Many beginner fly anglers think that the fly fishing reel isn’t important in catching a fish. They think that the reel’s only role is to store the line. If you ask any experienced angler, they would tell you that this isn’t true. While getting a solid, high-quality fly rod is of paramount importance, purchasing the right reel that matches the flexibility and weight of your rod is just as important in bagging a catch.

When a fish is on the line, you wouldn’t want to lose it. A solid fly fishing reel with a high-quality drag system can help you secure the catch. When you get a bite and a large fish is on the line, the reel will be the reason behind landing or losing the fish.

Every fly fishing reel has some pros and cons. When you are searching for a great fly fishing reel, take your time to do some research and make sure that you understand the differences in the capabilities of each. This way you would be able to get a reel that is right for you.

Choosing the Best Fly Fishing Reel

There is a wide selection of fly fishing reels available in the market. They are different in terms of size, length, quality, and performance. Spending a lot of money might not be worth it if you select a reel that doesn’t pair well with your fly rod. Therefore, when you are choosing a fly reel, make sure that it goes well with your rod. How do you do that?

The first thing you need to do is ensure that the weight of the reel matches with that of the rod. For example, if you have a 4-wt fishing rod, you can’t match it with an 8-wt fly fishing reel that is meant to tackle larger fish. You must also ensure that the fly reel you are getting pairs with your rod in the right position. For example, if you cast left-handed, then a right-facing reel would be best for you since you would use your right hand to retrieve the line.

Many fly reels come in bundles that include the fly line, fly reel and fly rod together. Beginners usually purchase these bundles since they don’t know how to pair different fly rods and fly reels together. Everything comes prepared in these bundles so they don’t have to do anything. However, if you are an experienced angler and want to customize your fishing setup to secure great catches, it would be best to purchase fly fishing rods and fly fishing reels separately.

When you are deciding to buy a fly fishing reel that would be best for you, there are some important things that you must consider. These include the drag system, reel weight, start-up inertia, and reel construction.

· Drag System

Drag is the resistance that is applied to the spool of the reel to ensure that the fish doesn’t strip the line away too quickly. For example, if a 7-lb trout is hooked and your drag is too light, the fish might run and easily strip line off. In this case, you will need a high drag so that you allow the fish on the line to run but you can control their run. There are two types of drag systems on a reel – disc drag and spring-and-pawl drag.

1. Disc Drag

This drag system allows you to control the tension applied to the fly line by turning the control knob. Disc drag systems are further classified into true disc drag and caliper disc drag system. Both of these systems work well. Disc drag reels are ideal for catching large fish like salmon, steelhead and trout. They are designed to exert a hard but smooth pressure on the line without seizing up.

2. Spring-and-Pawl Drag

In this drag system, tension is increased or decreased against a spring that applies pressure through a pawl against the spool. Adjustments to the tension might be possible either internally or externally via a lever or a knob. Reels with spring-and-pawl drag system are usually least expensive. With this drag system, you can pull the line very smoothly without any kind of variation in tension. One major drawback of the spring-and-pawl drag is that it isn’t suitable for very large fish.

· Start-up Inertia

The resistance to fish’s movement that occurs as soon as the line is taken by the fish is called start-up inertia. The reel doesn’t start rotating perfectly at top speed when the fish takes the line due to inertia. Reels that have low start-up inertia tend to have less stopping power. This is why it is important that you get a fly reel that is balanced in stopping power and start-up inertia.

· Reel Weight

Most anglers these days prefer to go with lighter fly rods. Their arms have to lift each ounce of the fly rod in each cast they make. The heavier the rod, the more work their arms will be doing. This is why lighter rods are preferred by anglers as they allow them to save strength and stamina for more casting. If you have a light rod, you will need a lighter reel that matches the rod.

· Reel Construction

Reels are constructed in two ways – machined or pre-cast. Machined is the superior option since these reels are carved from a chunk of metal and are well-designed. This makes them lighter, stronger and more durable. Furthermore, these reels tend to perform better than pre-cast reels. Since machined reels are superior, they cost more than pre-cast fly fishing reels.

Pre-cast fly fishing reels are made from a cast that has liquid metal run into it. Due to this reason, these reels are a little heavier, but they perform well. However, pre-cast reels aren’t as durable as machined fly fishing reels.

