The earliest known illustration of a fishing reel was seen in Chinese paintings in about 1195 AD. The fishing reel was invented in the Song dynasty in China.
The first fishing reel in America was invented in 1820 by George Snyder, who was a native of Kentucky. Snyder’s reels became the most popular reels in the 19th century going forward. It is from them that developments have come up to what we know today as the fishing reel.
We go fishing for various reasons. Some go fishing as a hobby that they do to unwind. For others, it is a sport and others an occupation. Irrespective of the reason, one thing that stands out in fishing is that you need to have the right gear. You cannot go out with just a pointed stick and expect to get considerable success in your fishing expedition. You need to have the right pieces of equipment.
Reviews of Top Fly Fishing Reels
The challenge then comes in that there is no shortage of fly reels out there. With technological advancements, there is always a variety of fly reels being developed. It, therefore, becomes a challenge getting just the right fly reel for your fishing.
In this article, we want to make it easy for you by providing you with a review of the best available fly reels. A fly reel has a simple mechanical construction. It has a stripping line that you operate with one hand, and a casting rod that you operate with the other hand. One development regarding fly reels is a large design that is essential in increasing the speed of retrieval.
If you want to know more about the best available fly reels in the market, follow us through the article so that you can make an informed purchasing decision.
Watertight lip seals and bearings that make it highly durable
Anodized aluminum material makes it sturdy and durable
It is a little on the heavy side
Not enough drag strength
Have you been looking for a crossover reel across freshwater and saltwater? Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 7 Plus Fishing Fly Reel is what you have been looking for.
With the Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 7 Plus Fly Reel, you will get it right, trying to catch the baby tarpon, redfish, and steelhead. This new Hatch Gen 2 Finatic has undergone updates from the original. It also has many performance and aesthetic improvements.
First, it comes with a new 9 window design that reduces the weight of the reel, making it easier for you to operate it. The reduced weight does not sacrifice on the durable protection against the elements.
It also features type 2 anodized aluminum fully sealed drag components that have a large capacity backing to catch baby tarpon, steelhead, and bonefish. The fishing reel offers you one of the most linear drag you can get. It provides you 2.4 lbs of drag at half drag.
The fly fishing reel has watertight lip seals and shielded bearings that enhances its durability even in saltwater. It also has a standard bead blast finish with smooth edges, which gives the Finatic 7 Plus a sleek look. The fly fishing reel also comes with a comfortable knob.
The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic picks up the line at 9.22 inches per turn. It also has an adequate size of the spool, which you can also change to a mid-arbor spool. The reel has a fantastic sound, and it weighs 8.6 ounces, which is not very light.
Easily adjustable from left to right hand retrieve
Even with the reduced weight, the reel is still heavy
The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 3 Plus is your ideal fly fishing reel if you are looking for a perfect trout reel.
The fly fishing reel comes in a variety of colors that include green, blue, red, grey, silver, and black so that you can pick your favorite.
One thing we love about the fly fishing reel is the significant performance and aesthetic improvements that are evident on the reel. The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 3 has undergone a complete update from the original reel.
The reel comes with a new 9 window frame design that significantly works to reduce the weight of the reel. The new design, however, does not compromise on the strength of the fishing reel protection against elements.
Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 3 has beefed up the drag with watertight lip seals and shielded bearings. This enhances the durability of the fly fishing reel. Additionally, it features a type 2 anodized aluminum backing and a mid or large arbor capacity that helps you to catch trout on spring creeks.
The reel can comfortably balance 4 weight rod or a 10.5 foot, 3 weight euro nymphing rod. It also has a broad capacity backing for when you hook a toad. Also, the reel has a bead blasted mist finish with smooth edges that make your reel have a sleek look.
The product weighs 1.25 pounds, which helps you in carrying the reel to your desired destination. It also makes it easier and seamless for you to use it without much straining.
In fly fishing, versatility is critical, and that is what you get with the Cheeky Limitless Fly Reel. Whether you are targeting salmon, steelhead, striper, bonefish, carp, or snook, Cheeky Limitless Fly Reel is your fly reel of choice.
