We’ve Reviewed the 7 Best Fly Reels for 2023

Best Fly Reel Overall
Redington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reel, Multipurpose Fly Reel for Freshwater and Saltwater, Large Arbor and Adjustable Drag, Gunmetal, 5/6
Editor's Pick
Sage Click Series Fly Fishing Reel, Freshwater Large Arbor Fly Reel, Adjustable Click and Pawl Drag Design
Best Value
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Feature 1
Diecast fly reel
Larger arbor diameters
Fully sealed drag-clutch bearing
Feature 2
Great for beginners
Lightweight and minimalist
Narrow spool for less line stacking and increased backing capacity
Best Fly Reel Overall
Redington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reel, Multipurpose Fly Reel for Freshwater and Saltwater, Large Arbor and Adjustable Drag, Gunmetal, 5/6
Feature 1
Diecast fly reel
Feature 2
Great for beginners
Editor's Pick
Sage Click Series Fly Fishing Reel, Freshwater Large Arbor Fly Reel, Adjustable Click and Pawl Drag Design
Product Name
Feature 1
Larger arbor diameters
Feature 2
Lightweight and minimalist
Best Value
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Feature 1
Fully sealed drag-clutch bearing
Feature 2
Narrow spool for less line stacking and increased backing capacity

The best fly reels are an essential part of your setup. Fly fishing requires almost constant action on the fly reel and fast responsiveness.

As with conventional reels and spin-cast reels, many brands on the market offer reliability and ease of use.

Best Fly Reels

Fly fishing’s origins can be traced back to 200 AD. Since that time, fly fishing gear has come a long way.

Many of the new fly reels are made of aluminum, which eliminates the risk of heavy corrosion found in many of the older-style fly reels.

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Fly lines are much more responsive, and flies themselves are more realistic than past flies.

Today’s fly reels work just as perfectly for saltwater fishing as small creek fly fishing and large river fly fishing.

In this article, I will cover several brands of the best fly reels, how to care for them, how to store them, and how to string and use them.

Best Fly Fishing Reels Reviews

These are our top picks for the best fly reels!

1. Redington Behemoth Reel

Best Fly Reel Overall

Redington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reel, Multipurpose Fly Reel for Freshwater and Saltwater, Large Arbor and Adjustable Drag, Gunmetal, 5/6
  • BEHEMOTH FLY REEL: Combines the most powerful drag in its…
  • QUALITY DESIGN: The unique, un-machinable, die-cast…
  • HEAVY DUTY DRAG: A super-heavy duty carbon fiber drag…

This is a diecast fly reel, which is why you’ll save on the cost. Most of the more expensive reels are machined and have a better anodization process.

If you’re getting into the fly fishing game, this would be a great reel that will last you a few years until you’ve gained some technique and want to upgrade your setup.

This is the best fly reel that would make a great loaner reel in the future as well.

2. Sage Domain

Best Fly Reel for Saltwater

Sage Click Series Fly Fishing Reel, Freshwater Large Arbor Fly Reel, Adjustable Click and Pawl Drag Design
  • CLICK SERIES: Sage’s CLICK Series reels are a performance…
  • LARGE ARBOR: Our large arbor designs allow for faster line…
  • CLICK & PAWL DRAG: The proven performance of the adjustable…

Brands matter. You’ll see too many new companies on Amazon that have not proven themselves in the saltwater domain with the experts in the field.

Stick to brands like Sage and Nautilus.

I would say probably Sage Domain and the Nautilus CFF-X2 would make a great saltwater fly reel for you.

A dozen others would qualify, but if we look at the best saltwater reel, it’s probably going to be in the $400-$800 range or even more.

3. The Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III

Best Fly Reel from Orvis

The Orvis Hydros SL challenges everything you know about fly reels. A super large arbor means quick retrieval rates.

A sealed carbon drag—the clutch bearing is fully sealed inside the drag mechanism. This means this reel is ready for whatever conditions you choose to throw at it.

And we made the drag stronger with zero start-up inertia and an asymmetric drag knob for tactile, no-look drag adjustments. A narrow spool means less line stacking, and we added an increased backing capacity. Combined with an ultrafast retrieval rate, this puts you in control of the fight. Imported.

