February 2020 Update: We are in the process of redesigning the site!
Please enter your email address below to be notified when our new site is up.
-Stocked fly boxes, including new types of flies
-Updated fly-fishing destination guides
Best Fly Reels For A Novice
The best fly reels for trout today can be purchased for
But before I share my personal recommendations let's look at some
of the things you should take into account before you buy a fly reel.
- The rod
and reel needs to be balanced.
The Rod and Reel Needs to be Balanced.
you buy a fly reel you need to decide on a fly rod and the type of waters
you plan on fishing. See Best Fly Rods for help with this.
weight of the reel needs to balance the rod. Most reels will tell you what line and rod weight the reel is designed for. You can usually go one or
more line weights either direction from the stated number.
Fly Reel Types
There are two main types of trout fly reels:
- The best fly reels are single action. These
reels have a one-to-one retrieval rate, are very easy to change spools,
and in most cases easy to change the handing from left to right. They
are also very easy to maintain.
- The automatic
fly reel uses a trigger to retrieve the fly line. As
the fly line is pulled out the spring inside becomes tighter. The
automatic reel does not allow you to change the degrees of drag. It
does not allow you to change spools. You
rarely see it used anymore.
Fly Reel Construction
There are four common methods in constructing trout fly
cheapest fly reels are made of graphite. I do not believe these reels will
hold up over time. These reels are often included in combo outfits. I
would stay with an aluminum frame even if I had to go with cast aluminum.
next lower quality fly reels are made of stamped metal. These reels often
have gaps between the spool and the reel, which can cause the line or
leader to become pinched. They offer only a coating of varnish for
protection. Not worth the money.
next type of construction is cast aluminum. They are more reliable and
relatively inexpensive. Be careful, like the stamped metal reels, always
inspect the fit between the spool and base. These are easier to break.
best fly reels are machined out of a block of aluminum. They have tight
tolerances between the spool and body. Most of these fly reels offer an
anodized finish to protect against corrosion. See how these fly reels
Fly Reel Drag Systems
There are two drag systems that are most common in fly
and pawl drag uses a spring to push a pawl onto a gear. This produces a clicking
sound. This drag system is used mostly in lighter trout fly reels. Trout
drag is used in some of the best fly reels. They are needed when fighting
large fish. They use cork or Teflon that press against the spool in a
smoother, more efficient way. Steelhead drag systems.
Fly Reel Arbor Size
Fly fishing reels come in several arbor sizes. The arbor is
the center hub that the line is tied to.
trout reels will have a standard size arbor.
mid-arbor size is a compromise between the two sizes. These may be more
common in the mid-weight reels.
- The large
arbor fly reels are needed when you need to retrieve line fast, which
is common when a large fish turns toward you after a run.
My Personal Recommendations:
Best fly reels for spring creeks and small streams: (For 3 or 4
weight fly rods):
In this weight a single-action
reel with a click and pawl drag should be fine. Your quarry here will rarely
require a serious drag system but a disc drag will be a bonus. The cast or
machined aluminum reel is the best way to go but again be aware of the
tolerances in the cast aluminum reels.
Battenkill III Reel $139
- This reel has an infinitely adjustable offset Rulon drag
mechanism, that allows you to land fish using your palm for drag. It is machined from 6262-T6 aircraft grade aluminum. It is available
in a black nickel finish. It has a diameter
of 1 3/4" and weighs 3.2 ounces.
Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel 3 $109
- The Liquid has a smooth, fully sealed conical drag
system and stainless roller clutch. It is made in the USA from lightweight pressure cast ALDC12
aluminum alloy. Rugged construction with available additional spools that allows for multiple fishing setups. It has a diameter of 3.34" and weighs 4.2 ounces.
Redington Zero 2/3 Series $64.99
- This reel has a click and pawl drag system that is fully
die-cast making it lightweight
and durable. The Zero series also has a quick release spool and can be easily changed from left- to right-handed. A nylon case is included. It has a 3.3" diameter
and weighs 3 ounces.
Colorado LT Fly Reel $295
- This reel is for a slightly more dedicated
fly-fisher, but worth the extra investment. Machined from a single
piece of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, this reel has a variety of freshwater
applications. Made in the USA, the Colorado LT features a unique
material that allows increased grip when wet. It comes in platinum or black.
The drag system is smooth with a wide range of adjustment. It has a diameter of
3.2" and weighs 2.86 ounces.
Best fly reels for small to medium-size rivers and lakes:(your 5 weight fly rod):
Medium to larger trout will require a little more attention
toward the drag system and construction of the reel.
Battenkill Bar Stock Reels BBS III $129
BBS III is suitable for freshwater or light-duty saltwater. This reel has a very
dependable drag system. It is machined from 6262-T6 aircraft aluminum. It comes
in black or titanium. This reel is 3" in diameter and weighs 3.9 ounces.
Lamson Waterworks Konic 2 $149
- The Konic 2 has a fully sealed
conical drag system and is machined from ALDC12 aluminum alloy. It also is
anodized with a polyurethane coating.
It has a diameter of 3.40" and weighs 4.7 ounces.
CLA3 is fully machined of 6061-T6 proprietary aluminum and fully anodized. It
has a larger drag knob and a very dependable Delrin 500AF Teflon
self-lubricating drag system. It has a 3.5" diameter and weighs 5.5
Best fly reels for medium-size rivers for steelhead: (your 7/8 switch rod):
Larger trout and steelhead call for a large arbor reel with a disc drag. The reel becomes more important with
the larger fish.
have been made to the CLA4 to support their use for larger fish like the
- The drag system and the frame and spool have been strengthened. It
has a 3.75" diameter and weighs 7.3
Size 7/8 $204
reel is designed for large trout. The large drag knob makes it easier to grab
when your fingers are wet or cold.
Charlton 8500SS 0.8 (Shown here)
- I just had to put this one in because it was one of the best steelhead fly reels made. They are no longer in production but you can still find them on eBay. Be prepared to fork out at least $2500. As my dad would say: "Hey, it's only money". (and no, this one is not mine).
Best fly reels for medium to large rivers for steelhead (Spey
OK, this is not for the budget-minded. I have already mentioned that Spey rods are not for the novice, but
here are a few Spey reels anyway.
Spey Reel $500
Weight Spey lines. Made from
6061-T651 cold-finished aerospace-grade aluminum. This reel is available
with either ventilated or solid spool.
Large arbor fly reel $ 315
- This reel has incredible stopping power. The drag is
very smooth and the large arbor spool has been reinforced to eliminate any
flexing. Oil-impregnated bushings improve the spool rotation.
Summary: The Best Fly Reels
on the fly rod first! For the budget-minded, spend the extra money here.
the automatic and multiplier reel.
with a single-action reel machined from a block of aluminum if you can
make it fit in your budget.
the rated line weight of the reel to the fly rod.
trout on a lighter rod will require you to fight the fish with the reel, making the drag more important. The disc drag will be needed for the
all cases make sure you buy an extra spool at the same time that you buy
your reel and that you can change it easily. You will need it. This is just fly fishing
Save 50% on Fly Assortment Boxes for Trout