The Cheeky Limitless Fly Reel is available in a variety of sizes that include Cheeky Limitless 325, 375,425,475, and 525. They have a line weight capacity of 2-4, 5-7, 7-10, 10-12, and 12-16, respectively.
When you feel crazy enough to target sharks and other species, you cannot risk carrying a knife to a gun battle. You need a tool that is up to the task, and that is the Cheeky Limitless Fly Reel because of its technological advancement.
It comes with a fully sealed Gasket Drag System (GDS) that cannot be penetrated by the elements. The Limitless fly fishing reels are fully machined from high-grade aerospace aluminum, which makes them durable and strong. They also use a multi-axis machining technique that distributes metal to the critical stress points.
With the Cheeky limitless fly fishing reel, you will get a smooth left to right-hand conversion. You also get an arbor size that offers you maximum retrieval rate.
In terms of weight, Cheeky Limitless Fly Reel is one of the lightest and sturdiest fly fishing reels that you can ever get.
Sage Fly Fishing Click Fly Reel is a combination of functionality and beauty. It offers light freshwater fishermen with the highest level of performance. It comes with a fully machined aerospace-grade aluminum construction that enhances not only its durability but also its performance.
The Sage Fly Fishing reel also features an ultra-large arbor design. You can operate the fly fishing reel if you are right-handed, and even a left-handed person can easily convert it and operate.
The reel also features an adjustable click and pawl drag system that prevents over spooling. There is also the large palming rim that allows you a high level of control over the reel. It has a compact design that makes Sage the ideal fly fishing reel to carry to your preferred destination because it is lightweight.
Sage Fly fishing reel has a 5-6 line weight and has a concave arbor that offers you greater strength and capacity. The large arbor diameter offers you a large area for fighting fish and also provides you quicker line retrieval.
The Sage click aesthetics are enhanced through new hole patterns and modern design. It measures 6 x 6 x 4 inches and weighs 8.8 ounces.
If you are looking for a fly reel that goes beyond the traditional reels, Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel is what you are looking for.
It comes in varied colors that include amber, black, silver, and olive.
The fly fishing reel features an ultra-large U-shaped arbor that allows for quick line retrieval. It also has a smooth, compact carbon fiber drag system that offers you smooth fish stopping torque.
Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel comes with a CNC machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design. The design also combines with a quick release spool. The aluminum design not only gives the fly fishing reel an aesthetic look, but it also makes it long-lasting.
The fly fishing reel also features twin molded, soft-touch ergonomic handles. Thus you have a comfortable grip as you go about your fishing. It also comes with an oversized drag knob for easy adjustment and optimum performance in the hands of any angler.
Are you worried that you are right or left-handed, and you think you cannot work with this fly fishing reel? Worry no more. This is because Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel easily converts between the left hand and right hand retrieve.
The fly fishing reel also features a new and improved hole pattern design that reduces its weight. As such, you can carry it to your preferred fishing destination and carry out fishing with much ease.
It comes in a variety of capacities that include 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10 weight rods.
It comes with a Nylon reel case included, and to guarantee you of its high quality and to give you a comfortable purchase, the fly fishing reel comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Pflueger Patriarch Fly Reel is your fly fishing reel of choice if you are looking for versatility. The fly fishing reel is corrosion-resistant, which makes it suitable for all water use, including saltwater and freshwater.
It comes with a sealed carbon drag system and drive bearing that offers fly anglers a high performance and durable fly fishing reel. The reel also comes with a large arbor design to enable the angler to have maximum line takeup with less memory.
The disc drag system is completely sealed and waterproof, which offers you smooth operation in all conditions, including in saltwater. Additionally, the fly fishing reel features a high grade, machined aluminum frame, and spool. The combination of the two not only offers you guaranteed durability, but it also makes the fly fishing reel lightweight and strong. You can, therefore, easily target even the large species of fish.
Also, the fly fishing reel allows you to easily convert from left hand to right hand, which offers you optimum versatility and easy retrieval of your catch. It also comes with a quick-release attachment and a reel pouch that ensures the safety of your fishing reel during transportation and storage.