Other features include:

  • Large arbor quality fly reel
  • Fully sealed drag-clutch bearing
  • Narrow spool for less line stacking and increased backing capacity
  • The ergonomically designed asymmetric drag knob
  • 3x stronger drag with zero start-up inertia

4. Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel

Best Fly Reel That’s Lightweight

Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel, Lightweight Design, Large Arbor and Oversized Drag Knob, Freshwater and Saltwater, Silver, 5/6
  • RISE FLY REEL: The RISE is an elegant, lightweight fly…
  • LARGE ARBOR: It features a u-shaped large-arbor for quick…
  • EASY RETRIEVE: Thoughtful details like the twin molded…

The all-new RISE continues Redington‘s ongoing quest to think beyond the bounds of traditional fly reel designs.

It features a u-shaped large arbor and a compact carbon fiber drag system that offers smooth fish-stopping torque.

Lightweight design shows through the modern aesthetic of the RISE. And thoughtful details like twin molded soft-touch handles and oversized drag knob help the fly reel perform in the hands of any angler.

Other features include:

  • CNC machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design with quick-release spool
  • Ultra-large arbor design for quick line retrieve
  • Smooth, compact carbon fiber drag system
  • Twin molded, soft-touch ergonomic handles
  • Oversized drag knob for easy adjustment

5. The Ross Reels Animas Series Fly Fishing Reel

Best Ross Reel

Ross Animas Fly Reel, 4/5, Matte Black
  • FRAME/SPOOL MATERIAL: 6061-T6 proprietary aluminum alloy
  • Fully machined, 1 piece frame spool, 1 piece spool, handle,…
  • DRAG MATERIAL: Delrin 500AF with impregnated Teflon -…

Animas River falls high from the rugged San Juan mountain range in Southwest Colorado. And is the breeding ground for territorial browns and piscivorous rainbows.

The Ross Animas Fly Reel does not let wild fish roam, unlike its namesake. But makes them submit to your playing hand with a liquid-smooth drag system. That protects light tippets from big, finicky fish that demand perfect presentations.

Fully machined aluminum frame and spool hold up against the abuse all anglers can dish out. While the durable, self-lubricating drag requires no maintenance. And will perform in both fresh and saltwater fisheries.

The quick-release spool can be switched out when a line change is in order. And the handle has a reverse taper for increased comfort and control for those extended battles with unrelenting fish.

Other features include:

  • Material: 6061-T6 proprietary aluminum alloy
  • Drag System: Delrin 500AF with impregnated Teflon
  • Backing Capacity: [3/4] 75 yards, [4/5] 100 yards, [5/6] 150 yards, [7/8] 200 yards, [9/10] 250 yards
  • Diameter: [3/4] 3.125 in, [4/5] 3.25 in, [5/6] 3.5 in, [7/8] 3.875 in, [9/10] 4.25 in
  • Left and Right Handed Operation converts

6. Galvan Torque Fly Reel

Best Galvan Reel

Galvan Torque Fly Reel (Green, 7)
  • Galvan Torque Fly Reel | 7WT | Green – Made in USA

This fly reel is light yet strong.

The dark green is beautiful, and this will be one of your favorite fly reels for years to come. With quality like this, you’ll be able to pass it down from generation to generation.

Galvan Torque retails for half the price of fishing reels in its class, so you’re not just getting a quality reel…You’re getting a fly reel that won’t break your wallet as well!

What Are the Different Fly Reel Types?

Arbor is the part of the spool that the line is tied to. All Arbors are in the center of the spool; note we don’t use the word middle of the reel; instead, the center is the proper nomenclature.

Three Types of Arbors

  • Large Arbor
  • Mid Arbor
  • Standard Arbor – which we’ve had for a long time.

Understanding Large Arbor Reels

Large Arbor fishing reels came out in the late seventies to early eighties and hit the United States in the mid-eighties through Sage. They were manufactured by the Loop in Sweden, making great rods and reels.

They were marketed by Sage and branded as such. Large arbor reels primarily give the advantage of not having the diameter of the line on the real reduce a great deal as the line is taken out.

