Best Fly Fishing Reels

If you’re going to get a fishing rod that essentially acts as an arm extension while you’re fishing, isn’t it a good idea to get a fly reel that behaves in a similar way? 

A lot of people believe that when you’re buying your fishing equipment that you need to spend a fortune on getting a fantastic fly rod, but don’t spend as much money on their other gear.

Yes having a good fly rod is essential but it’s also just as important to ensure that you buy the right fly reel that will go hand in hand with the flexibility and strength of your fly rod.

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Best Fly Fishing Reels - Reviews

Hardy has a great reputation for creating some fantastic quality angling equipment, and their gear has made its way onto the rods of many different professional anglers for an incredibly long time. Their reels are made from high quality materials and they have a smooth, clean finish.

They are also very enjoyable to use as they have a styling that looks very similar to classic angling equipment. 

This reel in specific is a prime example of equipment that can make fly fishing such an enjoyable and excellent sport to take part in. There are so many things about this reel that really reflects the days of simple reels that were designed to last a long time.

Instead of mass produced reels that you see so commonly on the market now, these reels are still made by hand. While this does mean that they are more expensive, it also means that they have an unrivaled quality. 

The reel consists of high quality aluminum that is designed to provide great durability and strength. It has a decently sized arbor too that is neither too small nor too large. The handle consists of solid wood that is very comfortable to use, and it’s also very classy. You can reverse it too to use whether you are right or left handed.

If you are looking for a classic design fly reel that is going to last a long time, then the heritage version of a Hardy classic design is a fantastic choice. The reel is incredible, with a high quality construction and it will last for such a long time that you don’t even need to think about buying another one in a few years.

There is a good reason why this is our top pick, and you can use it for pretty much any fishing except for the salt water and large lake areas.  

Pros

  • Classic design
  • A well respected name that’s been operating for many years
  • Very durable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • It’s expensive
  • It has a smaller line capacity

The Orvis Mirage is a great, modern looking fly reel that we just know you are going to love. Orvis are definitely not new on the fly fishing market, and they have been making some of the best reels on the market for many years.

Despite their good looks though, this isn’t all there is to this reel. If you don’t have the money to spend on a highly priced premium reel, then you will be happy with this reel.

This reel is very technologically advanced, featuring a full aluminum frame and spool, a titanium shaft, and sealed carbon and steel drag that will allow you to pull in even the most stubborn fish.

The reel is even mil spec hard coat anodized, so the chances of damaging this reel are pretty slim. It really is a marvel!

Honestly, this reel has so many game changing features that you will be hard pressed not to consider it. It has a great drag that shows the sheer power of the latest technology employed, and this is durable while also having a lot of power behind it.

The reel is also reversible and it has a comfortable over molded handle. It also has a spool that is well sized which is great for longer running saltwater fish.

If you are looking to try out something new and want little splash of the modern in your fishing gear, then there aren’t many reels that are going to rival the Miragge in quality and price.

As usual, Orvis has outdone itself in a market that has so many brands that are tried and tested. 

Pros

  • A modern attractive look
  • Good warranty
  • Durable
  • A large line capacity

Cons

  • A little heavy
  • Colors can be a point of contention as it’s very subjective

If you’re looking for a good quality reel on a slightly tighter budget, then you will be happy with a Redington product. While they haven’t been around for as long as some of the other models we’ve covered on this list, they have been around for quite a while and certainly have everything figured out.

The Rise reel is one of the coolest new kids on the block and it’s well loved among a lot of experienced anglers.

This reel doesn’t cost that much and despite that fact it still managed to do everything well. It’s not quite as lightweight as some of the other reels on our list but it only weighs a little over 5 ounces.

This means it’s much lower than the weight of a lot of reels and for a fraction of the price. It’s a durable and sturdy reel that has plenty of features that make it a good investment for your money. 

The frame of the reel is made out of aluminum with a spool that is die cast, meaning it’s lightweight and doesn’t cost a lot but the spool is slightly weaker. If you combine this with a skeletal frame, it’s important that you are more gentle with the reel.