It also features an ergonomic handle that gives you a comfortable grip as you go about your fishing expedition.
The Pflueger Patriarch series comes in a variety of weights that include 5 oz, 5.3 oz, 5.7 oz, 8.5oz, and 8.7oz. It also features different line capacities that include WF3+55, WF3+65, Wf7+90, WF10+180, and WF11+230.
The black nickel color of the Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel makes it stand out because of its sleek and elegant look.
Its versatility, performance, and functionality challenge everything about the other available fly fishing reels. First, it features a super large arbor, which means a quick retrieval rate for your catch.
It also features a sealed drag system with a waterproof clutch bearing that is fully sealed inside the drag system. This eases its operation as well as making it long-lasting. It also enhances its versatility as you can use the fly fishing reel in any condition, be it saltwater or freshwater.
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel also comes with a narrow spool, which translates to less line stacking. The narrow spool is combined with an increased backing capacity and an ultra-fast retrieval rate of your catch, which keeps you in control of the fish fight.
The drag system of the fly fishing reel has been made 3x stronger with zero start-up inertia and asymmetric knob for tactile.
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel is ideal for a 7-9wt fly rod used to target salmon, steelhead, bonefish, trout, and bass. It measures 5 x 5 x 4 inches and weighs 10.4 ounces.
There are a few very unique differences between this fly fishing reel and its predecessors. The first noticeable difference is in terms of color. Unlike the other product that is black nickel, this fly fishing reel is silver, which gives it a sleek and elegant look.
Among other features, the fly fishing reel comes with a super large arbor that offers you a quick retrieval rate for your catch. The ultra-large arbor provides you a 12% increase in retrieval rate as compared to its predecessors.
It also has a sealed drag clutch bearing and a sealed waterproof drag mechanism. The sealing increases its versatility as you can use it in freshwater and saltwater without corrosion.
Just like its predecessor, the fly fishing reel offers you a 3x stronger drag with zero start-up inertia.
Additionally, with this fly fishing reel, you will get a narrow spool for less line stacking. It also offers you improved tolerances for smooth operation and increased backing capacity.
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel comes in a variety of models with different capacities that include Wf2+75yds, WF4+125yds, WF 6+125yds, WF8+200yds, and 10+225 yds.
The versatile Piscifun Platte is available in three colors, which are fashion ice blue, classic black, and pretty gunmetal. You, therefore, can choose your preferred option.
Piscifun Platte is not just an ordinary fly fishing reel; it is one that is designed to complete the job. It features a fully sealed carbon to stainless drag system that guarantees you of durability. It is versatile, and you can use it for both fresh and saltwater. You do not require to perform maintenance on the reel all the time apart from simple rinsing.
The sealed drag ensures that sand and other small gravels cannot find their way into the fishing reel.
Piscifun Platte comes with accurate and repeatable drag settings that enable you to click-drag and retrieve. The alternating carbon, Teflon, and stainless design provide ample drag strength.
The fly fishing reel also features a large and flattened drag knob. The flat drag knob helps to avoid the risk of a loop of slack entangling around the knob. The large drag knob also provides a large working area, which makes it easy to adjust.
Additionally, it features a CNC high grade anodized aluminum construction. The body has a heavily ventilated spool that sheds the weight of the device that makes it lightweight while maintaining its strength. It also has a vented and flat rim for ease of palming and additional drag.
Another feature is the large arbor design that increases the retrieval rate. It holds more linebacking and reduces line coil memory. The fishing reel is versatile as you can use it in saltwater and freshwater.
Easy gripping knurl knob feature enables you to have a great grip ad it is ported to reduce unnecessary mass. It also has a damage proof metal handle that also enhances your grip.
Other features include a simple left to right hand retrieve and quick release spool. It also comes with a soft, neoprene padded real case that ensures the protection of the reel during transportation and storage.
The Piscifun sword comes 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10 weights. It also comes in a variety of colors that include pink, gunmetal, space grey, and black.
