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Fly fishing is a popular pastime, but itrequires a specific set of gear to participate.
That includes wet and dry flys, rods and a good reel. If you’re new to fishing, or just not really all that familiar with fly fishing, then you may be wondering, “what’s a fly fishing reel”.
There are a few things that set fly fishing apart from other types of fishing, but you will need a good reel for the activity.
Really, instead of asking the question “what’s a fly fishing reel” it would make more sense to ask what you should be looking for when you are buying a fly fishing reel.
The primary role of fly fishing is to hold the line, but there’s a lot more to it than that – you’ll need to be able to fight the fish – the drag on the fly reel will make all the difference between landing a big fish or having that fish get away.
The main things that a fly reel does is hold the amount of backing and fly line, and cope with the weight of the rod that you would be fishing with.
If you were going to use, say, a 5-weight fly rod, then it would be important to choose a fly reel that can accommodate the fly line and weights ranging from 4-8.
Rods can range from $50 for a beginner reel that will leave you frustated if you are a serious fisher, to up to $400 or even more if you want a good drag system and a dcently sized reel that can give you a smooth cast.
Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel
Fly fishing reels need an arbor knot to finish the deal, and Piscifun made this specifically designed to cradle an arbor knot when you’re feeding it the line. It’s a small attention to detail, but one of the many reasons that it’s the best fly fishing reel out there.
The drag is basically like a spider spinning web—it’s smooth, and it just feels right. I’d chock a good amount of that drag down to the extremely polished and durable aluminum alloy construction. The alloy composite reduces the chance of corrosion, which is definitely what we all need in any fishing reel.
On top of that, it’s still lightweight. You don’t have to weigh your rod down with this and then drag yourself along when you’ve got one on the other end of the line.
Piscifun equips this with a three-year warranty, which covers everything you would run into during ownership. They have a dedicated customer service team ready to answer questions about the reel, and discuss your warranty details with you if you need. It’s a brand I personally put my stock into.
- The smoothest drag you’ll ever use in your life
- Designed to withstand arbor knots
- Durable aluminum alloy construction for maximum longevity
Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel
Talk about smooth. With a one-way roller bearing, casting this is like putting a hot knife through butter. The knurled metal caps allow for a simple swap from left hand retrieval to right, so you’re always equipped to handle every fishing trip.
It’s difficult to put your stock in a new brand, but Sougayilang’s been around for a minute, and they include a five-year warranty to help pad your confidence in trying a different brand.
Built with high grade 6061-T^ aluminum alloy, this is designed to withstand corrosion commonly associated with saltwater fly fishing. That all wraps into the CNC design to help make it more durable and lightweight at the same time.
Splitting the reel when you run a new line is a bit of a chore, though. While the bearings are smooth, when I take this apart to put a new line on, it’s a slightly more egregious process than it needs to be. That’s something to keep in mind.
- Includes a five-year warranty
- 6061-T6 aluminum alloy design resists corrosion
- One-way roller bearing makes casting easy
Redington Behemoth Fly Reel
Redington is one of those brands that your father probably used, because I know mind did. It’s a good brand, and the first thing that’s really a testament to that is their lifetime warranty. As long as you own the reel, it’s basically insured.
Redington’s reel has a lot of power in the drag, and a high capacity backing. To date, I don’t really know its limits, but I’ve put this thing through hell and back and have yet to find them, so that’s a good sign.
It’s a bit pricier than the other fly fishing reels we’ve discussed so far, but it’s that old saying of you get what you pay for. In this instance, it’s durability and attention to detail by all accounts.
I wouldn’t recommend this for beginner reels. You can use it on one, but you’re not going to get the full fledged benefits of this unless you have a heavy rod that needs a bit of extra power added to it. In your purchase, you also get a reel cover and a carry bag for it, which makes it easier to store when you’re done with your trip.
- Power drag for bigger catches
- High backing capacity for longer casts
- Comes with a full lifetime warranty for as long as you own the reel
Orvis Battenkill Reel
I just want to let you know before anything else, this is just the reel. The sales page is a bit misleading in having you think that it’s also a spare spool, but it is not.
That being said, I was expecting the spool to come with it, and while it was disappointing when I opened it up, the reel itself is well worth the money on its own.
Built with bar-stock aluminum, it’s ready to withstand a lot of stress. During testing, it was one of the most durable reels I’ve used, and depending on which one you get it can support a ton of backing (up to 200 yards).
The black nickel plating is a nice touch, one that gives you a smooth finish and something easy to hold onto. That nickel plating is prone to chipping over time, though. Nickel plating is known for being nice, but not being the most long-lasting component of anything.
