My first fly fishing experience was on a backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. After a short learning curve and getting my fly caught in several bushes, I was soon landing rainbow trout by the handful.
Learning to fly fish was an extreme pleasure and today we’re going to help you choose the right gear whether you’re new or experienced.
Trying to pick out the best fly fishing reel for your needs can be daunting. There are so many factors for the discerning fisherman to decide upon that making a final choice seems light-years away.
Reels come in various sizes, designs, and styles depending on exactly what you’re trying to achieve. I’m going to talk you through how to choose the right top rated fly fishing reel for your needs!
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Fly Fishing Reels For 2018
- Orvis Hydros Sl Fly Reel
- Sage 2200 Series Fly Reel
- KastKing Kobuk Fly Fishing Reel
- Waterworks Lamson Litespeed 3.5 Reel
- Piscifun Blaze Fly Fishing Reel
- Goture Fly Fishing Reel Spark
- Goture Fly Fishing Reel ALC
Let’s take a look at some of the reels we recommend that will bring home the fish!
Best Fly Reels
Fly Fishing Reel Reviews
Orvis is a name that’s as synonymous with fly fishing as Kleenex is with facial tissue. I learned to fly fish through an Orvis sponsored program, on Orvis gear. It’s an effective marketing tool!
The Hydros reel from Orvis features an oversized arbor for hyper speed retrieval rates and a sealed drag and bearing system.
You can be sure with a legacy brand like Orvis that their reels will be of the highest quality. The Hydros SL features low tolerance machining, a large drag knob, and a narrow spool to minimize line stacking.
The large arbor and narrow spool means less line memory and messes! All things considered, I would say the Orvis Hydros is one of the the best fly reels, especially considering its reasonable price tag.
Best For: Anglers who want the highest quality name in fly fishing.
I gotta hand it to them. This might be the most sleek and elegant looking reel we review today. I love the black and platinum version for its simplicity. Like an Apple product it inspires through simplicity.
Available in 4-reel sizes you should be able to find a setup for your needs. This one tips the price range back to the high side with features like carbon drag discs.
It’s a large arbor reel with an oversize handle for putting the hurt on those big fishies. It is a partially cast reel with machined finishes.
Best For: Those looking for some unique high-end features and butter smooth drag.
Another fly reel offered in just about any size you can imagine. For the price, it’s hard to believe this reel is a machined reel with stainless steel and aluminum components.
Overall the design is a bit bare bones but it makes for a good budget minded platform to get started with a machined reel and disc drag.
While it’s technically a large arbor reel it’s certainly nowhere as big as the Orvis Hydros. Remember that smaller arbor reels aren’t always a bad thing though!
Small arbor reels make great companions on trips when you’re seeking smaller fish or lighter setups. It’s also done in a nice black finish that should help the reel last longer overall. Probably the best fly reel for the money.
Best For: Anglers on a budget.
The Litespeed reel has been around for a while as a large arbor reel for fly fishermen. Several years ago they revisited the design and improved almost all aspects.
Now this reel has a nice dusted finish, higher retrieval rate, and lighter overall weight. All around they scored a nearly flawless victory on improving an already well-loved reel.
I love the finish and quality of the reel overall. Especially nice is the newly enlarge drag knob which allows for easy fine tuning or adjusting of the drag on the reel. These reels are available to fit just about any size and weight of line that you might need.
Each reel type in this family of reels will fit different specifications so be sure to double check that you’re getting the right one before committing to purchase. Probably the best fly fishing reel available at any price.
Best For: Fishermen who want one model of reel for any rod setup.
With rave reviews from users and a stealthy sleek black and red design, it inspires success. Note: it comes in three main colors.
Another machined reel with stainless and aluminum components, Goture went for a medium arbor design with this setup.
Like most reels in this class it features 2 ball bearings and a single anti-reverse bearing system. I couldn’t find the specs to tell what type of drag system is inside but users rave about the smoothness of operation.
With three sizes to choose from it’s not as versatile as other reels we’ve reviewed but there should be an option for almost any fisherman.
Best For: Anglers on a budget seeking quality and reliability.
There’s one feeling you’ll get when you look at this reel from Piscifun. WOW!