As long as you aren’t throwing it around all the time, then you shouldn’t have a problem. It’s unlikely that a fish will break it. 

As far as other features go, the reel surely doesn’t disappoint. It has an advanced carbon fiber drag system that has a lot of torque, so you can stop even the largest fish from getting away. It also has reversible dual handles and it features over molded rubber grips that means you will have a decent purchase and the retrieve is smooth.

If you are fine with having a reel that is slightly less durable, and surely you are likely to be okay with it after knowing about Redington’s lifetime warranty, then this is a fantastic reel at a decent weight.

If you enjoy hiking and fishing or just want some of the lightest gear you can possibly get, then you will be unable to beat this reel in that department. 

Pros

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Features a large arbor
  • Affordable
  • Light weight

Cons

  • Not the most durable
  • Drag can be worn away after a while

If you are in the market for an entry level fly reel because you are just starting out on your angling journey, you will be well suited to the Piscifun Sword fly reel. This is a fantastic reel as far as value for money is concerned, though it is by no means the holy grail of fly reels.

Piscifun are quite well known for their entry level spinning reels, but they do have some that are much better made. The Sword is more of a middle ground option, and it’s very well loved by customers on Amazon. 

The Piscifun Sword features a mid-arbor design with a lot of line capacity and a pretty good line retrieval weight. It’s pretty lightweight too! It also features a concave spool shape which is what contributes to the strength of the reel as a whole. 

As far as construction is concerned, this is a pretty interesting reel in the sense that it looks like a high end reel, and it’s even constructed with the same kind of technology you tend to find on high end reels.

Both spool and frame alike consist of 6061-T6 aluminum and this is cold forged and tempered in order to provide even more rigidity and strength. 

The reel is pretty durable and has some protection against corrosion and rust, and can come in a black, titanium or gold finish.

It is also made with a left hand retrieve, but if you would rather work with a right hand retrieve then it’s pretty simple to change and the reel comes with detailed instructions on how to do so.

It does have some pitfalls, however. It’s not the best as far as drag strength is concerned, and it’s not the smoothest drag either.

Despite this it’s still a very decent fly reel overall and it’s definitely one worth considering if you are just getting into fishing and don’t want to spend too much money.

Pros

  • Corrosion resistant
  • Decent line retrieval rate
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • The drag is unsealed
  • The start up on the drag isn’t particularly smooth

The Redington Behemoth fly fishing reel is yet another well priced reel with a bunch of fantastic features it can boast. If you are looking to have an intense battle with a particularly large catch, the Behemoth will help you do that, if the name didn’t already suggest as much to you already.

This reel has an impressive drag package of 30 lbs of capacity or weight. It’s enough to rival even its more high end competitors, in fact, but for only a fraction of the price. 

So, let’s talk about the drag. It’s pretty much the centrepiece of this reel, and it’s definitely a good enough reason to invest in this product. The drag is more than sufficient to pull in pretty much any fish that you are likely to be on the hunt for with a fly rod.

You could even drag in some sailfish. Even with some of the largest fish the Behemoth is up to the task. Of course, the drag doesn’t only have stopping power. It also has decent startup inertia, operating very smoothly.

Perhaps it doesn’t operate quite as smoothly as some reels that you would spend quadruple the price on, but nevertheless it is pretty smooth if we do say so ourselves. 

Perhaps the most controversial element of the Behemoth is its die cast design. Not all anglers are fond of die cast reels as not all die cast reels are equal and some manufacturers can use die casting as a way to mass produce poor reels.

This is not the case with the Behemoth. The Behemoth has impressive structural strength which supports the 30 lbs drag that we’ve already touched upon. 

Of course, we can’t mention this product without touching upon the price. It’s very affordable if you don’t quite have the budget to spend on a high end reel, and yet it still provides a great performance for an enjoyable fishing experience.

