Many beginners think that the reel is not so important in bagging a catch. The reason behind is simply a common belief that the only role the fishing reel plays is to store the fly line.
Well, this is not true.
It is extremely crucial in getting a high-quality fly rod, but purchasing the right fly fishing reel to match the flexibility and strength of your fly rod is equally important in securing great catches. “Any fly reel would do” is not the phrase you should think. This is because, when a trophy fish is on the line, a solid flying reel with a smooth drag system can worth its weight in gold. Your reel can be the reason between losing or landing the trophy. When trying to fatigue out a large or monster fish, it is your reel that is going to aid you the most.
Every reel at a given price point provides a unique combination of advantages and disadvantages, just as every fishing situation and every angler do. Take your time, do some research and be sure you understand the differences for each so that you can make a wise decision.
And practically speaking, there is no right or wrong fly reel for a given situation. But there are some better and worse reels for every place, time, and target species. Your favorite ways to fly fish can guide your final choice on which reel will provide to suit your particular needs.
Selecting a Fly Fishing Reels
You may not realize the fact that there is quite a selection of fly reels available in the market. They differ in quality, size, length, as well as in performance. Now, in some examples, spending a whole lot of money might worth it and you may get the best fishing reel available. However, if you look more carefully at the various components of the reels, it is possible you may not have to part with as much money.
Therefore, the key to select the right fly fishing reel is by knowing the different parts and how they work to the overall operation of the reel.
Remember the Rod…
It won’t matter how much time you spend researching about the elements of the reel or how much money you spend for it, if the fly reel is not compatible with the fly fishing rod that you are using, then it’s of no use.
This is particularly crucial in the case of the weight and size of the reel as it links to the balance of the entire system. So, the first thing that you will need to work out is the weight of the rod. This is particularly based on the type of water that you will be fishing in as well as the species of fish you are going to catch. So, for example, if you have a 7-weight fishing rod, you will simply require a 7-weight fly fishing reel.
Knowing the Different Fly Reel Types
The arbor is the distance from the center spindle to where the spool base starts. It is essentially the cylindrical object which can be found at the center of the fly reel. The arbor you choose on will be determined by the kinds of fish that you are looking for and sometimes, the environmental conditions that you are fishing in. Following are some of the arbor designs you can choose from:
Standard Arbor Design: This design isn’t used as frequently anymore, except by traditional fishermen. There is no doubt that the backing of this arbor is not up to the standard. However, the main drawback is the narrow frame which requires coils of very small diameters. As a consequence, the rate of retrieval suffers and results in your line to have increased coil memory.
Mid Arbor Design: The mid arbor design is an improved version of the standard arbor design. This is because, in addition to being lightweight, the frame on the arbor is broader which means you will have greater retrieval rate and there isn’t really as much coil memory. As a cherry on the top, it has a great backing capacity.
Large Arbor Design: As the name goes, these arbors are fairly larger than the previous versions. In spite of this, they are extremely lightweight due to the way they have been designed. Furthermore, the engineering of the arbor results in an incredibly fast rate of retrieval and there is also excellent backing. To top it all off, the coil memory is lessened due to the width.
So in the end, it is really down to the personal opinion and preferences when it comes to choosing the arbor. For example, if you are a novice, you may actually feel comfortable with a smaller arbor. Or, if you like to fish in saltwater, you may find that a large arbor is more useful to you.
The Reel Construction
Fly Fishing Reels are constructed in two different ways – pre-cast or machined. The choice that you finally make really depends on how much you are planning to pay for your fly reels. Machined is definitely the superior option than pre-cast since machined reels are well-designed and carved from an entire chunk of metal. This makes them stronger, lighter and will last for as long as you want them to. Furthermore, in addition to being durable and having a longer lifespan, these reels will continue to perform efficiently. As you already can guess, all of this costs quite an amount which may not be the best option for beginners.
The pre-cast reels, on the other hand, are made from a cast that has liquid metal run into it. This means that the fly reels tend to be a little heavier, although they perform quite well. However, the fact that cannot be guaranteed about these reels, though, is how durable they are and how long they will last. But, they don’t cost nearly as much as the machined reels do, so it is balanced.
