Top Fly Fishing Reels of 2023 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Finding a budget-friendly and effective fly fishing reel or rod and reel combo can be challenging. Fortunately, some reasonably priced reels of decent quality are available. On the other end of the spectrum, top market hand-made performance fly reels are also readily available, many made by manufacturers in the US. Abel, Tibor, Bauer, Hatch, Nautilus, Galvan, Orvis, Ross Reels, and Lamson have been improving reel technology, coming up with new ideas, and pushing the limits for many years. Hardy of England is the only place you’ll find comparable fly reels outside of the US. These few reel makers make the best fly reels because they pay close attention to every detail, use cutting-edge technology, and make reels that work better on the water.
Whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line fly fishing reel, a not-too-expensive spare reel, or you’re new to fly fishing and want to buy an entry-level reel, we’ve outlined some excellent options for you below.
If you want to learn more about the best fly fishing rod and reel combos for all skill levels, browse our Top 10 Fly Fishing Rod & Reel Combos, where we cover everything you need to know about Fly fishing reels.
- What To Consider Before Buying A Fly Fishing Reel
- Top Entry-Level Fly Fishing Reels
- Top Mid-Level Fly Fishing Reels
- Top High-End Fly Fishing Reels
- Frequently Asked Questions
What To Consider Before Buying A Fly Fishing Reel
There are several factors to consider when selecting a fly reel. Weight is the most significant factor, but there are others to consider as well.
The best fly reels are not always the most expensive. While Sage and Orvis brag about their use of aviation-grade aluminum, proprietary drag mechanisms, and fast-retrieve technology, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a fantastic fly fishing reel. A reel’s brand name does not necessarily indicate an excellent fly fishing reel.
Fly reels are available in various shapes, sizes, weights, drag systems, and sounds. You must be well-prepared to have the best chance of landing a fighting brown on the river, a beautiful rainbow in your local lake, or a massive giant trevally on the beach.
Here are some factors to consider when searching for the ideal reel.
Right-Handed vs. Left-Handed Reels
There aren’t any reels that are made for right-handed or left-handed anglers in particular. Instead, how the reel is set up on the rod, the direction of the spool bearing, and how the line is wound onto the reel determine which way it will be pulled in.
If you cast with your left hand, the reel should face right, and if you cast with your right hand, it should face left.
When you buy a pre-spooled fly reel, be sure to ask that it be set up for the way you like to cast. All fly reels can be used by both left- and right-handed people, but you have to set them up that way first.
When switching from a left-handed reel to a right-handed reel, you will also need to switch the direction of the drag. Each reel has a different way to do this, but usually, there’s a switch, or you have to flip the clutch bearing inside the reel. This can usually be done in seconds and without any tools.
Cost can be a significant factor for many anglers. We’ve owned expensive Sage reels that we adored and reels that left a lot to be desired. Some inexpensive fly reels can be complete garbage, while others, comparable in price, could stand with the best available on the market.
In the end, you want to purchase a reel that suits your needs well without overpaying for something that won’t add value to your fishing experience. If you have the money to spend and the cheaper reels lack the features you desire, it is worthwhile to pay more.
However, if you are on a tight budget or new to the sport, you should consider something more affordable. We have a comprehensive buyer’s guide for the most affordable and cost-effective fly reels. These items may not be the least expensive, but they are of exceptional value.
The Reel Material
Most modern fly fishing reels are constructed from machined bar-stock aluminum, which means that the reel was cut down from a solid block of aluminum.
Conversely, aluminum die-cast reels are made by pouring molten metal into molds. Even though both types of reels can be extremely well-made and last for years without maintenance, machined aluminum reels are the gold standard.
Fly Reel Balance
This has been debated for a long time. Anglers have many ways to check if their reel and rod are in balance. The most common way is to put your index finger on top of the cork handle of a full set-up rod and see if the whole thing is balanced when your reel is attached.
Most of the time, these methods don’t work. The best way to find out if your reel will work well with your rod is to read reviews from anglers who have used the reels or to go fishing with the whole setup to see if it feels good in your hands.
Arbor Size / Line Capacity
Fly reel arbor size is a modern concept. Reels traditionally spooled line onto a central spindle called an “abort,” but these days, there are also “mid arbor” and “large arbor” models available.
Simply put, a larger arbor means a larger diameter in the reel’s center, which translates to a more efficient line intake rate. How much more quickly? Large arbor reels allow you to retrieve line up to three times faster than a standard fly reel.
You probably won’t need a large arbor reel unless you plan on fly fishing in salt water or for salmon. Because of their greater backing capacity and quicker retrieval time, these are the go-to for catching large ocean fish.
It’s true that saltwater fishermen are more likely to use large arbor reels, but that doesn’t mean freshwater trout fishermen can’t.