As a fish runs and takes the line out, the diameter of the line around the arbor is reduced. When you reduce by half, you increase the strain to pull the reel by three times. So if you had a six-pound tippet and you’re fishing for steelhead tippets, the front part of the leader, which is where we measure, you know, what it breaks at.

Say we’re running a six-pound tippet, and that fish runs and takes us down to half of the line. Well, what has happened now is if we had our drag set at two pounds, we suddenly have six pounds of pressure to make the reel spin, and bang, the fish is off.

Large arbor reels mitigate that by using larger loops. Another advantage might be that they have a faster retrieval rate. We sometimes retrieve with the reel, in certain cases, such as Barracuda, fishing, and whatnot, but that’s less than a 10th of one percent of the fishing we do.

The primary advantage is that it keeps the pull on the line in the strain against the drag, even if it gives a much smoother drag regardless of the drag system. Whatever drag system you have is improved by a large arbor reel.

YouTube video

Understanding Mid-Arbor Reels

Mid-Arbor reels came out probably 10 or 15 years later, maybe ten years. And companies like Ross, for example, started coming out with mid-Arbor reels. Large Arbor reels at the time tended to be a little bit delicate, and they also had a kind of gamely.

These reels weren’t aesthetically pleasing to some because they were sometimes twice the diameter of a standard arbor fly reel. The mid-Arbor reels tended to be slightly wider; therefore, the overall diameter of the reel stayed pretty close to a standard arbor reel.

But you got a lot of the benefit of a large arbor reel in that the fish is not reducing the diameter of the line on the arbor as much as before. Most mid-arbor reels are relatively wide for their size.

Standard Arbor Reels

There are still many standard arbor reels out there, and most companies have at least a few, and there are still folks that prefer those, and they’re not at a horrific disadvantage. You need to learn how to use the tool.

The formula tells you what to set your drag out for whatever kind of fishing you’re doing.

And if you’re concerned about that, if you’re fishing species where drag is critical, you should know where to set the drag.

Fly Reel Drag Systems

There are three main ways of slowing a fish down. We got to slow him down, or he’s just going to take everything with them.

Click and Pawl Drags

A click and pawl was the most popular type for a long time. Interestingly, there are still a fair number of those reels out there being manufactured.

There’s a little, triangular piece of metal inside the reel called a pawl, and there’s a little gear on the reel, and it rotates against a spring, and it slows down the primary advantage that was if you stripped line quickly, it wouldn’t give you a little backlash.

You can backlash a fly reel by pulling offline too fast or if a fish runs hard.

It gave a little bit of drag, and they were somewhat adjustable and not that effective as far as being a real drag. And this is where real skill came in because some fantastic fish were caught on spring and pawl reels.

You’d be amazed, marlin, tarpon, everything we’re hooked on those reels. These were people who fished a lot and knew how to use the tool.

Disc Drags

Fenimore might’ve been the first to do it, but it doesn’t matter who was the first. It made reels a lot smoother and a lot more predictable, and it made them more adjustable. When you started dealing with fish, like bonefish that can run…

Bonefish tend to have one or two hot runs, and when they’re first going, you have to be smooth if, if that thing is hiccuping, if it’s catching and then letting go, you can backlash the reel again.

But also, you’ve got to protect that, tippet. And if it’s chugging out there and not smooth, you can break the tippet. Disc drag started with cork or leather, and now they’ve got Formula One brake technology that has gone into some of the designs, so they’re super smooth and adjustable.

Exposed Rim Fly Reels

The other cool thing is that some people are exposed to rims. Expert Fly Fisherman Sean Woodburn loves spring and pawl reels with an exposed edge or a disc drag with an exposed rim.

I like to set my drag relatively light, and I like to use that rim, and I use my fingertips on that rim, and I’ll use that to control the fish. I like that connection with the fish. That’s something that takes experience; I’ll tell you what the first time people tried to do that with the bone fish, they usually lose the fish…I did.

How to Know What Type of Fly Reel and When?

