Fly Fishing Reel Buyer Guide

by | Jul 19, 2018 | Fly Fishing, Reels | 0 comments

4 Fly Fishing Reel Purchase Considerations

The hum of the reel is the sweetest sound in fly fishing. Fly fishing reels do not just hold your line. They are a critical piece in the overall experience. The reel you choose will contribute to the balance of your rod, the smoothness of your casts, and the ease with which you land the big fish.

So what are the things you need to consider? Let’s get straight to it!

Consider Weight or Size

Match your reel size to your rod size (5 weight rod, 5 weight reel).

Keep the line your using in mind. Most reels can handle a couple different sizes of line, but if you also match the line to the rod then this shouldn’t be an issue.

Fly Fishing Reel Construction: Pre-Cast vs Machined

Pre-Cast: made from liquid metal and tend to be heavier. They are slightly less durable, but are usually more affordable. They are definitely reliable enough from a performance standpoint for those of you just beginning your fly fishing journey. If you are a beginner this is where I’d start.

Machined: made from a block of metal, they will typically be lighter and stronger. They are almost definitely more expensive than a pre-cast, but they should last a lifetime and offer better performance across the board. Once you’ve got some experience under your belt I’d start looking for one of these, it will become your lifelong companion as a fly fisherman.

*Note: if you’re fishing in salt water you should also consider the finish of the reel. You will want to get an anodized finish for saltwater fly fishing.

Drag: Click and Pawl vs Disc Drag

Drag is a key feature for fly reels, this is what will prevent your big catch from pulling all the line off the reel.

Click and Pawl: This is the traditional style, it’s more affordable and will be just fine if you’re chasing small fish. It doesn’t have the same stopping power as disc drag, so if you’re going for the big fish, read on.

Disc Drag: smooth and efficient! If you’re going for the big fish, get a disc drag reel. It’s more expensive, but honestly, if you can afford it, I’d get a disc drag reel for just about any type of fly fishing.


There is a cylinder in the center of the reel that the backing and fly line is wound around, that’s the arbor. More recently reels have been featuring larger arbors because they reel line back in faster. Classic trout reels and also beginner reels have smaller arbors, so if you’re in the market for those that a small arbor is just fine. If you’re fishing in salt water, or warm water, you’ll want to stick with a larger arbor.

As mentioned above, the sound of the reel can be the thing fly fisherman cling most closely to in this majestic sport. Once you’ve narrowed down the specifications you need depending on location and the fish you’re after, start shopping around. When you find the rod for you, you’ll know it, and then, my friends, the true beauty and serenity of fly fishing will be yours to enjoy for a lifetime!