Best Fly Reels
Fly reels tend to employ a more simple design than other reel types, for example spinning reels. However, given the reel is an integral component to fly fishing, the simplistic nature of the design does not mean that all fly reels are the same, and as such, it's important to understand how they can vary.
In this article, we will discuss some of the ins-and-outs of fly reels, what sort of differences to expect and look for across different fly reels, and then we will also provide our reviews of what we consider to be the best fly reels at different price points.
- Very low price
- High-grade aluminum
- Easily adjustable for left- or right-hand retrieve
- Lower durability than some other reels
- Questionable drag adjustment
The Fiblink saltwater fly fishing reel offers tremendous value that is tough to beat. Given this is one of the cheapest reels you can buy, the performance and durability is surprisingly high.
Made from cold forged, CNC-machined, high-grade aluminum, this reel is already a step above many others. However, one thing to note about the aluminum is that it's quite thin in some areas. This is probably because they were trying to maintain a lightweight design, which does work, but it will affect the long term durability.
The "advanced fiber-composite drag system" is actually decent, but some anglers have found it to be more finicky than they would like in terms of adjustability. Speaking of adjustability, the one-way bearing allows for easy changing from left- to right-hand retrieve.
Overall, this is an excellent fly reel for the price. We would recommend the Fiblink saltwater fly reel for absolutely any angler, but especially for beginners, those looking to save a few bucks, and anyone who wants a backup just in case.
- Good price
- Reliable brand
- Variety of sizes
- Multi-disk cork and stainless steel drag washers
- Precision-machined brass bushing drive system and stainless steel spool shafts
- Diecast aluminum super large arbor spool design
- Some anglers find the adjustable drag is way too sensitive
- Surface of fairlead is unpolished, so line can run over rough metal
- Fit can sometimes be questionable (thick foot, small radius)
This is another very well-reviewed fly reel. Okuma is a reputable brand that is known to provide good quality products at a very reasonable price, and thir SLV diecast aluminum fly reel is no different.
This reel offers a step up from the Fiblink fly reel in terms of variety of sizes as well as quality of material. Whether it's incorporating precision-machined brass in the bushing drive system, stainless steel spool shafts, or diecast aluminum arbor spool, this reel is sure to perform better and last longer.
One note to keep in mind is that the sizes tend to run just slightly smaller than many anglers would like, mainly on the models that are smaller to begin with. For example, one customer noted that on their SLV-56 model they were barely able to fit 100 yds 20lb backing and Rio Grande 6wt trout line.
Most anglers love the drag system especially when it comes to the range, but some find it to be a little too sensitive. That being said, you will likely have a hard time finding a reel with a better drag system for the price, so we wouldn't look too much into this.
Overall, Okuma provides great fly reels in their SLV series at an affordable price, leading to a product with great value. The materials and construction are a step up from base-level reels, and the smooth action combined with a nice drag system combine to create a high level of performance. Most complaints are limited to personal preferences not being met, so while they are worth considering, we would consider them to be slightly exaggerated. We would recommend the Okuma SLV series fly reels for any angler looking for something more affordable, but still providing reliably smooth action. There are lots of models to choose from, so you can further optimize to your preferences.
- Decent price
- CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy
- Multi-disk cork and stainless steel drag system
- Cold-forged and tempered for strength and durability
- Hard anodized for surface protection
- Variety of sizes available
- Drag can adjust from light to heavy quicker than expected
- Difficult to disassemble components for cleaning
- Lack of information and resources with this reel
The Piscifun Sword fly fishing reel is a little off the board, but has proven successful on the rods of many anglers. The price is on the cheap-average range, especially for the quality that you get with it.
The CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy high-impact durability and corrosion resistance in all conditions. The action and drag system is smooth, but the initiation of the drag system can be a little fast for some, which can pose a problem if there's a hard-fighting fish on the line.
The mid-arbor design limits line memory, but maintains really quick line pickup. Cold-forged and tempered for even greater strength and durability, the concave arbor also allows for greater strength as well as increased capacity, and the reel is hard anodized for surface protection.
Overall, this is an excellent reel that employs higher-grade materials and more precise manufacturing, but there is an associated increase in cost, albeit a rather small increase in cost. Additionally, with weights ranging from 3/4 to 9/10, you are likely to find a mode that is ideal for your requirements. Overall, we would recommend this reel to any angler looking for a quality reel at a slightly higher, yet still reasonably affordable price.
- High quality
- Made in the USA
- Large arbor
- Machined 6061 aluminum and stainless steel
- Type 2 anodize finish
- Sealed conical drag system
- Small handle
The Waterworks Lamson Guru fly reel is crafted with extreme care in Idaho, USA. This reel is extremely well-liked by customers, and for good reason. The care that goes into each reel leads to a very well-balanced reel with awesome retrieve rates, reduced weight, and improved line drying.