Here are some of our top picks that are available in the market and will definitely provide the value for your money.
The Best Fly Fishing Reels We Will Cover Today
1.Piscifun Blaze Fly Fishing Reel
2.Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel
3.Redington Behemoth Reel
4.Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor
5.Sage 2200 Series Fly Reel
6.Wetfly Nitrogen1 Fly Reel
7.Okuma Raw II
8.Galvan Torque Fly Reel
9.Hardy Fortuna X
10.Tibor Gulfstream Fly Reel
Top 10 Fly Fishing Reel Reviews
There’s just one feeling you will get when you look first at this reel from Piscifun. WOW! Truly, they’re made to blow your mind with some real popping colors which are uncommon in the world of fishing. Royal Blue and gold both stand out while the more traditional earthy brown makes a good choice for those who want to keep it on the down low. However, this reel is best for anglers who plan to fish in both fresh and salt water.
Piscifun Blaze Fly Reel features machined components, and a disc cork drag system. Piscifun used CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy to provide the longest durability with all-weather corrosion resistance. It is hard anodized for surface protection. It comes with mid-arbor design, so you get to easily handle fishes. It also provides a great balance between rapid line pickup and backing capacity.
Blaze guarantees that you will have superb startup inertia as well as retrieve because of its multi-disc operation. Plus, since the materials are made of cork along with stainless steel, its drag lasts longer without any rust. Besides, note that the general construction of this reel is made with aluminum alloy, making it an extremely lightweight reel.
Unfortunately, this reel is not ideal to catch larger fish. There is also a chance of inconsistent drag and it could be hassling to people in changing from left to right hand during the retrieve.
However, this Blaze reel has been tempered and cold forged to have better and superior strength and rigidity. It is available in a variety of sizes and weights at a very reasonable price. Overall, it’s well adored by users because of its solid build.
- Mid-arbor design
- The CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy used
- Durable, because of aluminum and steel-built
- Different- vibrant colors available
- Hard anodized for surface protection
- Cold forged and tempered
- Stainless steel drag system and multi-disc cork
- Has multiple sizes, lightweight
- For both left and right retrieve
- Inconsistent drag
- Changing from right to left-hand retrieve can be tricky
- Not recommended for catching big fish
In our 2nd spot is the Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel, which is constructed using heavy-duty steel parts and aluminum. This is the reason why Lamson reels are so durable and reliable. It lasts for really long years.
Many anglers who value precision and speed opt to go for Lamson Waterworks. Being designed with a large size arbor and a small geometry makes it have a really high-speed. The arbor clasps the line; therefore, since it is big, it makes the pulling and retrieves the line faster than the usual. This reel is best for those who are heavy-duty anglers.
Lamson Waterworks enables you to retrieve without knuckle dragging which gives higher control for easy catching. Plus, you won’t experience any snags or wear and tear as frequently because its line is on the reel. Along with that, it works to both right and left-handed people.
The only problem with this reel is the lack of flexibility because it is not ideal for use in saltwater and the drag tends to become finicky.
Lamson Waterworks is also a bit pricier than the other options you will find on this list, but it’s a high-quality reel at a mid-quality price so we wanted to turn your attention onto it. The reel is built with CNC-machined drag system components and has a fully sealed conical drag system, built with the same parts as Lamson’s top-shelf reels. So you get the best of both worlds!
Plus, Lamson also offers some extra spools for the Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel model depending on what size you buy, so that’s a pretty good value. This is a strong built, high performing reel absolutely worth owning for a wide array of fishing varieties. If you are ready to spring money for this one than you’re looking at a high-quality reel which you will own for years! Definitely our pick of the lot!