Sealed or Unsealed Drag
While sealed drags are superior, an unsealed drag system can perform admirably as long as the reel is occasionally disassembled for cleaning and maintenance, so you shouldn’t be afraid to purchase something unsealed. This is the case if you exclusively fish in freshwater.
It would be best to have a sealed drag to fish for saltwater species. If a budget reel for saltwater fishing is not sealed, there is no point in purchasing it, regardless of how inexpensive and otherwise suitable it may appear.
The Reel Drag System
Click-drag, disc drag, and spring-and-pawl are the three most common types of drag systems for fly fishing reels.
There are a few different ways to slow down a reel with gears, and while the spring-and-pawl system is a throwback, the click drag and disc drag are both superior systems. It’s getting harder to find reels like this.
The more modern disc drag system in your reel is a must if you’re targeting a larger fish. Many anglers prefer click-drag reels, especially when targeting smaller fish.
Three distinct materials are used in the production of fly reel drag systems. Once the standard, cork systems have given way to more modern alternatives made from nylon, Delrin, Teflon, and other plastics, metals, and polymers due to their lower startup inertia.
Fly Reel Weight
When choosing the best fly reel for your current setup, the weight is something to be familiar with. Fly reel weight doesn’t mean how much the reel weighs in ounces. Instead, it’s a way to group fly reels so you can match them to your fly rod and fly line.
You would never want to use a 5-weight reel with a 7-weight rod. No matter what, the reel and the rod should be the same weight. The bigger the weight of the reel, the bigger the fish it can catch. It would be hard to put a 7-weight fly line on a lower-weight reel because they aren’t made for it.
The kit wouldn’t work right, just like it would be hard to cast an 8-weight line with a 3-weight rod.
Many budget fly fishing reels are constructed from less expensive metals, so if you are known to be rough on your gear and are purchasing a cheaper reel, it may be prudent to invest in a die-cast, polymer-bodied reel.
Die-cast reels are typically more forgiving than machined aluminum reels if you drop, bang, or neglect to maintain them. I’ve observed low-quality aluminum spools warp ever-so-slightly after being dropped (let’s be honest, we’ve all dropped our gear while rigging or fishing), causing the rotation to be inconsistent.
All of the cheaper aluminum options on this page are well worth the investment, but if you’re rough on your gear, you should be aware of their fragility.
This part of buying a fly reel is a little technical and probably something you don’t need to worry about much if you are just starting. In short, it is good to know, but you don’t have to go crazy trying to figure it out.
Startup inertia is the force needed to pull the line off the reel when a fish first bites, no matter how tight the drag is set. Most reel makers say that their reels have “zero” or “nearly zero” startup inertia. Most anglers call this a “smooth drag” when it happens in real life.
It just means that when you pull on the end of your line, the drag does its job and lets go of the line with a consistent amount of force, so the fish on your line don’t break the line or the hook.
Many of these reels have mixed reviews; this is the nature of inexpensive fishing equipment. A budget reel may perform flawlessly for five years for one angler but only five days for another.
In virtually every brand, the quality control of budget reel options appears to be lower than that of higher-end options, so buying cheap is always a bit of a gamble.
Check each brand’s warranty policy (and customer service reputation) if you’re concerned about quality control and at least short-term performance; this will ensure that you’re covered in a problem.
Even though it may seem inconsequential, the sound a reel makes when being stripped out or reeled in can affect your mood. Most reel manufacturers don’t list the reel’s sound on their product pages.
Top Entry-Level Fly Fishing Reels
Maxcatch Avid Series Fly Fishing Reel
The Maxcatch Avid is an excellent low-cost option, and a good fit for beginner, intermediate, and casual freshwater anglers.
As far as anglers are concerned, this reel scores high marks for its silky retrieve. The 6061-T6 aluminum alloy it is made of is very resistant to impacts, and the NCN process used to make it makes sure it keeps its shape even after being hit many times. Machinable aluminum also has excellent corrosion resistance over the long term. The Avid is a versatile choice because it has a mid-arbor design that balances backing capacity and fast-line pickup. One-way clutch bearings in the Teflon disc and stainless steel drag system allow instant drag engagement, making a significant drag adjustment easy to find.
The five available colors are all stunning, and the sturdy, modern frame design is nice to hold—an excellent secondary reel for the price, perfect for beginners.
- One revolution drag knob with hidden drag knob screw. numbered positions
- The hybrid cork-and-Teflon-and-stainless-steel-disc drag system with a one-way clutch bearing provides smooth, immediate drag engagement. Finely machined and knurled metal screw caps loosen the spool and change retrieval settings.
- Mid-ARBOR SPOOL housing design – Perfect balance between backing and line pickup. And line memory. Solid and lightweight spokes for fighting monsters.
- CNC-machined 6061-T15 aluminum alloy for durability and Hard Anodized Surface for corrosion resistance.
- Built with CNC-machined 6061-T7 aluminum alloy for high-impact durability and a hard anodized surface finish for even more corrosion resistance.