Men fly fishing in a river

The main key point to choosing a fly reel. Is to pick one that can hold the necessary backing and line for the weight of the rod you are fishing with. If you purchased a five-weight fly rod, choose a fly reel that will accommodate line weights from 4 to 6.

Most fly reels will be available in different models to accommodate a range of line weights. Just make sure that you find yours within that range. Choosing the fly reel’s correct size will ensure that it holds an adequate amount of backing. For that time, the fish you hook makes the run of his life.

What is Quality?

What distinguishes a $400 reel from a $50 reel is fit, finish, and superior materials, so there’s a lot more artistry or higher technology.

One thing or another. A lot is going into these reels, and the finish is critical. Not all anodizing is equal and better reels have better anodizing and many different types of processes out there, so drag is part of it. Besides fit, finish, and superior materials and craft, the drag is what distinguishes a three to $400 fishing reel from a $50 fishing reel.

Honestly, I would rather have a $50 fishing reel with a significant drag than a $400 real with excellent finish and blah, blah, and a lousy you drag.

Back in the old days, before we had all these fantastic companies like Fin-Nor and Billie Peyton and Seamaster, who were the great pioneers in fresh and saltwater reels, there were also companies making aftermarket drag kits.

You could take your Pflueger Medalist, which is still under $100. You could retrofit it with a better drag. There are people out there catching sailfish and marlin on those reels.

Those are reels made out of stamped metal and not that sturdily constructed. But by God, they’d catch those fish with those good drags.

How Are Fly Reels Made?

Man holding fly reel

Most fly fishing reels are die-cast or injection molded until you hit a specific price point.

They might have a mechanical finishing process to make them look completely machined. There are still a lot of pretty decent reels out there. The Medalist, for example, is stamped. 

There’s a little more to it. Although lots of reels are machined, many reels are made to look like they’re machined more than they are.

Also, remember that aluminum falls apart and salt unless it’s anodized. Same thing with anything that has magnesium in it, but magnesium alloys hold up well in salt.

There are a number of reels out there that look anodized but are not. This, again, is what you’re paying for when you’re starting to break that $150-$200 price range.

You’re paying for quality anodization. There are reels, though, in the value points that are anodized, but it’s probably not very good anodizing because it costs money to do it right.

Line Diameters

Diameters are very precisely controlled. They do vary considerably, but fly lines are by no means a guessing game. They’re the most controlled type of line in the world that I know of.

The American fly tackle manufacturers association, AFTMA, came up with a classification system in the fifties. They did away with diameters.

They had to because diameters meant nothing on fly lines. You went from horse hair lines to silk lines to Dacron lines to all kinds of other things. And you could have two lines with the same diameter.

They would weigh completely different weights. AFTMA of line ratings is based on the weight of the first 30 feet of the line. And I won’t go into it right now, but you can look at charts.

The AFTMA Chart

The AFTMA chart will tell you exactly what each line weighs. So the rationale was that most casts are 30 feet long at the most, and that’s what a rod ought to be able to handle.

It ought to be able to false cast, and you ought to be able to execute any cast well with 30 feet of line. And so, they based it on the first 30 feet of light.

That would still hold, by the way. I know people talk a lot about 100-foot casts and blah blah blah, but most fish are still caught except for salt water at 30 feet or less.

But for the sake of having a uniform way to measure everything, we just used that Aftman system, which is the worldwide standard, even though it’s the American Flight Tackle Manufacturers Association’s backing.

Understanding Line Weights

Two to five are your main kind of lighter to medium trout-size lines. Five is like the ultimate, all-around trout size. Undoubtedly, five to seven will be an all-around trout to slightly heavier or light steelhead.

Light Saltwater Line

We’re also starting to get into light saltwater stuff, some five-weight rods, some of the high-performance Sage and Loomis rods; other manufacturers will handle lightweight bonefishing and things of that nature of Mangrove snapper, whatever. Even small Barracuda.

A seven-weight will take that. Seven weights are also at the beginning of our steelhead range. Six weight sometimes, but usually, we need the seven to throw the bigger flies that we’re using for steelhead.

Seven to Ten Weight Line

Notice it with two to five, five to seven, seven to nine is prime steelhead country, seven or an eight-week rod is a perfect all-around steelhead rod.