- Has multiple numbers of sizes
- For both left and right retrieve
- Holds up fine to saltwater as long as you rinse it afterward
- Hardened ball bearing against weather corrosion
- The conical drag system is sealed, so the unit is durable
- The drag system is built with the same elements as Lamson’s high-end reels
- Can purchase aftermarket sleeves and personalize the color of the internal drag housing according to your taste
- Not suitable for saltwater fishing
- The drag can become finicky
- Has a very basic, common look to it. Some may not prefer the appearance
Our 3rd contender, the Behemoth by Redington can perhaps stop an 8-year-old on a bicycle. This reel is an excellent and surprisingly affordable choice for a reel that can handle line-peeling fish in both salt AND fresh water. Redington has used a seriously powerful drag system in this reel that is up for the task of fighting an exceptionally powerful fish.
The Behemoth is built with a non-machined, die-cast construction with the cult-favorite large arbor design. It’s built for speedy retrieves and also to decrease line memory. It has got a seriously bad-ass look in our opinion that pairs nicely with most rods.
The Behemoth has been designed to pick up line fast while fighting hard with running sports fish like salmon, bonefish, and tarpon. The carbon fiber drag is absolutely ready for the biggest challenges and is conveniently built with an oversized adjustment dial for easier handling when things turn wild.
The deep V-spool has been engineered with increased backing capacity while the soft-touch ergonomic handles come very handy for easier operations. If you need something for either salt or fresh water that has some particularly high line capacity, then you should definitely check this one out.
If you need to make the switch, Behemoth Redington reel can convert over to a right-handed retrieve effortlessly. Redington provides a lifetime warranty on this model- testament to the manufacturer’s confidence in the design of this reel. All in all, this is a mean reel when you want to fight with the mean fish that is built mindfully for ease of use and years of fishing.
- Great reel for a beginner.
- Exceptionally powerful drag system and high line capacity for fighting the furious fish
- Lifetime warranty!
- Oversized drag knob for making easier adjustments
- This reel holds up to weather corrosion nicely because of the high-quality raw materials used
- Adjustable carbon fiber drag
- Die-cast construction
- Quickly convert to left or right-hand retrieve is easier
- Large arbor design for speedy retrieve and decreased line memory
- Excellent brake system.
- Drag can lock up unexpectedly.
- The weight of the reel is heavy.
- Some customers complaints about the dimensions of extra spools being slightly off, however, Redington has great customer service to resolve problems.
Our 4th place has been taken by the Orvis Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor. The Clearwater is total cast aluminum with large arbor reel. It has Rulon to stainless steel, stacked disc drag that has some real serious strength. Rulon plastics are well known for their low friction and abrasion resistance so the materials used in the design have no doubt been mindfully chosen for maximum performance.
There’s a positive click drag knob for proper maintaining of consistent settings so your reel never strays from where you want it to be. The clicker on this reel has an awesome, classic sound too, making it more vivid and lively in any intense fishing situation.
This is an extremely lightweight reel, so if you are looking for something that provides some powerhouse strength which can also be paired with a lighter rod, you should definitely consider the Clearwater. Switching from right to left hand retrieve is easily completed, making this a great extra reel for everyone.
So, whether you’re looking for your first large arbor, fishing on a budget, or want a spare or two in the pouch, the new Clearwater Large-Arbor can handle anything a machined reel can and has the ability to completely change the game in die-cast reels.
If you are an intermediate level reel, the Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor will be a smooth and affordable option for you that have an excellent value.
- Easy for an intermediate level user to learn to use.
- Smooth cast and line feed.
- Comfortable to cast from a boat or yacht.
- Very long lasting and durable finish
- Lightweight reel, best for pairing with dainty rods
- Construction is unique and built to take a beating, a good knock around the reel
- No extra spools are given
Sage 2200 Series Fly Fishing Reel is one of the most high-end fly fishing reels in our list. It can be considered as all-purpose fly fishing gear because it comes in various sizes, from 3.3 to 4.3 inches in diameter, and can catch from a smaller species to a monster or big species such as salmon. Options of any type of backing line of Sage 2200 series are available in the market.
Due to the smart design and die-cast manufacturing, the click-drag system is strong, silent and smooth. It does produce click sound, but very soothing, not too quiet or too loud. Dragging is quick and firm, doesn’t jump, and gives you enough control over the fish.