- An option that is easy to carry and goes well with thin rods.
- The cork, Teflon, and stainless steel disc drag system with a one-way clutch bearing works smoothly, but it doesn’t have much power.
- Switching from left to right-hand retrieval is easy.
- Sharp choice of colors
- Warranty for three years
- The drag is not sealed, and it doesn’t stop very well.
- Problems with the drag coming off.
- When the reel is opened, the knurled metal screw cap is easy to lose the internals, so make sure you don’t lose it!
Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel
The Piscifun Sword is a great low-cost option for fly anglers who want a simple reel that works well and comes with a warranty. This favored low-cost fishing brand’s most popular model reel is this one. I have quite a bit of Piscifun gear, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by how good it is for how much it costs.
The Sword has a drag system made of multiple corks and stainless steel discs, and a one-way clutch bearing. For a cheap reel, the drag system is very smooth and works immediately, which is impressive. The Sword has a silent retrieve and a click-drag. It has a mid-arbor design meant to cut down on line memory and make line pickup fast. It’s made of machined aluminum alloy because it’s meant to be used a lot. Because of how it’s made and what it’s made of, this reel is solid for its price.
Even though this reel is made of cheaper materials, it looks good, and you can choose from a few different colors.
This reel comes with a three-year warranty from Piscifun, so you can buy it without worrying about getting a broken one. When purchasing a cheap fly reel, getting one with a warranty is always a good idea. Reels like the Sword work great, but they can break down. Shop wisely and ensure you’ll be taken care of if something goes wrong.
Both new fly fishermen who want to try it out and experienced anglers who want a reliable backup reel will love how reliable and robust this mid-arbor option is.
- A multi-disc drag system made of premium carbon and stainless steel and a one-way clutch bearing makes it easy to engage the drag smoothly and immediately. Click-and-drag accuracy and a silent retrieve.
- Precision CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy for high-impact durability. A larger CNC hollow design makes the reel lighter than other reels.
- Hard anodized to protect the surface and make it more resistant to wear and the weather. Cold forged and tempered to make it stronger and more rigid, getting rid of line memory and making line pickup lightning fast.
- Hard anodizing protects the surface and makes it more resistant to wear and weather.
- A cork and stainless steel drag system with a one-way clutch bearing for smooth, instant drag engagement.
- A large, non-slip drag knob makes it easy to make quick changes.
- Cold-forged and heated to make it stronger
- It has a nice, machined look, and you can choose from several colors.
- It comes with a 3-year guarantee.
- The drag isn’t sealed, so you’ll need maintenance on this reel after you use it in salt water.
- It’s light, but a little bit big.
- There could be less room for error.
Maxcatch Toro Series Fly Fishing Reel
The Maxcatch Toro is a budget-friendly, versatile reel that performs admirably in freshwater.
This unit is well-priced enough to be used as a spare reel, but you may need it more often than you anticipate. My now-battered Toro’s drag system occasionally disengages after long days on the water, but I still recommend it because of its reasonable price. Compared to other reels in its price range, this one offers exceptional weight, balance, and general feel quality.
The reel’s CNC-machined aluminum alloy construction and corrosion-resistant finish make it a workhorse. It’s reassuring to know that this option’s tolerances won’t budge after a serious bout of fishing, indicating that it was made with care and precision. Reviews from other fishermen corroborate the idea that this is a durable reel.
The drag system is standard fare, but it works well and reliably for most freshwater uses. If you use this reel in saltwater, give it a good rinsing afterward because the drag system features a Teflon disc and stainless steel gears with a one-way clutch bearing.
This reel from Maxcatch is equipped with a drag system that won’t let you down, even though a sealed drag is preferable. Plus, instead of leaving the drag adjustment silent, Maxcatch has added a clicker to it. It’s a small detail, but it’s one that I find immensely helpful in knowing exactly where my drag is set. The knob for making adjustments is also nice and big, making it less of a chore to turn even when battling fish that are peeling your line.
I can attest that this reel’s large arbor design makes it exceptionally efficient when reeling in line. It has a smooth retrieve, making it feel more like a high-end reel than a bargain basement fly fishing reel. The machined, knurled metal screw caps on this device simplify switching from right- to left-handed retrieval.
- Light Reel with Good Line Capacity, Retrieve Rate, and Power to Stop Freshwater Fish – The Toro Value-Based reel is for freshwater anglers who cast all day. Worth it.
- Machining T6061 aluminum bar stock improves engineering strength and weight.
- Type II anodizing provides high-impact durability and corrosion resistance.
- Smooth 3.5lb drag system.
- A Teflon disc and stainless steel drag system provide smooth, immediate drag engagement with a one-way clutch bearing. With a dust-proof drag cover.
- A large arbor spool for fast line retrieval helps land big fish
- Simple One-way bearing cover to set up left and right-hand retrieval. Hidden drag knob screws avoid rust here.