With the Piscifun Sword, you will get a silky smooth drag. It has a stainless steel drag system with a one-way clutch bearing that offers immediate drag engagement.
The fly reel features a CNC machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy body construction that provides optimum strength and durability. The hollow design of the reel makes it lighter than some other reels in the market.
The hard anodizing treatment makes the reel corrosion resistant. You can, therefore, use it in different conditions, including saltwater. It does not require maintenance, always apart from rinsing it in freshwater.
It also has a mid-arbor design that reduces line memory and facilitates quick line pickup.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answer to this query will highly depend on two factors: the type of fly you will be using and the kind of water you will be fishing in.
For example, if you will be casting in waters up to 50 to 60 feet deep, then you can choose a 5 or 6 weight rod. If you fish in streams and creeks and you won’t cast more than 40 feet, then you can do with a 4 weight rod.
No, you don’t. What you need is a dependable reel that will enable you to do the job sufficiently. The reel should have sufficient capacity to hold the fly line and backing.
The type of rod that you use will depend on several factors, including where you will be fly fishing and the kind of fish you will be fishing. A rod for catching the big species of fish cannot be the same as the one for the small one. In the same way, a rod for fishing in the lake will be of different sizes and weights from one used in the streams.
Most people use 7 and 8 weight lines. 9 ft rods are considered long, and they are the most popular.
There’s nothing quite as majestic as connecting with Mother Nature, fly rod and reel in hand, and fish just waiting to be plucked from the cool waters below.
But first thing’s first. You’ll need to get your rod and reel selection on lock. For the sake of argument, and because this article focuses on fly fishing reels, let’s just assume you already have your rod. After all, a fly reel is one of the more finicky types of reel you can own.
Finding the Right Fly Fishing Reel For You
While the fly fishing reel is often touted as a lesser component of the fly fishing experience, it is still an important consideration. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A quality fly reel is invaluable whenever you hook a once-in-a-blue-moon fish and you need to reel the catch of a lifetime in.
Veteran fly fishermen all agree that there’s no sound more satisfying than the one made by the mechanical hum of a high-quality fly reel, especially when the drag is resonating over the weight of a large fish at the end of the line.
Today’s fly reels are far more than just a line holder, they balance the fly rod, and perform at a high enough level to ensure that you can bring in any big fishes that you manage to hook. Here are some factors that you should consider when you buy your next fly reel:
The Importance of Fly Reels and Why You Shouldn’t Cheap Out
When most people start their fly fishing ventures, they just choose the cheapest fly reel that they can find on the shelves. That’s mostly due to the fact that they lack the funds to get a quality reel or they just aren’t into fly fishing enough yet to justify such a hefty investment.
Another reason could be that they’ve bought into the myth that most people pass around, the rumor that a fly reel isn’t an important piece of equipment since all it did was hold your line. While it’s true that the primary function of a fly reel is to hold the line, it also helps you when it comes time to fight a fish.
The quality of the drag on your fly reel could make the difference between bringing home a 30-incher, or bring home nothing at all. Many people have their first fly reels fail on them when they hook a large fish and quickly realize that their downplaying of its importance was made in error. Don’t let a catch get away, just choose one of the best fly reels from the get-go.
Key Points to Consider When Choosing a Fly Reel
The most important thing that you should consider when picking out a fly reel is whether or not it can hold a sufficient amount of backing and fly line for the weight of the rod that you’ll be using. If you bought a five-weight fly rod, you should choose a fly reel that can accommodate the fly line weights from four to six.
Most fly reel manufacturers will produce models in different weight classes to ensure that every consumer can get the fly reel that’s right for them and their rod. When you choose the right fly reel size, you’ll ensure that it can hold enough backing for when you catch a huge fish that tries to run for its life. That is important because you don’t have the reeling speed and ease that you would with a standard spinning style reel.
Another important aspect of choosing the right fly reel is making sure that the model you pick one with a drag system that can accommodate all your needs. The drag system on a fly reel is what makes the difference in performance between a $50 fly reel and $500 fly reel.
