6 Best Fly Fishing Reels for 2024

person holding a fly fishing rod and reel
person holding a fly fishing rod and reel

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Understanding Fly Fishing Reels

Before delving into the myriad of options available, it's essential to grasp the role and function of a fly fishing reel. Beyond a mere line holder, a fly reel assists in maintaining tension and controlling the release of the line during casting. The anatomy of a fly reel, including arbor size, drag system, and construction materials, deserves our attention.

Arbor Size:

The arbor size of a fly reel determines the amount of backing and fly line it can accommodate. Choosing an arbor that matches your fishing needs is crucial, offering a balance between line capacity and overall weight.

Drag System Dynamics:

The drag system is the powerhouse of a fly reel, dictating the resistance applied to the line when a fish is hooked. Delve into the nuanced differences between spring and pawl, disc drag, and click and pawl systems to understand their impact on your fishing adventures.

Different Types of Drag Systems

Fly fishing reels employ various drag systems, each with its unique characteristics and advantages. Let's unravel the intricacies of three common types: spring and pawl, disc drag, and click and pawl.

Spring and Pawl System: The spring and pawl drag system is a classic, simple mechanism. It relies on a spring-loaded pawl engaging with a toothed gear on the spool. As the fish pulls line, the spring compresses, creating tension and providing resistance. This system is known for its simplicity and reliability, making it suitable for light to moderate fishing situations.

Disc Drag System: The disc drag system, a modern favorite, utilizes a series of discs to generate resistance. These discs, often made of materials like carbon or cork, press against each other as tension increases. The result is a smooth and consistent drag that can handle powerful fish and abrupt movements. Disc drag systems are favored by anglers pursuing larger species or fishing in challenging conditions.

Click and Pawl System: The click and pawl drag system is reminiscent of traditional fly fishing. It produces a distinctive clicking sound as line is pulled off the reel. While not as adjustable as disc drags, the click and pawl system adds a nostalgic charm to fly fishing. It's often preferred for light freshwater applications and offers a more hands-on, sensory experience for the angler.

Material and Construction

Aluminum: Aluminum, a stalwart in the world of fly reel construction, is prized for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. Its lightweight nature ensures minimal fatigue during long casting sessions, making it a favorite among anglers who value maneuverability. The durability of aluminum also withstands corrosion, a crucial factor in the harsh environments often encountered in fly fishing. Reels crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum strike a harmonious balance between strength and weight, offering a reliable companion for both freshwater and saltwater adventures.

Graphite: Graphite, known for its corrosion-resistant properties, has emerged as a popular choice among the best fly rod reels constructed today. This material is particularly favored for freshwater applications where the risk of corrosion is lower. Graphite reels often feature intricate designs, showcasing the material's versatility in shaping aesthetically pleasing and functional reels. While graphite may not match aluminum in raw strength, it provides an excellent alternative for anglers seeking a lightweight reel without compromising on performance.

Hybrid Constructions: Hybrid constructions combine the strengths of different materials, aiming to strike the perfect balance between weight and durability. Reels featuring a combination of aluminum and graphite elements leverage the lightweight advantages of both materials while mitigating potential drawbacks. This innovation caters to anglers who demand versatility in various fishing environments, offering a reel that adapts seamlessly to the demands of freshwater streams or saltwater flats.

Balancing Weight and Durability

The weight of your fly reel can significantly impact your casting precision and overall angling experience. A lightweight reel allows for prolonged use without inducing fatigue, especially during extended casting sessions. Aluminum reels, with their remarkable strength-to-weight ratio, excel in providing a featherlight feel without compromising on durability.

Durability Considerations

While a lightweight reel is desirable, durability is equally paramount, especially when facing formidable adversaries in saltwater or navigating rugged terrains. Aluminum, with its corrosion-resistant properties, ensures longevity and reliability in the face of challenging conditions. Hybrid constructions, intelligently blending materials, offer a compromise that caters to both the need for durability and the desire for a lightweight feel.

Choosing the Right Size

It's imperative to match your reel to the weight rating of your rod. For instance, a 5-weight reel pairs harmoniously with a 5-weight rod, ensuring optimal performance. Pairing the reel with a well-matching rod directly influences casting accuracy and the overall feel of your setup.

6 Best Fly Fishing Reels at a Glance

Best Overall Fly Reel: Sage Spectrum C

Sage Spectrum C Fly Fishing Reel Best OverallSage Spectrum C Fly Fishing Reel Best Overall

Reel Specs:

  • WT: 5/6

  • Material: Aluminum

  • Weight: 10.1oz.