- TWO-YEAR-WARRANTY and Lifetime Repair Warranty MAXCATCH, a fly reel factory Since 2005, offer a two-year “No Hassle” warranty on all reels. If you’re not happy with our rod, return it. All Maxcatch reels are lifetime repairable.
- The body is made of machined aluminum alloy, which is very strong.
- The drag setting clicks and is easy to find when fighting a fish.
- It’s a pleasure to fish with a silky smooth retrieve.
- Large arbor spool for quick picking up of line
- Simple to switch from a right-handed to a left-handed retrieve
- Two-year promise
- The metallic finish makes things look lower quality.
- Since the drag isn’t sealed, rinse this reel well after using it in saltwater.
- Not everyone likes modern, loud color schemes.
Okuma SLV Diecast Aluminum Fly Reel
The Okuma SLV Diecast Aluminum Fly Reel features a large arbor and a roller bearing that engages the drag in only one direction. The drag system is essentially a washer pinch-bearing system, with a screw that applies pressure to a washer to tighten or loosen the drag.
This diecast aluminum reel features a drag system is essentially a washer pinch-bearing system, with a screw that applies pressure to a washer to tighten or loosen the drag. is an amazingly light and durable budget fly reel that comes in a wide range of sizes to accommodate virtually any freshwater target species.
This type of drag system is not sealed and will wear out faster than higher-end reels – but if you’re not too hard on it, it should be able to withstand some pretty heavy fishing.
With this one, you’re still getting much more than you’re paying for the price. On the plus side, angler reviews claim that the drag system does not wander from where you set it and has good stopping power. This reel’s drag, combined with its large arbor design, allows it to keep up with some serious fish.
This is a silent reel, so if you prefer the sound of a clicker, look elsewhere. Spare spools are inexpensive and readily available for this model, so having a few different line types ready to go is simple and inexpensive.
Overall, this is a great entry-level option or spare reel that will fish just fine for you when you need to use it.
- ALC: Alumilite Diecast Aluminum Frame
- Precision Machined Brass Bushing Drive System
- Precision Machined Stainless Steel Spool Shaft
- Roller bearing allows the drag to engage in one direction only
- The Alumilite diecast aluminum frame is surprisingly strong for its weight.
- This drive system’s precision-machined Brass bushings are both straightforward and durable.
- Constructed from cork and stainless steel, the drag system has multiple discs.
- The extra-wide arbor helps with line pick-up speed.
- It has rubberized, positive-grip knobs that won’t slip your hand.
- Easily retrieved with either the left or right hand.
- Fly lines can be changed out in a jiffy thanks to the quick-change spool.
- It’s unlikely that your drag system will hold up to years and years of heavy use, despite its effectiveness.
- Savvy anglers will lube internals and sand the fairlead to make this reel perform better.
- There have been a few gripes about the finish wearing off after prolonged use.
Top Mid-Level Fly Fishing Reels
Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Fly Reel
The Orvis Clearwater Reel is the brand’s entry-level fly reel, designed for ease of use and versatility. There is no such thing as a low-cost Orvis product, so despite its low price, you can be confident that it is a dependable piece of equipment.
The Clearwater is a large arbor cast aluminum reel designed for quick line pick-up. It has a stacked disc drag made of Rulon and stainless steel that is very strong. Rulon plastics are well-known for their low friction and abrasion resistance, so the materials used in the design were undoubtedly chosen with care for maximum performance.
A positive click drag knob keeps your settings consistent so your reel never strays from where you want it to be. The clicker on this reel has an excellent, classic sound to it that I could listen to all day.
This is a lightweight reel, so if you’re looking for something with a lot of power that can also be paired with a lighter rod, the Clearwater is a great option. Switching from left to right retrieve is simple, making this an excellent spare reel for friends or clients.
The Clearwater is an impressively smooth and affordable option for a reel in this price range, backed by one of the industry’s most dependable brands.
- CLEARWATER LARGE ARBOR size II for 4-6-Weight fly fishing line, 5.4 oz., 3½-inch diameter; and size IV for 7-9-Weight fly fishing line, 6.1 oz., 3¾-inch diameter
- SMOOTH-AS-SILK PERFORMANCE at an incredible value, delivering the best performance-to-value in the industry
- DIE-CAST FLY REELS with stealthy matte-gray powder-coat finish deliver performance comparable to more expensive machined fishing reels
- CARBON-TO-STAINLESS STACKED DISC DRAG with positive click drag knob delivers consistent settings every time
- Lightweight die-cast reel great for pairing with dainty rods
- Unique construction is built to take a beating – this is a good knock-around reel.
- Powerful inline, Rulon-to-stainless, stacked disc drag
- The Cassette spool system is designed to be quickly switched out for versatile fishing contexts where you want to have multiple fly lines on hand.