Best Fly Fishing Reels

1. Tibor Gulfstream Fly Reel

The Tibor Gulfstream fly reels are made from premium grade aluminum. Everything that should be sealed is sealed perfectly including the high-quality drag system. The reel can take on tough fishing – you can tackle fast running saltwater fish with ease.

The sealed cork drag system is lubricated constantly to the clutch system. This makes it easy for you to switch the real from right-handed to left-handed. Every part of the Tibor Gulfstream Fly Reel is designed keeping the professional fish angler in mind so you can rest assured that it will satisfy your needs and last for a long time.

Tibor has been making high-quality fly reels for about half a century and this fly reel is the prime example of why they’ve remained one of the top leaders in the industry for such a long time. There are some strong mechanism and links in this fly reel so you can take on all kinds of fish species.

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2. Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel

Just because a reel is super expensive doesn’t mean that it will offer top-tier performance. There are several fly fishing reels that come with a hefty price tag but are not at par to other reels that cost less. The Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel is one of those reels that aren’t expensive but stands out in terms of quality and performance.

Those who are accustomed to Orvis brand know that it provides quality fishing gear. The Orvis Hydros SL has received excellent reviews from fly anglers because of its amazing design. One of the strongest points of the Orvis Hydros SL is its durability. Thanks to the fully sealed drag system, you don’t have to worry about sand and dirt making their way into the system and affecting its performance. A new spool design and frame have added to the strong build quality of the Orvis Hydros SL and they are incredibly versatile. Featuring a super large arbor, the spool ensures lightning-fast retrieval of line, assisting you in situations when you need to quickly pick up line. The start-up inertia of the drag system is zero which allows it to stay prepared for situations where big fish start peeling off line.

The modern fly rods available nowadays are constructed from light material to ensure that they weigh as less as possible. It can be hard to find a reel that balances perfectly with the newest lightweight fly rods. Fortunately, the Orvis Fly Reel pairs well with modern lightweight rods.

The performance and craftsmanship of the Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel speak for itself. We are confident that you will love this reel and it will pair well with your existing fly rod. So if you are looking for a high-quality fly reel that delivers exceptional performance, add the Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel to your shortlist.

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3.  Redington Behemoth Fly Reel

Redington is known for its reasonable pricing and quality fishing gear. The Redington Behemoth is an all-around utilitarian reel. Since it is die-cast, this reel isn’t as durable as the reels that are machined from aluminum. However, this should not stop you from buying this fly fishing reel as it has some appealing features that make it one of the best reels available in the market.

The Redington Behemoth Fly Reel has a large interlocking arbor that allows you to quickly retrieve your fly line. The reel’s spool constantly exposes the line and backing to the air, allowing for faster drying. The drag system doesn’t compare with that found in high-end reels. However, it is still pretty strong and can battle big fish, including certain saltwater species. Drag resistance of the Redington Behemoth is almost 17 lbs which means that you get tremendous stopping power.

One of the drawbacks of this fly fishing reel is that it isn’t lightweight so it might not pair well with some of the modern lightweight fly rods. Moreover, since it’s a cast reel, the performance of the Behemoth Fly Reel will be affected from drops and impacts. You will have to take good care of your gear to ensure that the Behemoth performs well for a long time.

The Redington Behemoth Fly Reel has received positive reviews from the majority of customers because of its great capability and reasonable price. If you are looking for a reasonably priced fly fishing reel that delivers good performance, the Redington Behemoth might be the right fit for you.

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4. Piscifun Platte Fly Fishing Reel

The Piscifun Platte Fly Fishing Reel is fully machined to provide high-level durability that isn’t found in die-cast reels. Spool and frame fit offer good tolerances, similar to what you get with high-end reels. The Piscifun Fly Fishing Reel can be used for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

Thanks to large arbor design, you will find it easy to quickly pick up line when needed. The design of reel and spool ensure that the line and backing get maximum air exposure which promotes faster drying. The Piscifun Plate Fly Fishing Reel is also very light so it will match well with modern lightweight fly rods. Start-up inertia is very low which makes it easier for you to pull off the line. The drag mechanism is completely sealed to keep water and grit at bay, ensuring that your fly reel lasts long. The Piscifun Platte Fly Fishing Reel doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Simple rinsing after each session is enough.

The reel also boasts a large drag knob, allowing for quick adjustments to the drag. The knurled edge to the knob provides a solid grip. A quick release button on the spool allows for easy spool swaps when you have to change lines.

