Every fly angler knows the importance of having a great fly fishing rod. Having the best fly fishing reel that works well on its own and works well with the rod is also important.
The reel does more than just hold your fly fishing line and backing. If you hook a large, fast-swimming fish, the quality of your reel is what will determine the outcome. You also want a well made, durable unit that will serve you well for a long time. Plus a stylishly designed reel that looks good strapped on your rod is a pleasure to fish with.
The best thing is that you don’t have to break the bank in order to acquire a great fly reel. There are some very good fly reels with friendly price tags. We’ve compiled a list of the best fly fishing reels that are highly rated by fly fishermen and also offer the best value for money. We’ve also provided a buying guide outlining the most important features to look for when picking a fly reel.
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
How To Choose The Best Fly Fishing Reel – Buying Guide
There’s a wide variety of good fly reels designed to suit a wide range of needs and preferences. When searching for your personal best fly fishing reel, here are the considerations to make to ensure you choose a good one for your rod, target species and fishing conditions so it will perform well on the water and offer you the best value for your money.
The best fly fishing reels either have a machined aluminum or a die cast aluminum manufacture. CNC machined reels are the ultimate in quality, strength, durability and lightweight usability but they are the most expensive. They are precisely made from a single block of aircraft grade aluminum through a computerized process. The surface is then anodized for abrasion and corrosion resistance.
The manufacturing of the more affordable die-cast aluminum reels involves pouring molten metal into a pre-formed mode. This produces fly reels of good quality, strength, and durability but not as light, strong, shatter-resistant or as refined as machined aluminum reels. Another weakness is that die cast reels cannot be anodized to resist corrosion.
Size is a very important consideration when shopping for a fly fishing reel. First of all, you will want to ensure that the line weight capacity of your reel matches with that of your fly fishing line and that of your rod.
You will also want to choose a size that matches the strength and flexibility of your fly rod so you have a well-balanced fly fishing combo that’s easy to use and performs well. Choose a lightweight reel for a light rod and a heavy reel for a heavy rod.
The reel size should match your target species and type of fishing. A small reel is sufficient for small fish while large, saltwater game fish demand a large reel. Ensure the spool has the capacity to hold the length and weight of fly line and backing you will be needing.
Last but not least, you want a reel size and weight that feels good in your hand. A lightweight fly reel is always preferred as it minimizes fatigue when fly fishing all day.
All fly reels feature the same round shape but there are differences in the details. The most important aspect of design to pay attention to is the arbor design. The arbor is the cylinder that spans from the center spindle to the base of the spool and holds the fishing line.
Standard arbor designs hold plenty of backing but have narrow frames so the tightly coiled line has a high memory and develops coils. A mid-size arbor design has a widened reel to offer a good line capacity, reduced line coiling and hasten retrievals. Most modern reels have a larger arbor design that holds a lot of line and backing, offers extremely fast retrieval rates and reduces line memory, as the line is wound in lower coils.
A design where the spools are interchangeable is great if you will be using different types of lines with your reel.
The drag system on a fly fishing reel offers resistance to prevent fast swimming fish from pulling all the line off the reel. If you cast flies to entice larger fish or often find yourself using your reel to fight fish, you need to ensure that you choose a reel with a powerful and smooth drag system. A disc drag will serve you best in this case.
A good disc drag system is easy to adjust and offers a wide range of adjustments so you can fine-tune the amount of drag applied and keep a smooth and consistent pressure on the fish. The best saltwater fly reels have a sealed drag system to prevent corrosion and abrasion.
If you’ll be going after small fish and using your hands to bring them in, a simple click and pawl drag system will be sufficient even if it doesn’t allow you to make adjustments or offer a lot of stopping power.
Left Handed or Right Handed
Which handle orientation is the best for you will depend on what hand you use to handle the reel when retrieving as well as your personal preference. Since most fly fishers are right handed, handle the rod with their right hand and retrieve with their left hand, most fly fishing reels are left handed. If you’re left-handed and retrieve with your right hand, you might find a right-handed reel more comfortable. All the best fly fishing reels offer easily reversible handling.
The arbor is the wheel at the center of the reel where the fly line and backing are wound. There are small, medium and larger diameter arbors. Small diameter arbors are sufficient for small fish, lighter setups and for beginners. However, the fly line wound around the small diameter has a high memory and tends to coil. Larger diameter arbor reels are best suited for large, fast swimmers and saltwater fishing. They hold a lot of line and backing, offer extremely fast retrieval rates and the formation of coils is minimized because the line is spooled in wide, loose coils. It also performs better at cranking when handling big fish.
Line Weight And Size
Every fly reel you come across will have its fly line and backing weight and size capacity indicated. It’s essential to choose a reel whose line weight and size rating match that of your fly fishing rod and line. If you use a 7/8 weight line, you need a 7/8 weight rod and your reel should also have a 7/8 weight rating too. Check the spool’s line capacity to make sure the reel can hold the length and weight of fly line and backing you will be needing for your type of fly fishing and target species.
A quality fly fishing reel is essential to ensure it performs smoothly, holds up well and lasts a long time. CNC machined aluminum reels are the highest in quality. Die-cast reels also offer good quality at an economical price. Quality drags and bearings are fully sealed to protect them from corrosion and abrasion.
Q: What Makes a Great Saltwater Fly Reel?
A great saltwater fly reel has a sturdy machined aluminum construction and is equipped with powerful features such as a strong and smooth drag system, a large line capacity to handle the bigger, stronger and fast swimming saltwater species and a large arbor design for high-speed line retrievals.
Its bearings and drag system are fully sealed to prevent saltwater and sand from corroding the sensitive internal components and ruining their performance and durability. But even the best saltwater fly reels require a thorough rinsing after exposure to saltwater to keep corrosion at bay and so you can enjoy your purchase for a long time.
Q: What is a Cassette Fly Reel?
A cassette fly reel is a type of reel with a spool frame that works with plastic spools and allows for easy swapping of spools making it convenient for use with different types of fly lines such as floating lines and sinking lines. Plastic spools are cheap and lightweight and a cassette fly reel is a great choice for competition trout anglers, fly anglers on a budget and those on the go.
Q: Why Do I Need A Special Fly Fishing Reel?
You need a special fly fishing reel because fly fishing is its own type of fishing with its own specialty equipment that should all be well matched for a great performance. You need a fly fishing rod, fly fishing line, flies and a fly fishing reel to match. You can’t use a spinning or baitcasting reel for fly fishing.Related Reviews: Spinning Reel Under 50 & Baitcasting Reel Under 100
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Now that you know what you’re looking for, selecting the best fly fishing reel for your rod, your target species and your style of fly fishing will be easy. The fly reels on our list are all good quality, deliver a top rated performance and offer great value for money. Once you find the perfect fly reel for your needs and that works well with your fly fishing rod, you’re ready for whatever your fly fishing day has in store for you!
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Do you think that having a great fly reel is important? What kind of fly reel works best for you? Have you used any one of the reels on our list? Let us know in the comment section below.