You start to get eight nine; you’re getting into a light salmon country.

Then nine or ten is for all-around salmon. Seven to nine is also where you’re dealing with most of your saltwater trip until you start getting into the bigger fish and a permit. The size of the fly dictates it. We use more significant fly lines to throw larger flies and beat the wind.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Monofilament to Back a Fly Reel

Don’t make this mistake!

You can destroy the fly reel by putting monofilament on as backing.

What will happen is it will stretch, and it will get wet. And as you’re pulling it in under tension, the diameter is a little bit less, plus it’s wet, and it will swell after it’s on the Arbor and will break the spool.

The backing is usually either a dacron or some other kind of braid. Braid per se, the super lines, people use that in particular when chasing pelagic fish for general use. It is not to be recommended because it will cut you to the bone.

You’re out there usually with bare hands. And the guys that are out hunting tuna and marlin, some of those guys use it. They’re using anti-reverse reels. They’re wearing gloves. They know what they’re doing. This is, is not a place to screw around.

Most people should just be using the good old standard, Cortland Micron, or some other similar product for their backing.

Understanding Fly Butt Leaders

Rather than using an Albright Knot, you should use a Needle or a Nail Knot.

We’re going to put that line on using that knot. I recommend that people have their fly shop do that because they know what they’re doing.

Then the other nice thing is a lot of modern lines like Rio have loop-to-loop connections on the back end now so that you can put a loop in, and I recommend you use a large loop on your Dacron so they can slip an entire line through the loop while it’s on a spool.

Many of us keep spare spools, so you just put the loop through, pull the whole spool through, say, a 12-inch long loop. I usually use a bimini twist or something like that, but you can use almost any loop. That’s a snazzy way to do it. Good fly shops will put the loop in for you.

If your line is made with a loop, they’ll put it on for you.

Putting On the Leader Butt

Next, we’re going to put on a leader butt. We’re not just going to tie a leader on because every time we cut that fly line, we’re cutting a piece of line. When we put a new leader on, we’re cutting a piece of line that’s precisely tapered down to the last six inches, and we pay between $40 and $120 for that six inches.

Every time we snip a bit off, we’re hurting ourselves. We put on what’s called a leader butt, and that’s going to be a piece of stiff monofilament that is thicker than the butt end of our leader, and we can put a loop in that, or we can tie it onto our leaders.

When you buy that nine-foot tapered leader, we tie it onto the leader butt that was attached to the flight line. The recommended knot is an Albright. Instead of that knot, it’s better to use a Needle Knot, Nail Knot, or loop to loop. Once again, you can learn to do it yourself. It’s not hard, but the fly shop should be able to do it for you.


To regurgitate that again for you. It’s going to go back to fly line, a line to leader butt, leader butt to the leader, and to that, we’re going to buy a spool of tippet. So it’s the same thing.

We pay a fair amount of money for that nine-foot tapered leader. After we’ve caught a couple of fish and caught a couple of flies off, we’re starting to get back up into the taper. So we buy some. If it’s a four x leader, then we buy some 4X tippet and tie some of that stuff on. And there you go.

Sometimes if I’m fishing 5X, I’ll use a 4X leader and all types of five x onto my 4X leader. So it gives you a lot of versatility and interchangeability, and it saves you money too. You don’t have to keep buying leaders, and your performance will improve.

How Does Fly Fishing Differ from Other Fishing?

The main difference between fly fishing and spin or bait fishing is that in fly fishing, the weight of the line carries the hook through the air. Where in spin and bait fishing, the weight of the lure or sinker at the end of the monofilament or braided line gives casting distance.

Casting a nearly weightless fly or “lure” requires a casting technique. These are significantly different from other forms of casting.

Fly fishermen use hand-tied flies that resemble natural invertebrates. Also, baitfish and other food organisms, or “lures,” provoke the fish to strike (bite at the fly).

YouTube video

Fly fishing can be done in fresh or saltwater. North Americans usually distinguish freshwater fishing from cold-water species. Trout, salmon, steelhead, and warm-water species, notably bass.

