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7 Best Fly Reels: Useful Reviews and How-To Guides

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A good fly fishing reel is the most important part of your fly fishing set up. Fly fishing requires almost constant action on the fly reel and fast responsiveness.

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

Top Fly Reels

Best Fly Reels

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

With many of the new fly reels being made of aluminum, this 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 fly themselves are much more realistic than the flies of the past.

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 am going to cover several brands of the best fly reels, how to care for them, how to store them, and how to string and use them.

What Are the Different Fly Reel Types?

The arbor is the distance from the center spindle to where the base of the spool starts.
Standard Arbor Fly Reels. With an SA reel, the spools base (the part you attach the backing too) is in the middle of the reel.

  • Mid Arbor Fly Reels.
  • Large Arbor Fly Reels.
  • Spring & Pawl.
  • Disc Drag.

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 amount of backing and fly line for the weight of 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 fly line weights from 4-6.

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

Another key point in choosing a fly reel is the drag system on the fly reel. This is typically what distinguishes the $300-$400 dollar fly reel from the $50 dollar fly reel.

This is also where it becomes important to determine what type of fly fishing you are doing and the species of fish. An inexpensive drag system will not hold up to hard running fish such as saltwater bonefish. However, for your typical trout species, an inexpensive drag system will be sufficient.

Again, choosing the correct size fly reel will also make sure that it is weighted appropriately. To balance out your fly rod to help prevent extra fatigue when casting for extended periods of time.

How Are Fly Reels Made?

Man holding fly reel

Fly feels begin with a set of blueprints. These can be of various sizes, depending on the fly reel being made.

Once the blueprints are made the parts are machined. Fly reels are constructed with a metal body (the “frame”), a reel foot (used to affix the reel to the rod) and a spool (which holds the fly line and any backing.)

Most reels are made of aluminum or aluminum alloys. However, graphite, titanium, and composites are also used.

All of the materials used in making fly reels are very tough and durable. Aluminum holds up well when saltwater fly fishing.

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 casting techniques. 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” to provoke the fish to strike (bite at the fly).

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

Techniques for fly fishing differ with habitat (lakes and ponds, small streams, large rivers, bays and estuaries, and open ocean.)

How to Care for Your Fly Fishing Reels

Caring for your fly fishing reel will preserve the lifespan of the fly reel and keep it working as good 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 Reel.
  • Remove Line and Backing for Longterm Fly Reel Storage.

Bonus Tip: Tighten the Drag to Rinse.


Best Fly Reels Reviews

Best Saltwater Fly Reel

Piscifun Crest Fully Sealed Drag Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel

Sale
Piscifun Crest Fully Sealed Drag Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel Saltwater CNC-machined Aluminum Alloy Fly Reel 5/6 Black
  • LIFETIME WARRANTY - Piscifun offers Life Time...
  • FULLY SEALED CARBON-to-STAINLESS DRAG - Impervious...
  • PRECISELY CNC MACHINED - Strong yet lightweight...

The Piscifun Crest offers the latest in fly reel engineering. With durability and a user-friendly design.

LIFETIME WARRANTY – Piscifun offers a Lifetime Warranty for all Crest fly reels without Human Damage problem. The Crest fly reel has been set at the factory for left-hand retrieve. To convert your reel to right-hand retrieve.

FULLY SEALED CARBON-to-STAINLESS DRAG. Impervious to water, sand, and grit, requiring no maintenance except for simple rinsing. Can be used for both fresh and saltwater fishing.

PRECISELY CNC MACHINED. Strong yet lightweight anodized 6061 T6 aluminum, sports a heavily ventilated spool to shed weight yet keep its strength.

LARGE ARBOR DESIGN – The U-shaped arbor limits line memory and, paired with the large, flared cranking handle, allows for rapid line pick-up. The fast line pick-up gives you the edge over freshwater and saltwater species.

Pros

  • Spins well with little to no feedback.
  • Finish is durable and lasts a long time.
  • Handles larger fish well.
  • The drag system is very smooth.
  • The drag system is sealed to protect from saltwater.

Cons

  • The handle could use more design work.
  • Drag knob has a strange feeling.
  • Has a small outgoing click

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Best Torque Fly Reel

Redington Behemoth Reel

Redington Behemoth 5/6 Fly Reel - Gunmetal
  • Most powerful drag in its class, Adjustable,...
  • Unmachinable, unique Die-cast construction, Twin...
  • LARGE arbor design speeds retrieve and reduces...

Redington’s BEHEMOTH reel combines the most powerful drag in its class. With stunning aesthetics that push the limits of fly reel design.

Unique, un-machinable, die-cast construction is coupled with a durable, interlocking, large-arbor spool design. It both looks and functions like a premium reel.

A super-heavy duty carbon fiber drag package brings the utmost in drag strength, reliability and performance to the family.

Sized for your favorite 5-weight trout rod, and all the way up to saltwater ready, big-game sizes. The BEHEMOTH reels offer performance and affordability to beginner and veteran anglers alike.

Other features include:

  • Most powerful drag in its class
  • Adjustable, Carbon Fiber drag
  • Un-machinable, unique Diecast construction
  • Large arbor design speeds retrieve and reduce line memory
  • Oversized drag knob for easy adjustment

Pros

  • Great reel for a beginner.
  • Heavy duty with large capacity.
  • Can handle larger fish with no problem.
  • Excellent brake system.
  • Very smooth when the line is coming off the reel.

Cons

  • Drag can lock up unexpectedly.
  • The weight of the reel is on the heavy side.

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Best All-Around Fly Reel

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor, II
  • Free Standard Shipping on all Orvis Products!