Furthermore, the product features a lifetime warranty so if you are in doubt, just know that you are protected in case anything happens to go wrong.

As with any other fly reel though, there are some downsides that we feel we should mention so that you have a full picture of what you will be getting. Firstly, the reel has an unsealed drag.

While a sealed drag isn’t necessarily a requirement, it’s still handy to have it. In addition, it also has a polymer coated reel handle which is definitely nice to use but it can grab onto the fly line.

Other than these things, it’s a pretty decent option if you want to drag in those bigger fish without spending a fortune.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Strong structural build
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Unsealed drag
  • Polymer coated reel handle

Best Fly Fishing Reels - Buyers Guide

How Can You Choose the Best Fly Reel?

When you’re trying to buy a fly reel, there are two factors that are especially important to consider.

Firstly, a fly reel should be able to function well. There’s not much of a point in buying a stupidly expensive reel just because you found it at bargain price in your local thrift store.

Secondly, a fly reel should also be able to function well with your own fly rod.

It can be pretty simple to ensure that you’ve covered your bases with the first point, but it’s a little more tricky with the second parameter. Even if the fly reel you select is great, you always need to make sure that it’s still going to work well along with the rod you plan to use it with.

So the question remains: how do you ensure that you have a fly reel that will be a good fit for your fly rod?

To start with, you should try to ensure that the weights of the reel and the rod are going to match together, For instance, you shouldn’t try to match together a 4-wt trout fishing rod along with a 7 or 8-wt reel that should be used to handle much larger bass and trout. 

Furthermore, you will also need to ensure that the fly reel is added with your fly rod in the proper position. If you will be casting with your right hand then the chances are that you will want to buy a reel that faces left.

This is because right handed casters are able to retrieve the line with their left hand. It’s worth looking at getting a version that can be changed for the right to left and back. 

As a result of this, a lot of fly rods are sold in bundles which include the fly roc, the fly reel and the fly line. Buying a bundle like this is a fantastic option for beginners and for anyone that isn’t quite sure about how to pair together a fly rod and a fly reel, and with this option, everything is already combined together and will work without out any extra work on your part. 

With that being said, if you are looking to fine tune your fishing setup and if you want to improve your style of fishing, then we suggest getting fly rods and fly reels separately. This means you will have access to so many more options, and you will have more flexibility in your set up as a whole.

When you are making the decision about what fly reel is going to be the best choice for you, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Things like the start up inertia, reel weight, and the drag system are all important elements that define what makes a good fly reel.

Start Up Inertia

The start up inertia is the amount of resistance to movement that happens at the moment when a fish will take the line. When certain things are resting they have a habit of staying resting, so the reel will not perfectly begin spinning at maximum speed once the line is taken by a fish.

This measures the amount of drag that happens up until the reel is smoothly spinning at the maximum speed. As an example, the start up inertia of a car will measure the amount of time it takes for it to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour.

A reel that has a lower start up inertia is also going to have less stopping power, so having a reel that is balanced in both of these categories is important. 

There are a lot of anglers moving towards buying the lightest fly rods. While this is a rather larger trend that may not seem that important, it is backed by science. Every cast you make, your arm is going to have to lift every single little bit of weight in the rod.

The more your rod weighs to more work it’s going to be for your arms to lift it by the end of the day. To save a little more strength to be able to cast more, rods are much lighter now than they ever have been before.

Along with this idea, reels also need to be lighter to be able to match the rod you are using. It’s vital to ensure first of all what your fly rod weighs and check whether the reel you are going to be using will balance with it in weight. 

Drag System

The drag system is the amount of resistance that is put on the spool in order to stop the line from getting pulled away when your fish starts to take the line. A lighter drag system is going to put minimal drag on the spool of the reel, and so when the fish targets the line it won’t put pressure on the fish.

This can make it a bit more tricky to reel the fish in. On the other hand, a system with drag that is too high is going to put excessive pressure on the spool which can snap the tippet or leader. 