- Orvis guarantee and customer service are some of the best in the industry.
- Some might not like the cassette spool system – it takes some getting used to
- Limited sizing
- No color options
Redington Zero Fly Fishing Reel
The Zero is one of the lightest reels in its class, making it an excellent choice for stream fishing and other small-water applications.
The Zero’s ultralight die-cast construction makes it an excellent choice for smaller-sized reels in the 2wt to 5wt range. It’s comparable to the Redington Rise, but it doesn’t have an adjustable drag. The Zero, on the other hand, uses a spring-loaded, clicker drag system. It’s perfectly adequate for fighting freshwater species, but larger saltwater species and monster salmonids will undoubtedly outcompete this reel’s drag system.
Despite its lighter weight and less aggressive drag system, this is a rugged little reel ideal for chasing trout and pond fishing for species such as bass. The large arbor design aids in keeping up with fast-moving fish and reduces line memory. This reel’s quick-change spool also makes it simple to switch out fly lines when necessary.
The Zero’s price point is genuinely unbeatable for what it is. The Zero is one of the best affordable reel options for fighting fish that don’t require a particularly powerful drag system.
- ZERO FLY REEL: The Redington ZERO fly fishing reel sets a new standard for lightweight performance designed for Trout fishing.
- CLICKER DRAG: The spring-loaded clicker drag system is designed to provide smooth resistance on those screaming runs.
- LARGE ARBOR: The ZERO fly reel features a large arbor for speedy line retrieval and reduced line memory.
- DURABLE DESIGN: Crafted with durable die-cast construction for a lightweight design with the quick-change spool.
- EASY RETRIEVE: The soft-touch, twin-molded dual-density handle offers supreme grip and control in all fishing conditions.
- Superb value, simple reel selection
- Though a durable clicker drag system is great for trout fishing, keep in mind that it won’t be able to withstand the force of a larger, more powerful fish.
- The ultra-light die-cast design is perfect for delicate rods.
- Accessible for both left and right-handed retrieval
- You can choose from a wide variety of colors.
- Lacks drag-adjustment mechanism.
- The clicker’s audible output may be off-putting to some fishermen.
- Limited sizing is restricted.
Sage Spectrum C Fly Fishing Reel
Sage is renowned for its premium fly rods and has dominated the fly rod market for some time. However, they also provide reels, and the Spectrum Series includes some of their most popular products. The Spectrum reel fills a mid-priced niche and provides superior performance for half the price of a high-end reel. With an SCS drag system, a fully machined design, and a variety of color options, it is easy to see why the Spectrum is a favorite among freshwater and saltwater anglers worldwide.
Sage’s Spectrum is a mid-priced, all-purpose fly reel designed to be durable and dependable. This reel is a workhorse due to its fully machined aerospace aluminum, hard-anodized finish, and durable drag system. Other design elements, such as a drag knob with numbered settings and a machined reel handle, contribute to the user-friendliness and performance of the Spectrum.
A hard anodize protects the surface of the Spectrum reel from corrosion and other forms of wear and tear. Anodizing is a popular method for finishing fly fishing reels because it preserves the reel’s structural integrity without adding unnecessary weight.
Unlike the other reels in the Spectrum Series is wholly machined from aerospace-grade aluminum 6061-T6. After the reel has been machined, it is cold-forged and heat-treated to increase its strength and rigidity. Sage used superior materials to manufacture this reel, as evidenced by its durability and resistance to dings and scratches.
The SCS (Sealed Carbon System) drag system powers the Spectrum. The drag is completely sealed and rapidly dissipates the kinetic energy generated by high pressure on the drag system, resulting in increased performance and durability.
Another excellent choice for smaller setups would be the Sage Spectrum LT. If you need more stopping power, try the Sage Spectrum Max.
- Multi-purpose fly reels for Brook Trout to Tarpon.
- High-grade US-made carbon handles high pressure and quickly converts running fish’s kinetic energy to thermal energy.
- Tailored drag systems are created for each model, size, and fishing application, and the entire system is sealed to keep out water, sand, grit, and salt.
- Numbered settings, detents, and audible clicks help set the control level. The easy switch between stripping and fighting fish means more time fishing and less time setting drag.
- Large arbor, die-cast frame, and concave vented spool for faster line pickup.
- Powder-coated for corrosion resistance and surface protection in all fishing conditions. Machined aluminum die-cast construction adds strength. Left-to-right retrieval is easy.
- Very smooth down to the reel handle.
- The drag is strong, and the reel screams quality.
- Lightweight and has a great sound when a fish is peeling line.
- The drag is plenty strong, and the drag knob is very adjustable.
- Excellent for large streams and small rivers.
- Lacks stopping power for larger fish.
- Not the lightest reel.
Redington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reel
The Redington Behemoth is an excellent choice for a reel that can handle strong, line-pulling fish in both freshwater and saltwater, and it’s surprisingly affordable.