This is the point of the process where you have to start considering what type of fly fishing you’re going to be doing as well as the species of fish that you hope to catch. A drag system on the cheaper end won’t be able to handle big catches trying to run away such as saltwater bonefish.
That said, a budget fly reel should have no problems catching trout provided that the unit itself isn’t defective.
Weight and Size
Just like rods, fly reels are rated based on their weight and size. When you’re looking to buy a new reel, you need to match the reel size to the size of your rod to ensure that the combination is perfectly balanced.
Choosing the right size fly reel will reduce fatigue over long periods of casting since the balance is greater and therefore puts less strain on your arms and your rod. It’s easy to match rods and reels, just look at their ratings.
For instance, if you use a five-weight trout rod, all you have to do is buy a five-weight fly reel to go with it. The other things that you should consider when looking at the reel size is the type of line that you plan on using as well as the backing capacity. Most reels you’ll find can handle two to three sizes of line.
A size 3.5 Lamson reel can handle a seven, eight, or nine-weight line. Switch and Spey reels are oversized so that they can accommodate larger shooting head fly lines whereas saltwater reels often focus on providing more backing capacity as saltwater fishes are more likely to put up a fight.
Trying to distinguish the differences between fly reels is actually quite easy. Remember, fly reels have a limited number of component systems. There could be a few screws, pins, and other parts in the drag system of your reel but these simply serve the purpose of adjusting the drag. Most of the more significant differences between fly reels are related to the following design aspects:
One of the main purposes of a fly reel is to hold unused line, we all know that’s true, but their second job that’s arguably just as important is their ability to retrieve the line when trying to bring a fish in. Most fly reels do this in one of three ways.
The three types used are referred to as single action, multiplying action, or automatic action respectively. Single action fly reels are the ones that you’ll see most often in conventional fishing. A full crank of the handle will turn the spool once.
In contrast, multiplying reels use an elaborate network of gears to create two or more revolutions in the spool whenever you turn the handle. Automatic retrieval reels work entirely different from the first two.
They store tension when the line is fed out — like a bow storing potential energy — and then release the safety latch when you need to retrieve the line which allows the spool to spin back very fast so that you can get your line back as well as whatever is on it.
For basic fly fishing, single-action reels are more than enough. Beginners should consider starting out with single-action reels as they will be better able to concentrate on improving their skills since they don’t have to familiarize themselves with the features of a fancier reel.
That said, if you plan on catching species that have a tendency to make long runs, you might want to consider getting a multiplier reel. In the same way, those who intend to catch deep-water fish would be best off using an automatic retrieval system.
There are two ways to construct a fly reel: pre-casting and machining. Pre-cast reels are made by pouring molten metal into a mold — a process used to produce cast iron tools since the 5th century BC.
Precast reels tend to be heavier and less durable than their machined counterparts but they can be found at lower price points making them an affordable option for beginners or those on a budget.
The reliability and affordable price tag or precast reels make them a good option when you’re just starting out in fly fishing. Machined reels, on the other hand, are milled out of one solid block of metal.
This process of manufacturing leads to a reel that is both lighter and stronger than those made through precasting. Machined reels will last you your entire lifetime and offer excelsior performance through the decades.
As you’d expect from such great construction, they are more expensive than precast reels. You should also take note of the finish on the reel. Anodized finishes are better equipped to survive saltwater — one of the most corrosive threats to fishing reels. An anodized finish is essential if you plan to fish in the ocean.
Drag is one of the most significant features of any fly reel. The drag gives you the power to stop a large fish from pulling all the line off your reel. There are two types of drag systems currently on the market; click and pawl, and disc drag.
Click-and-pawl has been used traditionally but offers less stopping power and adjustability when compared to disc drag systems. Click and pawl drag systems are good options if you’re chasing small species such as trout or sunfish or if you’re buying a fly reel on a tight budget.
Disc drag still offers a smoother and more efficient drag system. It’s a fantastic choice when you’re trying to stop a large fish dead in its tracks or if you need to stop a big trout smoothly.