It is very hard to find a fly fishing reel that can match the quality and cost of the Piscifun Platte. This fly fishing reel should last long provided you take care of it and rinse it well after each use. Like the reels discussed above The Piscifun Platte, it has captured the attention of fly anglers and received great reviews that serve as a testament to its quality and performance. If you want a reasonably priced fly fishing reel that delivers great performance, consider the Piscifun Platte Fly Fishing Reel.

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5. Galvan Torque Fly Reel

The Galvan Torque Fly Reel is known for its price and superior performance. This elite reel outperforms the competition and its beautiful design features unique cutouts that reduce the overall weight of the reel without compromising strength and durability.

The Torque Fly Reel includes an innovative drag system from Galvan. This system has proven to be extremely smooth and reliable which is why it has been incorporated into many other fly reels produced by Galvan, including the Rush Light discussed below. Whether you are fishing in a river, saltwater flats or lakes, the Galvan Torque Fly Reel will satisfy your needs in every way.

Galvin Torque is ideal for anglers targeting pond bass, panfish and trout. The high-end features including the EZ Grip handle and drag and micro tune adjustment, make the Galvin Torque Fly Reel a great choice for professional fly anglers.

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6. Galvan Rush Light Fly Reel

The Rush Light is an under-rated fly reel that is capable of delivering exceptional performance. The reason this fly fishing reel is most overlooked is that most people think that the Torque is the best fly reel made by Galvan. What many Anglers don’t know is that the Rush Light from Galvan has pretty much the same inner components and technical features as those found in the high-end Galvan Torque.

The Rush Light’s drag system is the same as that used in the Torque which is why it is extremely capable. This fly fishing reel can also handle large trout. The Rush Light’s straight pull maximum drag measures in at 12 pounds. That’s a lot of drag. Some other reels also come with a high amount of drag, but most of them lack the great sensitivity that you get with the Rush Light. You also get a wide range of drag settings. So you can adjust the drag when a big fish tries to run, ensuring that the tippet doesn’t break.

The simple porting design of the original Rush Series has been used for this fly reel. This design was known for its tremendous durability and by adopting an existing design, Galvan has managed to keep the costs low and reduce the weight of the reel. Since the Rush Light is very durable, it won’t lose its ability to perform from minor impacts.

If you are a serious angler and want to get a fly fishing reel that will last over the long haul, the Galvan Rush Light Fly Reel is a great choice.

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7. Ross Evolution LTX Fly Reel

The Evolution LTX features a new drag system that is said to be four times stronger than that used in previous designs like the Evolution LT. This disc drag system manages 8 pounds of maximum drag. That’s a lot of drag – more than you’ll ever need.

The smooth operation and iconic sound of the Evolution haven’t been changed. However, the handle has been upgraded. LTX large arbor spools now feature a better handle that’s machined from canvas phenolic rod. This material has been specifically picked to increase grip, reduce weight and make the reel more durable. This is what anglers are looking for when they are fighting a monstrous fish on their reel. They want a handle that they can grip quickly and easily without their fingers slipping off.

Ross suggests that its Evolution LTX Fly Reel can compete with some of the best light saltwater fly fishing reels. If you primarily fish freshwater and sometimes go for redfish, sea trout and striped, the Ross Evolution LTX Fly Reel could be a great option for you. Its impressive drag system, fine appearance, and fair price shouldn’t disappoint any angler.

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8. Okuma Raw II

Some fly anglers prefer heavy-duty reels for handling big beasts of the waters. Okuma Raw II is a great reel for those anglers. The Raw-II boasts a dual force drag system with carbon fiber drag stack which allows for heavier drag settings. This fly reel has a tremendous amount of power which allows anglers to take on the toughest species in any water environment.

The aluminum alloy used in the Okuma Raw II fly reel is non-anodized and shows no environmental or structural damage even after 480 hours of continuous salt spray. Average aluminum reaches catastrophic failure at this point which means that the aluminum alloy used in the Okuma Raw II Fly Reel is a lot stronger. The painted surface layer and Okuma corrosion resistant process enable the Raw II Fly Reel to last much longer than other fly reels.

If you are looking for a strong fly reel that can tackle big fish in a different water environment, we recommend you consider the Okuma Raw II.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you have info on some of the best fly fishing reels available in the market, all you have to do is pick a reel that best suits your needs. Take your time to consider your budget, the fish you will be tackling and the water environments you will be dealing with to find a reel that is right for you. Make sure to select a reel that matches well with your fly rod to ensure that you are able to secure great catches.