As the name suggests, Redington has used a very strong carbon fiber drag system that can handle fighting very strong fish. This bad boy could stop an 8-year-old riding a bike (30 pounds of torque).
The Behemoth is made of die-cast metal and has a large arbor shape. It’s made for fast retrieves and to reduce line memory, so it’s easy to keep up with tarpon, salmon, bonefish, and redfish, to name a few species that move quickly. The carbon fiber drag can handle the toughest situations, and it has a big adjustment dial that makes it easy to use when things get crazy.
It also has a tough-looking but neutral style that should look good with almost any rod. The deep V-spool was made with more backing capacity in mind, so it could handle the big runs that big fish can make. Check out this option if you need something that can be used in either fresh or salt water and has a high line capacity.
If you need to, you can easily change this reel to work with your right hand if you need to. This model comes with a lifetime warranty from Redington, which shows how confident the company is in making it well. All in all, this is a strong reel for fighting strong fish. It was made with care to be easy to use and last for years.
- BEHEMOTH FLY REEL: Combines the most powerful drag in its class with stunning aesthetics that push the limits of fly reel design. Sized for your favorite 5-weight trout rod and up to saltwater-ready, big-game sizes.
- QUALITY DESIGN: The unique, un-machinable, die-cast construction is coupled with a durable, interlocking, large-arbor spool design that looks and functions like a premium reel.
- HEAVY DUTY DRAG: A super-heavy-duty carbon fiber drag package brings the family the utmost in drag strength, reliability, and performance.
- EASY RETRIEVE: The large arbor is designed for speedy line retrieval and reduced line memory. Twin molded handle with soft-tough ergonomic grip gives you great feedback when pulling in larger fish species.
- BACKING CAPACITY: [5/6] 125 yards / 20 lb, [7/8] 200 yards / 20 lb, [9/10] 200 yards / 30 lb, [11/12] 250 yards / 20 lb
- Extremely powerful drag system for fighting fish that run and run (30 pounds of torque)
- Deep V-spool for additional backing capacity
- Large drag knob for simple adjustments
- Depending on the size, this reel is ideal for catching everything from trout to tarpon.
- Based on the diecast construction used in its construction, this reel should withstand corrosion quite well.
- Warranty for life!
- There have been some complaints about the dimensions of extra spools being slightly off.
- There are issues with thin-diameter running due to reel tolerance.
- The line is slipping through, so consider using dacron backing instead of gel spun.
- Color options are limited.
Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Fishing Reel
The Lamson Liquid Fly Reel is a great option for any fly fisherman thanks to its sealed drag, sturdy build, and aesthetically pleasing design. The performance of this bad boy is so good that even novice anglers will keep using it long after they’ve upgraded their equipment.
Although this reel is more expensive than the others on this list, we included it in the mid-range because it provides excellent value for the money. The drag system of the Lamson Liquid is constructed from pressure-cast aluminum and CNC-machined parts, making it a durable and reliable reel. All the advantages of both options are present.
As with all of Lamson’s high-end reels, the conical drag system is completely watertight. It’s a low-priced reel that uses the same drag system as their high-end models that retail for $400 or more.
This high-performance reel looks like a budget pick because of its low price, but it’s actually useful in a wide variety of fishing situations. A fantastic piece of fishing gear that will serve you well for many seasons if you can afford it.
For more information, read our full Lamson Liquid Fly Reel Review
- Great value: This cheap reel has a strong drag and is an excellent mix of value, versatility, and performance. Perfect for any level of fisherman.
- Priced right and built to last, the frame and the spool are made of pressure-cast aluminum. After being pressure cast, Liquid reels and spools are machined to ensure they fit together well and have a smooth finish. Coated with polyurethane to make it more durable and add color.
- Smooth, Powerful Drag: Our sealed conical drag system has a smooth, wide range of drag with a lot of power at the top. This sealed drag keeps water out, so the drag is safe no matter where it is.
- Large Arbor: The spool has a large arbor to hold more backing and pick up the line faster when reeling it in. This also helps you manage your lines and stack them, so your fly line doesn’t get tangled.
- Set up to be fished with the left hand, but switching to the right hand is easy without any tools.
- The conical drag system is sealed, and this unit is built to last.
- The frame and spool are made of pressure-cast aluminum.
- The drag system is constructed with the same components as Lamson’s high-end reels.
- You can purchase aftermarket sleeves and change the color of the internal drag housing.
- Priced higher than most “budget” reels, but well worth it.
- Color options are limited.
- Some people might prefer a bit of weight, given the liquid is featherlight.
Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel
The Redington Rise is an excellent reel very popular with anglers. It works well with a variety of rods and comes at a reasonable price. Plus, the Rise’s aesthetics are sleek and modern, making for a pretty sharp-looking reel; you can choose a few different color schemes to make it your own.