The arbor is the cylinder at the center of your reel that the backing and fly line are wound around. Most of the reels that you’ll find today have some form of a large arbor. If you plan on chasing warm water or saltwater species, be sure to choose a reel that has a larger arbor.
Larger arbors can help you during smooth runs as well as retrieving your line quickly when the fish turns around and charges towards you. Classic trout reels tend to feature a smaller arbor due to the fact that they are built with beginners in mind.
These reels are lighter, cheaper, and have a low profile when compared to their bulkier, large-arbor counterparts. The size of the arbor on your reel will partially dictate the performance of your rod in one way or the other.
Small arbors are generally cheaper and lighter than large arbors are. Due to that, it makes the most sense to stick to a small arbor unless you absolutely need a larger arbor. Remember, it’s much easier to use light rod than it is to swing around a rod that weighs more than an adult catfish.
Using a lighter arbor that reduces the overall weight of your rod will help you stay sharp and reduce fatigue over long fishing trips. If you’re hunting for a fish that’s known for its will to live and tendency to run, you’ll need a fly reel that can hold a lot of line.
When all other factors are more or less equal, a larger arbor will retrieve line faster than a smaller unit would. This makes it rather valuable when trying to catch lake trout, bonefish, and other species that pull faster than you can say “I’m all out of line.”
The last aspect of a fly reel that you should think about before making your choice is the finish and color of the reel. Natural chrome and matte black finishes are the ones you’ll see most often but there are manufacturers who release reels in other colors as well.
With more and more manufacturers getting into the fly fishing industry, most anglers can find reels in any color they want. Some anglers say that shinier finishes might reflect light into the water which could spook the fish.
The chances of this happening to you are slim to none but it’s worth thinking about. If you are truly concerned with the chances of reflected light scaring away your catch, just go for a model that sports a matte finish.
The factors that we’ve gone over above were related to the act of casting or reeling in a catch, but you don’t fish in the vacuum of space, you fish in the real world, with real fish, and of course, real variables that should be considered when choosing your reel.
When choosing a reel, you should always think about the behavior of the fish that you plan on catching. Some fish like lake trout are caught in deeper waters and like to put up a fight. To catch these types of fish, you’ll need to have a reel that can hold a lot of line while still having a smooth and strong drag system.
It should also collect line quickly to ensure you can keep up with your dinner. In contrast, these details aren’t as significant if you’re trying to catch brook trout in shallow water or a bluegill in a small pond.
It’s important that you use the right equipment based on where you plan on fishing. Fishing in the coastline of Florida is much different from going to the calm lakes of North Carolina or the chilled streams of Appalachia.
Different fly reels perform better in some locations than in others. If you fish in the ocean a lot, you’ll need equipment that can handle the corrosive saltwater as well as a sealed reel to protect the internal components.
When it comes to choosing a fly reel, there’s only one thing we can tell you; choose one that you like in the appropriate size but don’t kill your wallet over it. While this piece of advice may sound vague, it’s as truthful as it’ll get.
If you have a $200 or $400 saved up that you can spend on your first fly reel without getting in trouble with your landlord, spouse, or parents then you’re sure to come home with a great piece of fly fishing equipment. The options that you’ll find in that range include the Cheeky Limitless or the Hatch Finatic.
If you can only spare $150 or so, you can still get a reel that lets you learn the fly fishing basics and hone your skills. The good options that you’ll find in this price range are Orvis Hydros and Piscifun (several).
Despite being at the entry-level price range, the fly reels listed above will give you years of good use.
Closing Thoughts on the Top Fly Reels
Selecting a fly reel might seem like a difficult choice to make due to the wide range of options available but don’t suffer from analysis paralysis. Our site provides detailed reviews and suggestions to help point you in the right direction.
If you look at the key factors that we’ve mentioned above, you should be more than qualified to choose a model that fits your needs. Now that we’ve taught you about each feature, its purpose, and what to look for, just think about which reel works best for your intended usage.
Now to get out there on the water and land that next trophy fish or meal for the frypan!