This fishing gear looks really good because of its sleek matte design which can fit any types of a rod. The frame of the reel is extremely long-lasting, being die-cast made. The drag knob is comfortable in hand, fully welded and very powerful.
Sage 2200 Series Reel is pretty easy to maintain, compact and not heavier at all. Also, since its arbor is large, it reduces the line memory which results in a faster pickup. You will have no problem exchanging the spool, plus, you can quickly transfer the knob from right to left with ease. The large arbor design provides you with the option to use hundreds of yards of backing line.
The only issue with this reel is that it feels a bit wobbly at times and its drag is not sensitive. The reel can be used in saltwater, but you will need to pay proper attention to the maintenance after every fishing usage.
- Comes in multiple sizes
- Line memory is reduced
- Spool surface is concave
- Powerful carbon click-drag system
- Large arbor design gives strength and robustness
- Ergonomic drag knob
- Long-lasting and Durable (arguably the most durable on the list)
- Clicking sound might be too low for some people
- Feels a little wobbly
- Not a sensitive drag
In our 6th position, we hold in our list, a beautifully executed fly reel. It is lightweight, performance-driven, and reasonably priced so that it can offer some of the best value in the industry, yet a holding company with those that cost twice as much. It is Wetfly’s Nitrogen1 Fly Reel.
This reel is machined out of bar-stock, solid 6061-T6 aluminum alloy – the same metal used in manufacturing rockets, Formula 1 cars, military weaponry…you get the idea. What these things have in common, is the material that is being used in situations demanding extreme strength, power but with low weight.
Since releasing this reel to the industry, reviews have always been positive. Not only the reel looks beautiful and unique but also performs flawlessly. The disc drag can be programmed low enough to protect even the lightest of tippets as well as strong enough to stop hard-fighting sporty fish. The arbor is designed to hold a little more backing than average reels to give anglers a little more peace-in-mind when you’ve got a bruiser on the other end.
All of Wetfly’s reels come with a Lifetime Warranty. So, if anything goes wrong with it, the company promises to fix it. The Nitrogen1 comes in 4 different sizes to accept line weights, starting from 2wt to 8wt.
- Affordable, reasonably priced compared to higher-end models.
- Quality, no issues regarding assembling or disassembling it.
- No noticeable wear and tear even after multiple usages.
- Beautiful and unique design
- String built, made of bar-stock, solid 6061-T6 aluminum alloy
- Lifetime Warranty
- Weight, the rods may seem a little heavy.
- The drag makes a grinding sound.
More and more anglers are now opting towards heavy-duty reels to tame the ocean’s biggest beasts these days. Okuma Fishing Tackle’s latest fishing reel, the Raw II is built for these anglers who want to use spinning gear simultaneously while battling big fish.
The Raw II drag pressure and is designed from a proprietary, highly corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy. The reel is capable of a heavy drag setting, thanks goes to Okuma’s Dual Force Drag system that has a carbon fiber drag stack. With power and corrosion resistance, the Raw II reels have enough power of taking on the toughest species in the harshest water environments.
Traditional aluminum alloys rely upon anodizing to protect themselves from the abrasive corrosive properties of saltwater. Much of the effort in the industry has been placed only upon enhancing the resistance of a reel’s coating to salt, rather than paying attention to the weaknesses of the base material.
Raw II fly reels high lighten the release of Okuma’s proprietary aluminum alloy. This completely unique and new aluminum alloy, non-anodized shows zero structural or environmental damage after 480 hours of continuous saturated salt spray – a timeline on which average aluminum reach the point of catastrophic failure. Further secured by an anodized base layer, the Okuma Corrosion Resistant Coating process, and a painted surface layer, the Raw II reels deliver a lifespan longer than any other traditional aluminum, providing anglers with an aluminum frame and all-aluminum rotor system that would perform flawlessly for decades.
- Okuma’s proprietary aluminum alloy body and side plate construction
- Made for both salt fresh water
- Durable Construction
- The precision elliptical gearing system
- Quick-set anti-reverse bearing
- Machined aluminum, 2-tone anodized spool
- CRC: Corrosion-resistant coating process
- Hydro Block water-tight drag seal
- Could be a bit heavier than graphite made reels.