The machined 6061 aluminum combined with the strong stainless steel makes this reel one of the more durable fly reels on the market. Not only is it strong, but the intelligent open spoke design minimizes the weight while still ensuring a very strong structure.
The wide spool allows for fast line pickup, the drag works smoothly and is more easily adjusted than many disc-drag systems, and it's very easy to change from a left-hand to right-hand retrieve. The main drawback about the retrieve is that the handle is smaller than we would like, but that's pretty much the only bad thing we could think of.
Overall, this is an excellent reel, but it comes in at a price that is way more expensive than the other fly reels we reviewed. However as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for", and in this case, that saying definitely holds true. It will be tough to find a smoother, more durable, more well-balance, and easy-to-use reel than the Waterworks Lamson Guru fly reel. We recommend this reel to anyone who wants the best fly reel they can get at am expensive, yet justifiable price.
What to Look for in a Fly Reel
Given fly reels are contsructed quite differently from other common reel types, such as spinning reels, it is important to be aware of some of the subtle differences. If you're solely a fly fisherman, then chances are you already have lots of knowledge in this area, but for those with minimal experience casting flies, we will provide some further information about important things to consider when looking for a new fly fishing reel.
Fly reels come in many different sizes, or "weights", that allow you to optimize the amount of backing and line on your current rod. Common fly reel weights are usually around 3-10, but you will often see a small range reported instead, such as "3/4" or "5/6".
Given most fly reels will come in a variety of weights, how do you know which is the correct weight for you? This will depend mostly on the rod weight that you are currently using, and it's quite simple to match up. For example, if you are using a 7-weight rod, then a 7/8 fly reel should do the trick nicely.
Aside from the general action of casting and retrieving, the drag system is the main mechanical component of a fly reel. This allows you to alter the resistance on the reel when you are fighting a fish. Given this is an extremely important function of any reel, as well as an important aspect of fishing in general, most fly reels will have a decent drag system in place.
However, if you want to ensure that you are getting what you want, it helps to know a little bit about how the drag system works. Most fly reels will employ a disc system, whereby numerous lubricated discs are stacked, and by tightening or loosening a knob you can change how firmly these discs are pressing together, ultimately adding or decreasing resistance on your reel.
While we mentioned the drag system is an integral component of any reel, many fly fishermen find they don't have to worry about subtle differences between drag systems when fishing for trout, as standard drag system seem to work more than good enough for trout. Where it really matters is in saltwater where you have a chance at setting the hook on a much larger or stronger fish that will fight your line for a prolonged period of time.
Lastly, specific drag systems on particular fly reels are best understood after extended use. Of course, this doesn't help much when you're shopping for a new fly reel, and "fast-acting disc drag system" doesn't always give you a good idea if one drag system is better than another. Therefore, we would simply recommend looking around at numerous customer reviews (not just our reviews), to see what various individuals say about the drag system. If the reviews are all over the place, stick with an angler who seems to be fishing for a similar species as you, and who may have the same level, if not more, experience.
This is a term you may see a lot when looking at different fly reels. So what is an arbor and why is it important?
The arbor is the part of the reel that the fly line and backing winds around. The main thing to recognize here is that you can get many different sizes of arbors, usually categorized as small/standard, mid-arbor, and large arbor fly reels.
In order to understand how the size affects the performance, it's best to compare the two extremes: small and large. A small arbor will be able to hold the most amount of backing and line, but the trade-off is a slower retrieval rate and more line memory.
Looking at the retrieval rate, an arbor with a smaller diameter will require more revolutions to retrieve the same amount of line when compared with a larger arbor. In terms of line memory, we are basically referring to susceptibility of the line to coiling, and ultimately, tangles or birds nests. With a small arbor, the line is more tightly coiled, and therefore it is more likely to have a residual coil/bend as it comes off the reel. Since the line on a large arbor is less tightly coiled, there is a lower chance of tangles or birds nests.
So why not always use a large arbor? Large arbors tend to be found on more expensive reels, so that's a practical factor to consider. Additionally, if you're fishing smaller freshwater fish like trout, often times a large arbor reel will cause a noticeable imbalance on the lighter rod. Combined with the fact that large arbors are often found on larger reels in general, these reels will often be a bit heavier than a small-arbor reel.
Generally speaking, if you're planning on fishing larger saltwater species that put up a strong fight, then you will likely want to use a large arbor reel due to the retrieval speed and robust construction, as well as the fact that it's weight will pair well with your rod. If you're fishing smaller freshwater fish like trout, you can still use a large arbor reel, but you may prefer something more lightweight and balanced on your rod. A mid-arbor reel will pretty much provide an average of the two, so if you're really not sure that can also be a good place to start.