Best Fly Fishing Reels for the Money

The best fly fishing reels will help you land the smallest trout, or the biggest Tarpon effortlessly. We’ll help you choose the right size, drag system, features, and build quality. Also it’s important that you know the weight of the fly line you’ll be using in conjunction with the reel in order to choose the proper size.

How to buy a fly reel

With so many choices these days, the fly reel market offers a dizzying array of technologies; build quality, sizes, colors, and brands. It’s easy for a newbie to get frustrated and end up with the wrong equipment. We’ll help you choose the right fly reel to match the equipment you already have.

To choose the right fly reel, you’ll need to know a few things before you get started. The three most important components of your fly outfit are the rod, fly line, and reel. They all need to work in concert for everything to function properly. If you don’t already have a fly line and rod, start with getting those first, and then come back to the reel.

Size Does Matter

The size of the reel you’ll need depends on the weight designation of your fly line. Fly lines have quite a bit of mass compared to normal fishing line because they are coated with PVC, and thus take up a lot of room on the reel. The higher the line weight designation the bigger the reel you’ll need.

Luckily, reel manufactures make it pretty easy for you to choose the properly sized reel because they assign a corresponding range of line weights to every model. Simply match the weight of your fly line to the recommendations of the manufacture.

Here is where it gets sticky. You’ll also find recommendations for the capacity of the reel. The capacity has to do with the amount of backing your reel will hold, plus the fly line. If the reel you are looking at says it is appropriate for 4wt - 6wt lines, then you will have to load the reel with much less backing for a 6wt than a 4wt. For example, the capacity recommendations may look like this:

Capacity:

  • 4wt Line + 150 yards of backing
  • 5wt Line + 100 yards of backing
  • 6wt Line + 75 yards of backing

Reel manufactures will give you these recommendations based on how you would like to set up your arsenal. Lets say you have a 4wt and 6wt rod. You would theoretically be able to use this reel for both rods but would have to load less backing on the reel with the 6wt line than the 4wt line. Generally, it’s a good idea to buy reels big enough so that you can load at least 100 yards of backing on the spool.

Machined vs. Cast

Machined fly reels are made out of aluminum. Each piece is “cut” out of a single piece of bar stock aluminum with expensive machines. This manufacturing process produces the most durable and strongest reels on the market. It used to be that these reels were only high end and really expensive. These days there are many affordable options and are worth the extra money.

Cast reels are stamped out of a piece of metal or made from a mold. Most cast reels are not as durable as machined reels but are great for beginners or newbies looking to get into the sport. These reels are very affordable and can be a good way to get started on a tight budget.

Small Arbor vs. Large Arbor

Large arbor reels have a bigger and wider diameter spool than small arbor reels. Large arbor reels retrieve the fly line more quickly, and impart less memory to the fly line because it’s wound around a bigger diameter spool. Small arbor reels work just fine for smaller species and used to be the standard, but with all of the affordable large arbor reels on the market, the added benefits are worth it. Especially when you are playing stronger and bigger fish that will put up a good fight.

Disc Drag vs. Click and Pawl Drag

Disc drag reels are widely available in all price points. They offer a wider range of drag adjustment, and allow you to dial in the amount of friction precisely for any fishing situation. If fly fishing is something you know you’d like to do long term, step up to a disc drag reel. Click and Pawl drag systems have definitely faded from grace these days. You could think of click-and-pawl reels as a good choice for budget minded anglers fishing for smaller species.

Anodized vs. Non-anodized

Anodized aluminum reels are required for saltwater fly fishing. The anodization process resists the corrosive effects of fishing in the saltwater. Anodizing also increases the strength of the metal, making them more durable and scratch resistant; they also can be beautifully dyed to any color. Non-anodized reels are certainly less expensive and if you’re simply fishing freshwater, and are not necessarily looking for the best of the best, then these reels are great.

Choosing The Right Fly Reel

Species

Rod / Line Weight

Water Type

Fish Size

Small Trout

Pan Fish

3wt - 4wt

Small Creeks

Ponds

6" to 12"

Medium Trout

Pan Fish


4wt - 6wt

Medium Creeks

Rivers

Ponds & Lakes

Saltwater

10" - 18"

Large Trout

Bass

5wt - 8wt

Med - Lg Rivers

Med - Lg Lakes

16" - 20+"

Summer Steelhead

Salmon



7wt - 8wt

Spey Med - Lg Rivers

Med - Lg Lakes

20" - 30+"

Winter Steelhead

Salmon

8wt - 9wt

Med - Lg Rivers

Saltwater

10 lbs - 20 lbs

SW Bone Fish

Permit

Red Fish

Dorado

Stripers

Blue Fish

8wt - 10wt

SW Flats

Beaches

Ocean

8 lbs - 20 lbs

SW Tarpon

Tuna

Billfish

DoradoTrevally,

10wt - 14wt

Ocean

20lbs - 150 lbs

Steelhead

Salmon

Spey (Two-handed Rods)

Rivers

6lbs - 20lbs

3 Best Fly Fishing Reels Review

1.Redington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reels

​The Behemoth Fly Fishing Reels are saltwater and heavy freshwater fishing reels. These reels are simple, to the point, and very lightweight. Most of the time trout are just not going to run a mile of line off of the reel. More likely we are just going to strip them in by hand. In this case we need a durable, quality reel with a simple click and pawl drag system. The Behemoth fits this bill perfectly. This reel is fully machined out of aluminum giving it maximum strength. You should decide to let it bounce around in your boat or using it as a float tube anchor. Not really, but you get the point. Great colors and handsome porting make this a “go to” light duty reel.

2.Okuma SLV Diecast Aluminum Fly Reel

Okuma SLV Diecast is an well designed fly reel that provide high performance dragging. It excels in its ability to cast a wide range of fly lines with many different styles of casting strokes. Its extreme versatility makes it ideal for saltwater and freshwater use. Like all of the Okuma series of reels, the quality of the materials used is surprising in this price category. You’ll find a Stainless Drag Washers, multi disk cork, Precision Machined Brass Bushing Drive System & stainless steel spool shaft. We especially love the Large Arbor Spool Design, which help you fish with considerably greater ease. The Okuma SLV Diecast will get you fishing at a price you can afford.

3.Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel

I choose this real for two reasons. the price and the performance. Multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag system provide smooth and quick drag. This is one of the solid reel in fly fishing industry. This reel is indubitably unbeatable for the price. Built with hard anodized for surface protection and corrosion prevention. If you’re unsure what reel to get for your rod, or simply don’t know where to start, this is a fantastic option that will allow you to be confident with your choice. 

Moving on. The CNC hollow feature makes the reel lighter than other low quality models. Don't worry about the durability. The added feature, super aluminum alloy increase its durability.

Randy Todd
 

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