In our 8th place is an award-winning reel, The Galvan Torque Fly Reel, recognized for its performance and price. This elite reel was constructed to outperform the competition yet look good while doing it. Its beautiful design has unique cutouts that reduce weight without compromising durability and strength. The dark green looks beautiful and this will be one of your favorite fly reels for foreseeable years to come.
The Torque series was the first to include Galvan’s innovative Torque drag system, a system that has proven to be so reliable and smooth that it’s been incorporated later into many other Galvan fly reels. Whether fly-fishing rivers, lakes, or saltwater flats, the Torque Fly Reel will impress you in every way possible.
Galvin Torque T-5 works best for anglers targeting panfish, trout, or even pond bass. The Torque T-5 comes with a number of high-end features, such as the EZ Grip handle, and with Torque drag and micro tune adjustment system you’ll be able to grip easily without looking at the reel.
And lastly, the Galvan Torque retails for only half the price of reels in its class so you are not just getting a quality reel, you are getting a reel that doesn’t break your bank.
- Large arbor design
- Fully Anodized 6061 Aluminum
- Extremely low startup inertia / very smooth drag
- Smooth Drag
- Easy right hand or left hand retrieve conversion
- Simple spool removal with a push-button design
- Didn’t really stand out in any way
Hardy has a good reputation for high-quality angling equipment and has earned a place on the fishing rods of many professional fishermen, for a longer time than most companies have been making reels. Their materials are superior quality and the machining process leave a sharp, clean, smooth finish that makes their reels a pleasure and fun to use with a styling that flashes back to the classic period of Angling.
This specific reel is a very interesting example of what makes fly fishing such a fun and an amazing sport. Everything about it takes you back to the days of simple reels that were made to actually last. Rather than an average mass-produced reel, these are all handmade. Sure, this makes them more expensive than other reels in the market but the quality is unparalleled.
The Fortuna X is made from high-quality aluminum that is constructed for great strength and durability. The arbor is a large size being right in the middle of too large and too small. The reel also comes with a great neoprene cover which is large enough to slip over a rod as well as the reel. The handle has a very comfortable feel; the whole reel is undoubtedly beautiful with a little touch of sophistication. Everything is reversible for either left or right-handed use.
If you want a classically styled reel that is durable and will last a lifetime, this heritage edition of one of Hardy’s classic designs is a game-changer. The reel is outstanding, great quality, and will last for the longest time. This reel is a top pick for various reasons; you can use it for any fishing of the largest lakes and saltwater
- Highly Respected Name
- Lifetime Durability
- Low Weight
- A nice drag knob
- Amazing, industry-redefying drag strength
- Low start-up inertia
- Built for big-game
- Arbor size is not large
- Typical problems with the cast and painted reels
- Quite Expensive
In the 1970s, Ted Juracsik designed a fishing fly-reel that set the ultimate standard for what a saltwater fly-reel should be. Applying his skills at machining, he constructed what is crucially the first high-performance modern fly reel. Over four decades after he designed the original design, Tibor is still producing reels with unmatched quality, performance, and craftsmanship.
The Gulfstream reels are machined out of the premium grade aluminum which is made to last. Everything that should be sealed is perfectly sealed including the drag system which is one of the best on the market! This reel is designed to take on hard fighting; fast running saltwater fish, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t do take its part in the dual game and pay a double duty in your local trout stream.
With features like the sealed cork drag system that is consistently lubricated to the clutch system which makes the reel easy to switch from right to left-handed, this is the reel to have. Every part of this fine piece of art is designed keeping the professional fisherman in mind that will serve well for more than a lifetime of use.
Tibor has defined high-quality fly fishing reel for nearly half a century and the Gulfstream is the principle example of why they have managed to be one of the leaders in the industry for so long. There are some really strong links and mechanism in this system that you can be sure it can take on any species of fish you are planning to go after while fishing.
