Choosing Your Fly Fishing Reel Made Real Easy!

Art Fly Fishing

At first glance, a newcomer to the world of fly fishing might find themselves somewhat intimidated. There is just so much to consider when setting up your fly fishing gear and it can all seem a little overwhelming if you’re completely new.

But once you get stuck in, you’ll find that most of the equipment you need is actually deceptively simple to understand. It’s just a matter of jumping in the deep-end (metaphorically speaking) and giving it a go!Set of different fly fishing rods

And fortunately, there are plenty of fly fishing kits aimed at beginners to help simplify these options. As you get better at fly fishing though and start to accrue some experience, you’ll find that it is actually the large number of different options that makes this sport/hobby so rewarding.

Over time you will hone and perfect your fly fishing gear and become an incredible hunter, ready to wade in and start catching more fish!

The reel is one key piece in this armoring up, so read on and discover how to choose the perfect fly fishing reels.

Fly Fishing Reels – The Basics

The first thing to understand about fly fishing reels is precisely what they’re for and how they function. Simply put, fly fishing reels are designed to store your fly lines and provide extra space for your backing.

But while the role of a fly fishing reel might seem relatively simple, the reality is that they actually come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, each of which has different advantages and disadvantages. Knowing how each of these different types performs is key to improving your odds of catching plenty of fish.Two Piscifun Aluminum Fly Fishing Reels in Sand

Types of Fly Fishing Reels

The first thing to consider is the different types of fly fishing reels. These include:

  • Standard Arbor Fly Reels – These are fly reels that have their base in the middle of the reel. This is the most common design and is still popular among many anglers using smaller river rods or even cane fly rods. These can hold a lot of backing but tend to have narrow frames and which can reduce your retrieval rate per revolution. These are the most vintage fly fishing reels and do still have their place.
  • Mid Arbor Fly Reels – There, the base of the reel is moved out slightly from the center and this allows the reel to be a little wider. These reels have good backing capacity and will help to keep the line in a large loop. This reduces memory and improves the line retrieval rate.
  • Large Arbor Fly Reels – These are perhaps the most modern in terms of design and are considerably larger than the other two types of fly reel. The diameter is much wider and the base where they attach to the rod is on the edge, rather than being in the center or just off-center. They can sometimes end up looking comically large for the rod, which isn’t a good look but they have the advantage of being large and light weight, with very food balance. These are probably the best fly fishing reels for the largest range of uses.
  • Cassette Fly Reel – A cassette fly reel is a fly reel that is made using cheap plastic spools. These can be quickly exchanged, which allows you to swap out different fly lines and weights. They will often come with numerous spools in their own carry case.

Drag Systems

When choosing the best fly fishing reels, it is important to consider the drag system. These are ‘spring and pawl’ or ‘disc drag’. This is the cog mechanisms which alters the amount of pressure that you apply to the spindle and choosing S&P will weigh very little but has less stopping power to fight larger fish. That makes S&P a good fit for smaller rivers.Fly Fishing Rod Grey Photo

Better saltwater fly fishing reels meanwhile are disc drag – which are generally the most popular option. This works like a brake and increases the tension put on the line as the fish tries to pull away, while making it easier for you to reel in.

This can help you to fight larger fish and in some cases these can apply up to 20lbs of torque! There are also two types of disc drag systems, which include the sealed type and the non-sealed type. Non-sealed aren’t water resistance and will need a lot more oiling and maintenance to keep operational.

When choosing saltwater fly fishing reels, it is always advisable to choose a non-sealed system as these will be able to take a lot more abuse and to be used in the harshest of conditions – they’re just going to need you to handle a bit of repair and maintenance as you go!

More Factors

There are more factors to consider too. For example, you need to think about the weight of the fly fishing reel and you need to think about whether you need a right or left hand wind for your reel.

This isn’t as simple as knowing whether you’re left or right handed, as actually some left handed people prefer right hand wind and vice versa – it really comes down to your own preference. Of course you can get a double-handed rod and this way it doesn’t really matter as you’ll be able to cast out on both sides!

Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel with CNC-machined Aluminum Alloy Body 3/4 Gunmetal Design


If you’re still finding all this confusing, then be sure to check out our reviews section where you can find advice on the best fly fishing reels and more. Head over there, choose your weapon and start reeling in those fish!

Ultimately, getting a basic fly fishing reel will be fine for most beginners as long as it matches the weight of your line and if you buy a starter kit for fly fishing, then you should find that comes with a suitable combination of line, rod, reel, leader and tippet.

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