Orvis is a well-known name in the fly fishing world. The Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel offers Orvis quality and design in this affordable reel.

Two years in design and development. With a powerful inline, Rulon to stainless, stacked disc drag that can hold its own with high-performance machined reels. The all new Clearwater Large-Arbor costs significantly less than its machined cousins. But has not only the looks but the guts of a higher-priced version.

Easily converted to either left- or right-hand retrieve. The Clearwater fly reel has a positive click drag knob for consistent settings every time.

Whether you’re looking for your first large arbor, fishing on a budget, or want a spare or two in the bag. The new Clearwater Large-Arbor can handle anything a machined reel can and completely changes the game in die-cast reels.

Pros

  • Easy for a beginner to learn to use.
  • Smooth cast and line feed.
  • Comfortable to cast from a boat.
  • Very durable finish

Cons

  • When ordering, can get mixed up with a smaller size reel.

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Best Orvis Fly Reel

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
  • Large arbor fly reel
  • Fully sealed drag-clutch bearing
  • Narrow spool for less line stacking and increased...

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

Pros

  • Very smooth cast and retrieve.
  • Handles large fish well
  • Has plenty of line capacity.
  • Affordable price for the quality.

Cons

  • The handle is not of the same quality as the reel.

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Best Lightweight Fly Reel

Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel

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Redington Rise 5/6 Fly Reel - Silver
  • CNC machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design...
  • Ultra-LARGE arbor design for quick line retrieve,...
  • Smooth, compact carbon fiber drag system

The all-new RISE continues Redington‘s ongoing quest to think beyond the bounds of traditional 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, in the modern aesthetic of the RISE. And thoughtful details like twin molded soft-touch handles and oversized drag knob help the 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

Pros

  • Can handle very large fish.
  • Has a nice feel and reels smooth.
  • Very lightweight
  • Nice variety of finishes.

Cons

  • Brake adjustment is “clunky”
  • Needs to be counterbalanced when using a heavier rod.
  • Drag can be too heavy.

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Best Ross Reel

Ross Reels Animas Series Fly Fishing Reel

Ross Reels Animas Series Fly Fishing Reel
  • Material: 6061-T6 proprietary aluminum alloy
  • Drag System: Delrin 500AF with impregnated Teflon
  • Backing Capacity: [3/4] 75 yards, [4/5] 100 yards,...

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

Unlike its namesake, the Ross Animas Fly Reel does not let wild fish roam. 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.

The 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

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Best Galvan Reel

Galvan Torque Fly Reel

Galvan Torque Fly Reel (Green, 7)
  • Impeccably machined from T6 solid bar stock,...
  • Torque Drag System
  • Low startup inertia

Saving one of the best for last. This 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.

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

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Fly Reel Final Thoughts

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

Fly fishing is one of the oldest forms of fishing still being done today. Although fly fishing gear such as rods and reels have advanced over the years, the technique has remained pretty much the same.

Fly reel companies such as Galvan fly reels. Montana fly company, Bozeman fly reels, Bass pro fly reels, and, Orvis fly reels produce quality reels at affordable prices that last a long time with proper care.

Fly fishing takes you as close to the action as you can get. In many cases fish, you hook will swim right at you and around you, when wading. There is truly nothing like a great fly fishing trip.

Out of the fly reel brands we have discussed in this article, we feel the Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III wins the roundup.

The Orvis Hydros offers a high-quality fly reel that is durable and easy to use at an affordable price.


Fly Reel FAQ

Q: How to set up a fly fishing reel?

A: 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 reel. Tie a simple overhand knot around the backing. Put a small knot in the end of your backing line to prevent the knot from slipping off.

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

Fly lines are almost all different diameters so this is almost always a guessing game anyway. If you put too much backing on your reel you will overload it and won’t be able to reel.

For trout fishing situations and smaller 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 2 valuable things, the fish and your expensive fly line.

While tying the Albright knot

Once this is completed we can move on to the final steps of how to put 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.

If it has a preformed loop you are almost done! Making a Loop to Loop Connection This is a very simple procedure.

You simply 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 fishing reel if you have a loop in your fly line. If you would like assistance tying tippet to your leader.

The Finishing Touches To finish off adding your leader to your fly line you can do it a couple different ways. You can tie an Albright knot or you can tie a nail knot.

The potential advantage of a nail knot is it’s slightly slimmer size than the Albright. It will slide through the guides of your fly rod much easier.

The Albright knot is, 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 many other objects.

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, you will 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 on when it comes time to change. This will allow you to just tie the new leader to your old one using either the loop to loop or a blood knot.

Q: What weight fly reel?

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

For instance, you would match an Ultra 4 5-weight fly line with a 5-weight fly rod, and you’d 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 gear’s ability to cast larger flies for bigger game fish. Weights from 11-15, for instance, are built for big tarpon, billfish, and other large saltwater species.

Q: What are the different types of fly reels?

A: The Types of Fly Reel Retrieval Mechanisms. There are three types of retrieval systems in a fly reel – the single action, the multiplying fly reel, and the automatic fly reel.

Q: What is a fly reel?

A: Most 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 reel.

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

Q: How to make a fly reel?

A: There are actually 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.

Q: What is the difference between saltwater fly fishing reels and freshwater fly fishing reels?

A: Fly Rods fall generally into 2 classes – saltwater and freshwater. The obvious 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.

Q: How to select the correct fly reel?

A: The main point to choosing a fly reel is to pick one that can hold the necessary amount of backing and fly line for the weight of 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 fly line weights from 4-6.

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