- Bar-stock aluminum withstands a lot of stress
- Comes in five sizes to fit your current rod
- Smooth click-and-pawl drag system
OKUMA Sheffield Float Fishing Reel
Last but not least, OKUMA actually surprised me with this one. Most float fishing reels have the same problem, but OKUMA was able to get over it by making this a single cut piece of equipment.
There’s virtually no weakness to it. Between the actual construction and the ported spool, along with the stainless steel German ball bearings, it’s like a tank on your fishing rod.
If you’re wondering why I have all these nice things to say about OKUMA but they’re on the bottom of the list, it’s because of the price. The quality is a bit of overkill. The quality is worth it, I just don’t know of anyone who needs this much power for fly fishing.
Your exposed rim makes it easier to add a new line when the time comes, and when I have to tie it off with an arbor knot, that’s very helpful. Overall I would say that if you don’t need the added power of OKUMA”s float fishing reel, opt for something a bit cheaper, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything built this sturdy.
- Exposed rim makes it easier to add a new line
- Single piece cut construction for extended durability
- High quality German stainless steel ball bearings
Fly Fishing Reel FAQ
What Are the Types of Fishing Reels?
Basically, you have three main types of reels that you’re looking at. Those would be spincast, spinning, and baitcast. They’re all different and come with varying uses.
A spincast reel is basically completely closed off.
You won’t see the reel actually moving, and you can’t access the line except for what’s being fed out of it that’s attached to your rod.
Spinning reels are what you’ll find most often on fishing rods. Easy to cast, allows the line to flow freely, simple maneuvers to pull it back out of the water. It’s an every man’s reel.
Last but not least, the baitcasting reel is for pros, more or less. More skill is required to use them, but they also offer the best distance and casting method.
Tangling and backlashing is common though, so it’s a trade-off if you have the experience to use one.
How to Use a Fishing Reel?
Reeling in is a simple motion of just spinning the handle until you actually tow in the line, but casting it is a different story.
First thing’s first: line your hook with the necessary lure for whatever you’re fishing.
Point the rod directly at your target spot, or the general area that you want to sink your line into the water.
Bring the rod straight up, pull it up over your head so it’s at a 90° angle, and then cast it forward down to a full 90 swing.
Halfway down, release your grip on the line so it can flow freely.
Can You Use a Fly Rod with the Spinning Reel?
You can. It’s not what the rod was designed for, but I call it creativity. The only time that you cannot do this is if you’re in an exclusive fly fishing only area.
For this, there needs to be signs posted or something that tells you that spinning reels are not allowed.
I think if you’re going to go fly fishing, go fly fishing without a spinning reel. To me, that’s what really separates the two activities, but it’s your call in the end.
How do You Hang a Fly Reel?
You have to start by attacking the backing to the empty reel. This is best done with what’s known as an arbor knot. After that knot is done, you simply reel up the line.
To perform an arbor knot, it’s best to remove the reel from your spool. Take the backing, and then pull it around the spool a full two turns.
Make a simple overhand knot around the big end of your backing. (I personally like to make it a double overhand by pulling it through again, but to each his own.)
You have to do another overhand, or double overhand, and pull it the opposite way. This creates an arbor knot, and it’s essential when fly fishing.
Choosing The Best Fly Fishing Reels
Our favorite fly fishing reel is the Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel.
While it is not on par with the high-level reels, it does have a nice collection of features, especially at this price point.
When you are choosing a reel, you should first think about how much money you have to spend.
There are some mid-range reels that are good if you are just learning how to fish – such as the Lamson Lightspeed Hard Alox range, which are budget, but well-made.
There are others, such as the Ross Flystart Fly Reels that are in the lower price range and that are still good for people who are just experimenting and aren’t sure, yet, whether they are going to stick with fishing.
Ideally, you should talk to people about the different types of fly fishing reels that are out there, and try one that someone owns so that you can get a feel for it.
There are a few different styles, and to an extent fishing is all about personal preference – so you may like a rod and reel that others find too fast or too heavy.
The same goes for evaluating other equipment, like fly fishing waders or even fly tying equipment.
Reviews can only help you so much, and personal experience will make all the difference.
Remember, though, that you get what you pay for with fishing, and cheap kit will have downsides to it.
There’s no point in spending a fortune on a reel if you would only go fishing once or twice a month, but if you want to fish competitively, or take the activity seriously, then it is a good idea to invest in your gear.
Fly Fishing Reel Video
Here is a video discussing various types of fly fishing reels:
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