag drum slides onto this staff and the tightening rod through the middle, the o-ring is seen close to the base of the staff, it was this o-ring that failed.

The corrosion of the tightening post has left a bit of play in the drag in the system, although not enough to make any noticeable difference in drag performance.

Corrosion on the thread. It must be remembered that this reel was used almost everyday for two years. It worked hard.

However, the problem was eventually solved with some patience. I soaked the drag drum in a water dispersing solution and lubricant and worked it loose. It took a few days of soaking, drying and turning but it worked. The treatment loosened and smoothed out the drag beautifully and it has so far been working effectively again. It now runs without problem – smoothly and happily.

The No. 8 is still my favourite reel for #8 – #9 work and I’m not planning on changing it! The reel is about to be sent to Nautilus for the long overdue overhaul and I look forward to getting it back.

A lot has been said about sealed drags. I love them. However, as a hands on, I’m a ‘service my own reel kind of fisherman’, it frustrates me that I can’t get into the inner workings of the drag. The sealing mechanism is reliant on an o-ring on the drag staff that seals its port in the sealed drag drum. If this goes, as mine did, it lets salt water in and it’s damn hard to get it out. However it took loads of abuse before it gave me any trouble.

The sealed system also means that I cannot comment specifically on the workings of the famous CCF drag. The description of the drag from Nautilus reads: “Marrying Cork and Carbon Fiber (CCF), we were able to mitigate the negatives of both materials: The high startup inertia and high maintenance requirements of cork, and the heat build up of carbon fiber.” But I can say that it is exceptionally smooth with super low inertia start up. I must also admit that I’ve felt the drag heat up to any worrying temperature – even when catching big Farquhar bonefish, one after the other.

I’m probably liable to have Nautilus shout at me, but when the drag failed I opened up the reel as much as I could without forcing anything.  The drag pin and nut work in a rather simple manner to effectively tighten up whatever that secret mechanism in the sealed drum is.

From what I can figure, the sealed drum holds the one-way bearing and is tightened by the drag tightening post. The axial load on the one-way bearing seems to be absorbed by a thrust bearing on that lies above it in the system. If you look at the picture below, you can see what I’m presuming is a thrust bearing on top, followed by the oneway bearing. Below that I’m not sure – somewhere must lie the carbon fiber and cork drag plates. I wish I knew!

A limited look into the CCF sealed drum.

I particularly like the quick-change system for changing spools and have never had the screw on knob loosen.

Another positive for me the solid construction. Five screws hold the drag staff in place – there is zero play and the spool will always, short of being dropped off the second story, run smoothly. The reel is machined from quality materials and each is individually marked with a serial number.

The five screws and drag adjustment knob indentations. Machined and precise.
The hollow drag staff.
The reel without a spool. The spool fits very snugly on the six star pattern on the drag drum.

I consider the vented design of the reel rather sexy and it looks good on my old Scott SAS. They are becoming a bit of a vintage pair but together have accounted for 80% of my flats catches.

The warranty is about to be tested when I send it back for its service, so I’m hoping Nautilus come through on their side.

The above POV vid, shot on a head mounted goPro shows how my No.8 stops an 86cm GT in its tracks (okay I did have to run after it a little but the point is made quite clearly – the drag works)

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104cm of Giant Trevally on the little No.8. The reel did Nautilus proud.

Coming back to the drag. On a Farquhar trip I got caught in quandary. I wanted a second #12 weight stung up but only had one #12 reel. So I cut a line short to fit onto the smaller No. 8 spool and attached it to my S4s #12. The reel dealt with several Giant Trevally that day, including a 104 cm bruiser that ate my fly a metre from my rod tip! Have a look at the video below of the No.8 dealing with a 86cm Giant Trevally – the drag is almost on lock down and I have to literally run after the fish a couple of times.

The CCF is a serious drag and it is extremely high on my list for the upcoming replacement of my #12 reel. Living back in South Africa and maintaining a normal routine life style means the reel will also fish less – I don’t think I will ever need to replace my No.8 after the service it will be getting and neither do I want to!

UPDATE: The real was returned by Nautilus with a brand new drag. It’s literally a new reel and continues to work in the Salt around South Africa and elsewhere. I can only complement Nautilus on their fantastic service and look forward to my continued use of the No.8.

Fly fishing for bonefish in the Seychelles
The Old Man with a cracking bonefish as the No.8 presides quietly over the situation from his shoulder.

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