How to Care for Your Fly Fishing Reels

Caring for your fly fishing reel will preserve its lifespan of the fly reel and keep it working as well as new.

The following are a few tips to help you make sure your fly reel is properly taken care of after fishing.

  • Rinse with Freshwater After Every Use.
  • Don’t Pressure Wash Your Reel.
  • Deep Clean Your Reel Every Few Trips or After Fishing in Harsh Conditions.
  • Never Soak the Reel-Frame or Drag Housing for Extended Periods of Time.
  • Always Store Bone Dry.
  • Lubricate Your Reel Once Per Year.
  • Oil Cork Drag Washers with Proper Lubrications.
  • Back Off Drag Pressure Before Storing the Reel.
  • Remove Line and Backing for Longterm Fly Reel Storage.

Bonus Tip: Tighten the drag to rinse.

How to Set Up a Fly Fishing Reel?

To do this, you will need to tie an Arbor Knot.

This is one of the most simple knots used in fly fishing and can be done quickly and easily by anyone. It is simply 2 overhand knots.

Wrap your backing around the arbor of your fly reel. Tie a simple overhand knot around the backing. Put a small knot at the end of your backing line to prevent the knot from slipping off.

Spool onto your fly reel the desired length of backing. You will usually be able to find the proper amount in the documentation that came with your fly reel.


The standard amounts are usually 50 or 100 yards. You can get by with 50 yards if you cannot find any information on your exact fly reel.

You should use hundred 150 to 400 or more for salt. Most of the time, 200 or 250 yards will do fine. You started getting out after big bonefish, though. They’ll take you down really close to the arbor if you’re starting to get into tuna or any of the pelagic species, sailfish billfish of any sort. You’re starting to need 300 or 400 yards. Some reels hold even more than that.

I’m not sure it’s any good because honestly, by the time you run that many lines out on the fly fishing leaders were, we don’t, you know, they’re, they’re too far away for a 16-pound test or, or, 10-kilogram leaders are or what they’re running now for the IGFA thing.

For trout fishing situations and smaller trout fly reels, 50 yards should do; this will be 50% of most spools of backing line.


Attach the Backing to your Fly Line. Now that your backing is successfully attached to your reel, you will need to tie the Albright knot to connect these 2 lines. This is another fairly easy knot.

This knot is an important step to get right because most people will, at one time or another, end up having a fish pull them into the backing line.

If your knot fails, you will be out two valuable things, the fish and your expensive fly line.

Once this is completed, we can move on to the final steps of how to put the fishing line on a reel. These next steps depend on whether your fly fishing line came with a loop in it from the factory or if it’s just a cut end.

Suppose it has a preformed loop. You are almost done!

Making a Loop-to-Loop Connection

This is a straightforward procedure.

You put one loop over the top of the other loop and place the end of your leader through the innermost loop.

This is your final step of putting the line on a fly fishing reel if you have a loop in your fly line. Suppose you would like assistance tying the tippet to your leader.

Finishing Touches

To finish adding your leader to your fly line, you can do it in a couple of different ways. You can tie an Albright knot, or you can tie a nail knot.

The potential advantage of a nail knot is its slightly slimmer size than the Albright. It will slide through the guides of your fly rod much more effortlessly.

Albright knots are, however, easier to tie. Tying the Nail Knot: This knot can be tricky. You can purchase a nail knot-tying tool to make this easier. It is possible to tie this using a straw or any other object.

With a little practice, you can tie the nail knot without using any other object to assist. However, there is usually something around that can help.

The nice thing is that you rarely have to tie this knot once you have the line on your reel. It is best to leave a section of your old leader when it comes time to change. This will allow you just to tie the new leader to your old one using either the loop-to-loop or a blood knot.

Reel Weight

Assembling a balanced fly fishing rig is as easy as matching the numbers on the line to the numbers on the fly reel and fly rod.

For instance, you would match an Ultra 4 5-weight line with a 5-weight fly rod and spool it on a 4/5/6 fly reel.