  • Drag: Sealed SCS Carbon Drag

  • Backing Capacity: 100/20 yds./lbs.

The first thing that catches the eye is the Spectrum C's sleek and modern design. Crafted with a machined 6061-T6 aluminum frame, this reel strikes a perfect balance between durability and lightweight design. The large arbor spool not only contributes to its aesthetic appeal but also ensures rapid line retrieval, reducing the time spent playing catch-up with elusive fish.

The heart of any good fly reel lies in its drag system, and the Spectrum C does not disappoint. The sealed carbon drag system provides a buttery-smooth performance, allowing for precise control over line tension. Whether battling feisty trout or powerful saltwater species, the Spectrum C's drag system inspires confidence and reliability in any angling scenario.

One of the standout features of the Spectrum C is its user-friendly design. The large, ergonomic drag knob ensures quick and easy adjustments, even in the heat of the moment. The numbered drag settings provide a clear reference point, allowing anglers to fine-tune their drag with remarkable precision.

Fly reels often face harsh conditions, and the Spectrum C is built to withstand the test of time. The fully machined frame and stainless steel components ensure durability without compromising on performance. The reel's anodized finish not only adds an extra layer of protection but also enhances its resistance to corrosion.

This fly rod reel is definitely a keeper!

Best Trout Fly Reel: Lamson Guru S

Lamson Guru S Fly Fishing Reel Best for TroutLamson Guru S Fly Fishing Reel Best for Trout

Reel Specs:

  • WT: 5

  • Material: Aluminum/Stainless Steel

  • Weight: 4.4oz.

  • Drag: Sealed Conical Drag

  • Backing Capacity: 100/20 yds./lbs.

First and foremost, the build quality of the Guru S is outstanding. The reel features a machined aluminum frame and spool, providing a perfect balance of strength and lightweight design. The craftsmanship is evident in every detail, showcasing Lamson's commitment to creating reels that can withstand the rigors of fly fishing.

One of the standout features of the Guru S is its drag system. Lamson has equipped this reel with a conical drag that delivers smooth and consistent performance. Whether battling a feisty trout or a powerful salmon, the drag on the Guru S remains reliable and responsive, allowing for precise control during the fight. The large arbor design also contributes to quick line retrieval, ensuring you can reel in your catch with ease.

The Guru S is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. The sleek, minimalist design speaks to the reel's focus on performance without unnecessary frills. The black and silver color scheme adds a touch of sophistication, making it a visually appealing addition to any fly rod.

I was particularly impressed with the ease of maintenance for the Guru S. The reel is designed with a quick-change spool system, allowing for effortless switching between different line weights or types. Additionally, the fully sealed drag system keeps out dirt, sand, and water, reducing the need for frequent cleaning and ensuring the reel's longevity.

In terms of versatility, the Guru S performs admirably across various fishing scenarios. Whether you're targeting small streams or large rivers, this reel's design and functionality make it a reliable companion for anglers of all skill levels. The range of available sizes also caters to a broad spectrum of fly fishing preferences. This reel could've easily been our top pick overall.

Best Saltwater Fly Reel: Galvan Torque

Galvan Torque Fly Fishing Reel Best for SaltwaterGalvan Torque Fly Fishing Reel Best for Saltwater

Reel Specs:

  • WT: 9

  • Material: Aluminum/Stainless Steel

  • Weight: 7.9oz.

  • Drag: Torque Drag

  • Backing Capacity: 225/20 yds./lbs.

The Galvan Torque immediately stands out with its sleek, modern design. Crafted with precision and attention to detail, the reel boasts a fully machined aluminum frame and spool, offering both strength and a lightweight feel. The anodized finish not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also ensures durability against the harsh elements of fly fishing environments.

The large arbor design of the Torque contributes to faster line retrieval and reduces line memory, a crucial feature for those long days on the water. The drag system, featuring a unique, adjustable, and smooth drag knob, allows for precise control over the resistance, accommodating a wide range of fishing situations.

Performance: What truly sets the Galvan Torque apart is its exceptional performance. The reel provides a buttery-smooth drag that maintains consistent pressure throughout the fight with a fish. Whether battling a lively trout or a powerful saltwater species, the Torque's drag system delivers a reliable and seamless experience, preventing sudden jerks or tangles in the line.