This reel is made of strong aluminum and features a carbon fiber drag system. Choose from a 3/4 wt up to a 9/10 wt version of this reel. This reel is best used for trout and salmonid fishing, but the 5/6 wt is also excellent for bass. Due to its drag system, the 9/10 wt is also a reel I’d consider using to pursue certain saltwater species; remember to always wash your reel thoroughly with fresh water after using it in the ocean.
Typical figures show that a 3/4 wt can back up 75 yards and a 9/10 wt can back up 250 yards. You’ll want to stock up on this reel because it performs well in various fishing situations. Thanks to its lightweight construction and powerful drag system, this option is highly functional and versatile and will last you for years of fishing if you give it the TLC it deserves.
- Large arbor for quick line retrieval and a compact carbon fiber drag system for smooth fish-stopping torque.
- Twin soft-touch handles and an oversized drag knob make retrieving easy.
- CNC machined, adonized 6061-T6 aluminum, quick-release spool for freshwater or saltwater fishing.
- Drag system made of carbon fiber that is both compact and smooth.
- A big arbor makes it easy to retrieve the line quickly.
- Retrieval can be performed with either the right or left hand.
- Ergonomic, twin-molded grips with a large, easily-accessed drag knob.
- You can choose from a wide variety of colors.
- All parts are guaranteed for life!
- Some people might find the drag knob too cumbersome, but this is subjective.
- In the case of larger game fish, some anglers may find the drag to be underpowered.
Waterworks-Lamson Guru S Fly Fishing Reel
Take your fly fishing game to another dimension (totally enlightened) with the Lamson Guru S. The folks at Waterworks-Lamson pulled out all of the stops again with this one. It comes in three different finishes (OG, Blaze, and Artic). We love them so much we included another section of photos for our review so that you could see them all in one place! The Guru S is fully USA-machined and ultra-reliable.
To improve line drying, Lamson opened the porting a bit. They also increased the arbor to a bigger diameter and made the spool narrower. As a result, the new Guru S has a weight savings advantage over previous Guru S models. As a bonus, the Guru S spools are compatible with the Guru S HD. With this one, you won’t need to solicit the help of another Guru again. We can’t wait to take this one out again… if we stop gawking at it!
For more information, please read our full Lamson Guru Fly Reel Review.
- Design – Fully CNC machined frame and anodized spool. This reel is very lightweight and has machining techniques similar to reels at much higher price points. A great option for anglers who require long-lasting performance from their reels.
- Durability – This reel is resistant to damage and abrasion because it is fully machined and anodized—an good option for anglers who require long-lasting performance from their reels.
- Smooth, powerful drag – Our patented sealed conical drag system provides a broad range of drag with plenty of power on the high end. This sealed drag keeps water out, ensuring the drag’s protection in any environment.
- Large Arbor – The spool has a large arbor design that is taller and narrower than other reels, increasing backing capacity and allowing for faster line pick-up while reeling in. This also aids in line management/line stacking, preventing the tangling of your fly line.
- Set up for left-hand retrieval and quickly switched to right-hand retrieval without using any tools.
- The spool is VERY easy to change.
- Plenty of room.
- Pleasant ergonomics
- The drag wasn’t saltwater-strong.
Top High-End Fly Fishing Reels
Waterworks-Lamson Remix Fly Fishing Reel
The Waterworks-Lamson Remix Fly Reel offers excellent value for its moderate price. Even though it costs a little more than most “affordable” reels, you will not regret investing in this reliable tool.
Similar to the Lamson Liquid, the Remix features a high-quality, hermetically sealed conical drag system. Listen up, saltwater anglers and fans of large game fish; this feature makes the reel worth more than its asking price. It comes in various reel sizes, but only when targeting larger fish will you get your money’s worth.
This choice is also suited for keeping up with fast-running, explosive game fish thanks to its large arbor design, which enables it to pick up line rapidly.
The unique combination of die-cast and machined components in the Remix’s design makes it a standout among fishing reels. The spool is pressure-cast, and the reel body is machined from 6061 Aluminum, giving you the best of both worlds in terms of durability and overall feel.
The Lamson Liquid and the Remix are constructed with removable spools, allowing you to quickly and easily switch between different fly lines if you own both reels. The company has come up with a novel and, in all honesty, brilliant idea that maximizes your purchasing power.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can get your hands on a high-quality fly reel that will last a long time and can be used for various fishing techniques.
For more information, read our full Lamson Remix Fly Reel Review.
- Format: Large Arbor
- Materials: Machined 6061 Aluminum Case, Pressure Cast Aluminum Spool
- Finish: Type II Anodize Case, Polyurethane Spool
- Drag: Sealed Conical Drag
- Weight: 0.8 lbs
- Combines the best of both worlds with its CNC-machined case and pressure-cast spool, which feature precise fitting and finishing.
- The high-quality, saltwater-approved conical drag system is hermetically sealed to maintain its excellent performance.
