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Fly Reel Drag Systems for Trout

How are you going to know which of the fly reel drag systems is best for trout? If you are learning the fly fishing basics for trout, the answer is easy.

If you are fly fishing for steelhead it is a different story. Learn about fly reel drag systems for steelhead.

First let's look at what a drag system does. The drag is simply a way to apply pressure to a running trout. A brake. It also keeps the line from freewheeling and causing a bird nest.

Spring and Pawl Fly Reel Drag Systems

This is the most traditional and basic of all fly reel systems. It has a simple spring-loaded metal clip (a pawl) that runs against a toothed gear. It is the most common drag system for trout fly fishing reels. You can hear the clicking of the pawl when the line is pulled out.

The advantages of the spring and pawl drag

  • It has a simple design and is inexpensive to produce.
  • It is adjustable and helps prevent over-spooling of the line.
  • Easy to repair.
  • It is light-weight.

The disadvantages of the spring and pawl drag

  • The stopping power does not increase as the fish runs.
  • The amount of pressure you can apply is limited.

Gear-Wheel Drag Systems

Spring and Pawl Drag System

Most disc drag systems are overkill for the average trout reel. The gear-wheel system, however, is a disc system that is also used in trout reels. Its smaller disc brake pads are hidden behind the adjusting lever and are near the outside of the frame. 

The advantages of the gear-wheel drag system

  • It has plenty of stopping power for trout.
  • The price is lower than other disc systems because the parts are stamped out in large quantities.

The disadvantages of the gear-wheel drag system:

  • They have smaller brake pads than the drum systems and are not as strong. This should not be a problem with the average trout.

In Summary

The average trout fly reel will use the spring and pawl drag system. However, the gear-wheel system is also used in some trout fly reels. They are a step up from the spring and pawl so they are worth a look. It then just becomes a basic budget question.

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