The large arbor not only aids in quick line retrieval but also minimizes line memory, resulting in smoother casts and improved accuracy. The reel's anodized finish not only protects against corrosion but also adds a touch of elegance to its overall appearance.

Versatility: The Galvan Torque Fly Fishing Reel is a versatile companion suitable for a variety of fishing scenarios. Its lightweight design makes it ideal for long days on the river, while the robust construction ensures it can handle the demands of saltwater fly fishing. Whether you're a seasoned angler chasing trophy fish or a beginner exploring different waters, the Torque adapts seamlessly to your needs.

Best Value Fly Reel: Redington Behemoth

Redington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reel Best ValueRedington Behemoth Fly Fishing Reel Best Value

Reel Specs:

  • WT: 7/8

  • Material: Carbon Fiber

  • Weight: 10.4oz.

  • Drag: Carbon Fiber Drag

  • Backing Capacity: 200/20 yds./lbs.

After spending a considerable amount of time on the water with this reel, I'm excited to share my insights and experiences.

Design and Build Quality: The Behemoth boasts a distinctive, eye-catching design that immediately sets it apart on the water. The reel's die-cast construction, combined with a unique, interlocking frame and spool, gives it a sturdy and durable feel. The large arbor design not only aids in quick line retrieval but also minimizes line memory, providing a smooth and consistent performance.

Drag System: The most striking feature of the Behemoth is its powerful drag system. The adjustable, carbon fiber drag delivers an impressive amount of stopping power, making it suitable for tackling a wide range of fish species. Whether I was battling feisty trout or larger freshwater predators, the Behemoth's drag system performed admirably, providing a seamless and reliable experience.

Smooth Retrieval: The large arbor and oversized handle contribute to the reel's smooth retrieval. The Behemoth's retrieval process is both efficient and quiet, allowing for a more enjoyable fishing experience. I particularly appreciated the handle's ergonomics, providing a comfortable grip during extended fishing sessions.

Line Capacity: With its generous line capacity, the Behemoth is well-suited for a variety of fishing scenarios. Whether you're chasing after fast-swimming saltwater species or trying to reach distant trout in large rivers, this reel accommodates a substantial amount of backing and fly line.

Versatility: One of the standout features of the Behemoth is its versatility. This reel is suitable for a wide range of fishing applications, from freshwater streams to saltwater flats. Its robust construction and reliable drag system make it a go-to choice for anglers who enjoy exploring different environments and targeting various species.

The Behemoth is certainly worth considering for its performance and value.

Best Beginner Fly Reel: Redington Rise

Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel Best for BeginnersRedington Rise Fly Fishing Reel Best for Beginners

Reel Specs:

  • WT: 5/6

  • Material: Aluminum

  • Weight: 4.6oz.

  • Drag: Carbon Fiber Drag

  • Backing Capacity: 100/20 yds./lbs.

The Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel boasts an eye-catching design with a focus on functionality. The forged-aluminum build quality appears robust, suggesting durability in various fishing conditions. The machining looked great as there were no rough edges or manufacturing blemishes.

The Rise features an open design that helps it be lightweight. Along with an impressive look are features like a U-shaped large arbor, soft-touch handle, push-button spool release, carbon fiber drag system, and an easy-to-grab rear drag knob.

The drag system is compact and not fully sealed. This didn't give us any issues, but it could be an issue after prolonged use if the system get contaminated.

The Redington Rise is a great choice for beginners to fly fishing.

MaximumCatch Tino Loaded Fly Fishing Reel Best BudgetMaximumCatch Tino Loaded Fly Fishing Reel Best Budget

Reel Specs:

  • WT: 5/6

  • Material: Aluminum

  • Weight: 5.6oz.

  • Drag: Teflon/Stainless Steel Drag

  • Backing Capacity: 100/20 yds./lbs.

The Tino Fly Fishing Reel is amazing considering the build quality and price-point. The Tino incorporates all of the features of reels that costing much more money.

It's constructed of aluminum making it durable and lightweight. It has a great large arbor design which made line retrieval nice and smooth. The Teflon-stainless steel drag caused no issues for us, although we were concerned about its material at first. This was the first Teflon drag system we had ever used.

Another nice bonus is that the Tino comes pre-loaded with backing so all you need is a fly fishing rod and lures to get started.

Welcome to the world of fly fishing, where the choice of the fly fishing reel you use can significantly enhance your angling experience. The fly fishing reel stands out as a crucial component for many reasons as we'll go over below. So let's check out what makes the best fly fishing reels and how to choose the one that perfectly complements your fishing style.