- Extra-wide arbor for easy line retrieval
- The Lamson Liquid Fly Reel uses standard fly fishing spools.
- Constantly high-quality construction with extremely precise dimensions.
- Elegant and contemporary style
- The choice between a die-cast and a machined reel is personal for anglers.
Sage Arbor XL Fly Fishing Reel
Whether it’s a Henry’s Fork rainbow, a South Andros bonefish, a chrome-bright Bristol Bay silver, or anything else, the ARBOR XL is designed to tame fast fish that are just as likely to come straight at you as they are to run away. These advanced reels have a narrow spool that makes level winding a breeze and a brand new, extra-large arbor for lightning-fast line retrieval. The ARBOR XL is virtually a form of cheating for those who want to maximize their chances of success under the most pressure-packed circumstances.
- One Revolution Drag Knob with 20 numbers and 39 detented settings
- Ultra-Large arbor for the fastest line pick-up
- Concave, ported arbor for greater strength and capacity
- Ergonomic handle
- SCS Drag
ABEL Vaya 4/5 Fly Reel
VAYA: Spanish for “Go!” as in “Go outside, explore, fish!”
The VAYA series, designed by Colorado anglers, features an all-new technical look, feel, and exceptional performance. The partially-ported VAYA frame provides a one-of-a-kind combination of lightweight, incredible rigidity, and just enough surface area to highlight Abel’s hand-anodized finishes.
The frame’s interior also includes different sets of CNC-milled fly patterns, one for each reel size.
A precision-balanced, dual-pawl drag engagement design eliminates the need for a counterweight on the large-arbor spool. The mechanical incoming click of the spool complements the audible, smooth feel of the outgoing drag. The carbon / stainless multi-disk drag system provides significant resistance while allowing for a wide range of adjustments for delicate tippet.
- Partially-ported frame for the perfect balance of weight, sound, and visual appeal
- Different sets of milled fly pattern silhouette on the interior of each frame relevant to the size of the reel
- 5-disc alternating carbon/stainless steel drag stack
- Large arbor for faster retrieval and reduced line memory
- Quick-change spool design with proven O-ring release
- Available in sizes 4/5, 5/6, 7/8
- User convertible retrieval system
- Made in USA
Frequently Asked Questions
The first step is finding one that can hold enough backing and line to balance the rod’s weight. Choose a fly reel that can hold weights between 4 and 6 if you’re fishing with a 5-weight fly rod.
Some of the best manufacturers in the business include Ross, Orvis, Nautilus, Tibor, Abel, Waterworks-Lamson, SAGE, Redington, Shilton, Echo, Cortland, and TFO.
These days, you don’t have to spend much money to get a good fly reel. You can get a good reel that will catch fish for as little as $50. Fly reels that cost between $50 and $150 are often the best deal. To avoid being unhappy, I wouldn’t buy a fly reel for less than $30.
The 5-weight fly reel is the best size for trout. This will help you fight and land trout from 2 to 20 pounds. A 1 to 3-weight reel is good for smaller fish like brook trout, while a 5 to 6-weight reel is good for bigger rainbows. The 5-weight, on the other hand, is often considered the most versatile reel weight for trout fishing.
The very bottom. When setting up a left- or right-handed fly reel, ensure that the reel handle is on the side of the rod you intend to reel with and that the line is always coming from the bottom of the reel.
“Weight” is used to classify both rods and reels. The weight of your reel should always be proportional to the weight of your rod. A 3-weight rod, for example, should be paired with a 3-weight reel. There are exceptions to this rule, but it serves as a general guideline.
In a word, yes! However, caution should be exercised when using a fly reel in saltwater. Only some fly reels can handle the saltwater conditions. Saltwater can corrode the drag system of a freshwater reel if it gets inside. If you’re going to go saltwater fly fishing, you should use gear designed for use in saltwater and always give your gear a good rinse after use.
To set up the reel, follow the following simple instructions.
1. Attach the backing material to the fly reel using an arbor knot.
2. Connect the fly line to the backing material with a nail knot or loop-to-loop connection.
3. Attach a leader to the fly line using a loop-to-loop connection.
Fly reels with a numerical sizing system were described by their “weight.” This is a relative scale and not the reel’s actual weight. For larger fish, a heavy-duty fly reel is recommended.
Typically, a 9- or 10-weight fly reel is used when fishing for salmon.
The main job of a fly reel is to hold the fishing line for fly fishing. When you’re ready to fish, you pull the line off the reel and start casting. You turn the reel’s handle to bring it in when you catch a fish. It is essential to set your fly reel’s drag so that if the fish pulls too hard, the line will slip off the reel, and the fish won’t get away.
There are many choices. But no matter what you choose, make sure it is durable, light, and has good drag. Start with one that is smaller, lighter, and easy for you to use. Move up to heavier-duty types over time.
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