- Clean, Modern Look
- Designed by the Best
- Great Weight
- Good Line Capacity
- Best Drag System on the market
- Very Expensive
The principal job of a fly reel is to store the fly line with an appropriate amount of backing. Please note that Fly Reel won’t have any particular effect on casting. So you may wonder why there are so many fly reels available on the market. This short “buyer’s guide” is designed to help you land the best fly reels according to your needs.
Saltwater vs. Freshwater
If you are fishing in freshwater, a cheap or traditional fly reel will do the job. However, if you are fishing in the saltwater, you need a fishing fly reel that is saltwater friendly. You need a water-corrosion resistance fly reel to face the harsh saltwater condition. Otherwise, your freshwater fly reel will get damaged in saltwater very soon.
A fly reel which can handle a number of fly lines is not the best reel for fly fishing. You need to select a fly reel which enables you to hold a sufficient amount of backing and fly line for the weight of the fly fishing rod you are utilizing.
Otherwise, it will be a very poor experience and you may not be able to fish properly. For example, suppose you are using a weight 6 fly rod, you require a fly reel that can accommodate the fly line weights from 4-6. This is the area where the size of the reel matters.
Another important matter is to check the drag system. While an expensive fly reel will support with excellent drag system, a cheap fly reel may not. If you are planning to buy a cheap fly reel, you need to check whether the drag system has some quality or not.
Note: A good drag system will help you to fight with big fishes. On the other hand, a cheap drag system will make it tough for you to battle with active fishes. However, if you are planning to fish trout, then an inexpensive drag system can do the job.
While deciding a fly fishing reel, you need to check out if it is made of high-quality raw materials or not. A fly reel made of high-quality raw materials (such as aluminum) will ensure high durability, performance and lifetime. Usually, in the market, most fly reels with cheap price come with a fragile body, but the reels mentioned in our list are bound to last for a long time by withstanding harsh marine environments.
Experts say that you actually get what you pay for. Though most top notch, premium quality reels are expensive, we have managed to find some of the best affordable fly fishing reels for you. If you have money to splurge, then you don’t have to worry. However, if you are not ready to break the bank, there are really some excellent cheap fly reels available in the market from different manufacturers like Piscifun and Redington.
- You can throw a super lightweight fly over long distances using reels. Instead of using the weight of the lure to cast, with fly fishing reels you can use the weight of the fly line. This makes it effortless to cast out microscopic flies, like midges, over great distances.
- You can present the fly reel being more delicately and quietly than you can a lure with a spinning outfit. If you are good at casting well, you can drop the fly reel right on top of the fish without alarming them. With using a spinning reel, it’s almost impossible not to make some sort of noise/splash when the lure hits the water, but with fly reels- no noise is made whatsoever.
- Large arbor designed reels include bigger coils of the line coming off the reel, which enables easier casting with fewer tangles. Plus, drags are more consistent because as a fish pulls outline, the effective spool diameter remains nearly unchanged.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What should I consider when buying a fly-reel?
Answer: The first aspect of a fly reel that has to be taken into consideration is durability. When you buy a fly reel, you are buying it for life. Weight is also another important consideration, especially with a setup that you often would be carrying into the backcountry. You should also think about its capacity. There is some value to a smaller capacity fly reel and its lighter weight but it should be customized to the type of fishing you intend to do.
2. What size reel I should be buying?
Answer: Most fly reels sold in the market is with a notation like 5/6. This is the size line the reel is considered to hold. You should put your best to match the reel, rod, and line of the same weights to get the optimal performance from your overall setup.
3. How important is quality in a fly-fishing-reel?
Answer: While it is true that a fly-reel is only a platform to hold the line and has no direct effect on the cast and very little on the retrieve, some qualitative features will still make a huge difference. The nature of a fly-reel may mean that a cheaper reel can fish much more like an expensive fly-reel type but may lack the durability and smoothness in dragging, which are so important.
No matter which reel you plan to purchase, it’s important to match your reel, rod, and line weight together to get the best fishing experience. The technology behind fly fishing reels has only gotten better and better, and any of these fly reels mentioned above would make a great choice for amateur and seasoned anglers alike.