Yeah, they’re made to blow your mind with popping colors that are uncommon in the world of fishing. Blue and gold both stand out while the more traditional brown makes a good choice for those keeping it on the down low.
This reel features a medium arbor, machined components, and a disc cork drag system. Overall, it’s well loved by users and seems to be a solid reel.
I like that they broke the mold a bit with some vibrant colors. The anodization helps to protect the reel against corrosion, too! This reel is available in a variety of sizes and weights.
Best For: Anglers who want to make a statement!
Another tasty reel from Goture, this one comes in a bead-blasted raw aluminum texture. Just like the Spark Reel from Goture it’s rocking 2 ball bearings and single reverse bearing. This is standard for reels in this class.
The large arbor design operates around a machined CNC frame. I would have liked to see a better design for the drag knob which leaves something to be desired.
The nearly round knob doesn’t have much to grip. They did make the left / right hand switch setup simple and fast. Just don’t lose the tiny components if you need to make the switch! A solid contender for the best beginner fly reel.
Best For: The beginner angler who wants a reasonable reel at a low price.
How to Choose the Best Fly Fishing Reel for You
Let me help you understand a few of the most important factors in picking out a new fly fishing reel.
Reel Material and Build Quality
As with most any intricate metal product there are two main ways a reel can be produced. They’re usually either machined or cast. Such is the case with fly fishing reels.
In the fly fishing world, cast reels often get a bad rap compared to machined reels. Why? They’re seen as less durable and heavier overall than an equivalent machined reel. Overall, I think the differences are more an indicator of overall production quality than cast versus machined.
On average, however, cast reels tend to be more affordable while machined reels tend to be higher on the price tag.
Thanks to anodization and other metal finishing techniques you may want to consider a reel that’s coated. If corrosion protection is of utmost important, seek a reel that has been coated to prevent corrosion.
Line Weight & Size
Both fly rods and reels often are rated by weight. In order to achieve a harmonious combination of rod and reel, you’ll want to make sure that the weight of both rod and reel are matched. If you purchased a 5-weight rod, you’ll want a reel that falls within that range.
If you’re not sure what size line your reel will handle, just check the technical specs.
Remember that you’ll also want to consider the overall line capacity of your reel. If you’re fishing a species known for long runs you may need a reel with a higher line capacity, or backing capacity. Open water and salt water anglers may need to consider a higher capacity reel to accommodate longer running fish.
Fly reels have two big circles. The outer circle defines the overall size of the reel and line capacity. The inner circle is the hub around which the reel rotates and it is known as the “arbor”.
For budget reels or beginner fishermen, a smaller arbor is usually easier to learn with and more affordable. There’s nothing wrong with small arbor reels and even experienced anglers should have them for small fish and lightweight setups.
Large arbor reels tend to provide better stopping power, faster line retrieval, and less kinking and bird nests in the line. These large arbor reels are best suited for large fish species and open water or salt water fishing.
When you’re getting ready to pick up a fly reel, the last thing you want is a poor-quality drag system. Drag is the reel’s ability to prevent a big fish from running way with all the line on your reel, never to be seen again.
For entry level and budget fly fishermen a click-and-pawl drag system is budget minded and effective. While it may not be as smooth as the disc drag system, it’s certainly effective and acceptable.
If your budget allows more room the disc drag systems will provide a smoother operation and higher reliability. There’s just no arguing that the smoothness is improved over click-and-pawl drag systems while providing exception stopping and braking power for large game fish.
Buying a great fly fishing reel to match any rod setup doesn’t mean paying through the nose. Whether you want the proven high-end reliability of a brand like Orvis or you’re willing to find a reel at any price there’s something for you.
Today’s fly fishing reels have better parts, tighter machining tolerances, and all around higher quality. Many of the reels on our list have even been recently redone to improve their performance from the manufacturers.
Be sure to consider all of your needs before buying a reel. It’s important to recognize that when it comes to fly fishing, you’ll want several different rod / reel combinations. There’s no single perfect answer for all fishing conditions and all types of game fish.
I hope this guide was helpful in picking the best fly fishing reel to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a reel I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and good luck!