Lower numbers – weights 2-6 – denote smaller gear best suited to trout and panfish. As the numbers rise, so does the fly fishing gear’s ability to cast larger flies for bigger game fish. For instance, weights from 11-15 are built for giant tarpon, billfish, and other large saltwater species.

Types of Fly Reels

A single-action fly reel rules. And there are two variations on the single-action fly reel. Single action means you spin the handle once, and the spool spins once. The reason for that is the handles attached to the darn spool.

There’s one variation on that. It’s an anti-reverse. We use them for hot running fish, primarily saltwater, but some freshwater species as well. It’s called an anti-reverse reel.

The anti-reverse fly reel spool rotates, but the handle doesn’t. That is a topic for another time because there are a lot of arguments about when to use anti-reverse and when not to. Or if you are using it at all.

Lots of old-school tarpon guys hate them because tarpon will sulk under the boat at the last moment. You want to be able to grab the spool or lift at the end, and the anti-reverse on some fly fishing reels makes that difficult. But the sailfish and marlin guys all swear by it because those fish run hot and fast.

Multiplier Fly Reels

Multiplier fly reels – the spool rotates more than once every time you turn the handle, and its mechanical mechanism has a gear. Most of those rules have like two or two, and a three-quarter to one ratio is something like that. They may be; they’re probably still being made somewhere.

Hardee’s to make some of them. Martin made one, but those have never been very popular with fly fishermen. We generally don’t need it. Automatic reels are pretty much, you know, light boat anchors. They’re the old Martin reels where you press a button and roll up all the slack; they won’t play a fish.

They were pretty much just used to pick up all the line at your feet. You’d get a fish that you were stripping in, and you could touch the button. They’re heavy, heavy, heavy mechanisms. They probably weighed three times as much as a comparable single-action real, so most people don’t like them.

I’ve got a collection of old ones made out of brass, and you could hurt yourself if you dropped it on your foot.

What is a Fly Reel?

Most fly reels today are made of machined bar-stock aluminum. What this means is a solid piece of aluminum is literally carved by a machine into the shape of the fishing reel.

The result is a beautifully smooth and sculptured work of art that’s fly fishing gear. There are composite material reels out there. As well as cast reels, formed by liquid metal poured into molds, the highest quality reels are machined aluminum.

Remember, though. Many manufacturers cut corners by making a fly fishing reel look machine when it’s really cast or stamped. Do your homework and buy a reputable brand that you can trust.

How to Make a Fly Reel?

There are blueprints online that can be downloaded for fly reels. If you have or have access to a cutting machine, you can make many types of fly reels from the diagrams online.

What Is the Difference Between Saltwater Fly Fishing Reels and Freshwater Fly Fishing Reels?

Fly rods generally fall into two classes – saltwater and freshwater. The apparent difference between a saltwater and a freshwater rod of the same weight is the fittings. Saltwater environments corrode, so the fittings are all made from corrosion-resistant materials.

How to Select the Correct Fly Reel

The main point of choosing a fly reel is to pick one that can hold the necessary amount of backing and line for the weight of the rod that you are fishing with. If you purchased a 5-weight fly rod, make sure you are choosing a fly reel that will accommodate line weights from 4-6.

Insider Advice

Man fly fishing near river
Whichever fly fishing reel you pick from our list, you’ll have a great time out catching fish by the river!

One thing that I would really, really, really like to emphasize here is that people need to go fly shops.

You need to call a real fly shop. If you don’t have one close to you, find one that’s not close to you and call them and then patronize them.

A lot of what people need to know is going to come from somebody who’s doing this stuff firsthand, and there are a lot of choices out there that are, that are all valuable, but somebody is going to have a perspective of point of view that helps someone make a decision.

Learning how to make a Needle or a Nail Knot, for example, is best shown by someone in the shop or having them do it.

If you buy a fly line, they’ll usually do it for you or talk to a guide. Those are people that fly to Europe all the time. They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re using.

Shops know what works and what breaks. Fly shops receive things that break. We learn what works and doesn’t, just by what comes back in pieces in boxes. Guides watch things break.

They’re fantastic resources and need to be mentioned from time to time.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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Articles » Gear Reviews » We’ve Reviewed the 7 Best Fly Reels for 2023