A decent reel should be able to release the drag in order to low and tighten up to high. This means you will have the option when you need it and it can be easily changed, usually by using a large cog positioned on the outside of the spool.

The reels that are slightly better quality tend to have the cog positioned quite nicely. They usually only require a little turn to loosen up or tighten the drag. 

Other Considerations

There are a few other things that are worth considering when buying your fly reel. Firstly, it can be quite useful to have a mid to large arbor as this means you can retrieve the line quite quickly and you don’t need to worry about the line coiling up.

It’s also important to consider corrosion resistance, especially if you are planning on partaking in some saltwater fishing. Some anglers simply don’t remember to rinse their reels off after use and so the bag can be left behind for a long time sweating.

This means it’s not likely to last as long because it will speed up the decaying process. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How important is it to have a good quality fly reel?

It is certainly the case that a fly reel is merely a platform for holding your fishing line and it doesn’t affect the cast, and hardly affects the retrieve, some aspects of quality are going to make a bigger difference than others.

Of course, if you have a cheaper reel it will fish more like an expensive fly reel, as is the nature with a fly reel. With that being said though, it may not have the same durability and it may not have the smooth drag that you are likely to find in some of the more expensive options. 

What are the main things to consider when buying a fly reel?

The first thing that you should consider when purchasing a fly reel is the amount of durability that it has. When purchasing a solid fly reel, you are essentially getting a product that will be your life long companion on the open waters.

It’s also important to think about weight, and it’s even more important when you have a fishing setup that you may be carrying for long periods into backcountry areas. 

In addition, think about the capacity. In light of the previous point, smaller capacity reels do have some value and they are more lightweight, but you need to ensure that they will fit with the kind of fishing you are planning on doing.

What size reel do I need for my fly fishing rod?

A lot of fly reels are sold with a notation, such as ⅚. This is the amount of line the reel is supposed to be able to hold. It’s important that you try your hardest to ensure that you get a reel that is the best possible fit for your rod and line.

They should be around the same weights so that you are able to get the best performance with the set up that you have.

How can you fight fish with a reel that has a very small handle?

If you haven’t already gone fly fishing, you may be surprised when watching the way that fly fishing actually works. You are able to use them to fight the fish in, but the majority of people end up fighting the fish by hand by choice instead of reeling it in, which is what you see while fishing normally.

It can take a while to get used to and it does require a little bit of practice, but it’s definitely worth it for all the enjoyment that you will get from it! 

What different drag systems are there?

One of the oldest drag systems is the click and pawl system. This system has been used for over a hundred years! You don’t really need to know the mechanics of how it works, but it is most certainly important to understand the durability it has. This kind of system can last many, many years. 

Modern systems, on the other hand, incorporate a plate like system which is a little similar to what is used in spinning gear. They can sometimes be made with the older style with a steel or cork, or with modern plastics instead. The later systems tend to fish the same, mostly. 

Why are there so many fly reels that also come with extra spools considering the fact that they are only able to hold one line weight?

It can be hard to understand the different types of line when you are completely new to fly fishing. While your reel and rod set up may only be able to handle one weight of line, you may be caught in a situation where you need to switch between sinking line or floating line, or you may even need to change out from a weight forward to a level line.

It can make this process a lot easier to have a number of extra spools at your disposal.

What are the differences between a salt and a freshwater fly reel?

In short, there aren’t really many differences between the two. Some manufacturers make a couple of specific reels that you can use for a certain environment, but really you can use any reel that has corrosion resistant parts like brass or aluminum in either of these environments.

You should try to avoid steel when fishing in salt water though. The only difference other than this is that a lot of salt water reels incorporate a larger arbor and more line.

Conclusion

Regardless of which reel you choose to purchase, it is vital to match together your rod, your reel and your line weight so that you can get the best possible fishing experience.

As technology in fly reels has improved through the years, fly reels have gotten so much better. Any of the fly reels we have discussed above will be a fantastic choice both for amateurs and seasoned anglers. 

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