How to choose a fly fishing reel

How to choose a fly fishing reel

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Compared to spinning reels and conventional reels, fly fishing reels are primitive tools. There’s a lot less guts, gears, and moving parts under their covers. However, people often view fly fishing as so much more complicated than spin fishing that they will agonize over trying to choose the best fly reel, worried that they won’t get the perfect reel for the job.

If anything, fly fishing is more forgiving in terms of possession exactly The right pulley. You can get away with a reel that is too big or too small most of the time, and once you understand the basics of fly reel design, you’ll quickly notice that there’s no need to overthink or complicate a single purchase. All that really matters is your budget. But believe me when I tell you: Regardless of the better and stronger materials used to make one versus the other, the design principles are the same for an $80 5-weight fly reel and an $800 5-weight fly reel. So, if you’re in the market, you can narrow down your options by answering these two simple questions.

Five fishing reels with brightly colored fly lines were arranged on a table.
Choose your weapon. Joe Sermel

How aggressive are the fish I’m targeting?

When someone asks me for a fly reel recommendation, it surprises them when I mention the power of the fish before the size of the fish. The truth is that the two are not as related as most people assume. For example, a 20-inch brown trout and a 20-inch bonefish will require completely different reels, as bonefish are much stronger than trout.

The strength of the fish you are trying to catch will determine whether you need a fly reel with an adjustable drag or a click-and-click drag. The latter is less expensive, but is also viewed as less “cool” and “modern” than an adjustable or stamped dial pull. Click-and-tackle reels have been around practically since the dawn of fly fishing, and while some allow you to adjust their settings slightly, most feature simple internal gear and a tooth under spring tension that creates some resistance when you pull line from the reel. With many click-and-tackle reels, it is up to the angler to adjust the drag pressure by gripping the reel while fighting. Meanwhile, modern disc drag rollers can be rotated to apply enormous pressure as the disc rotates. So, which one do you need? Probably not the one you want.

The hard truth is that the click-and-click reel you buy at a flea market can hit the most targeted freshwater fish in this country. The Pflueger Medalist is a prime example of classic percussion, and there’s a reason they turn on a dime at yard sales; They have been manufactured for years because they have been reliable. Although we like to imagine a trout ripping off 300 yards of line downstream, a sizeable minnow darting across the lake, or a bluegill eating our flies and hitting a jam, none of these fish will ever fly off your reel. Well, they won’t even take enough line for you to see your backing, so targeting them with a reel that can stop a runaway train is complete overkill. Conversely, if your primary target is large carp, steelhead, muskie or inshore saltwater species, a reel with a high-quality, adjustable drag offers an advantage.

How far away are the fish I’m targeting?

Another alternative to fly reels is the arbor, which refers to the width of the reel. With spinning and conventional reels, the spool width increases with the spool size, but this is not the case with fly reels. In other words, you can have a small fly reel with a wide tree and a large fly reel with a narrower tree. Most people assume that the primary purpose of a larger tree is to retain more line and support, but there is more to it than that.

Yes, a wider fly reel spool has a higher backing capacity, which is a plus if you’re targeting species like bonefish, tarpon, or redfish that can peel off hundreds of yards of line during a fight. Most importantly, the larger the arbor, the faster the reel can pick up the line when you’re reeling, and you don’t need to target fast devil fish for this to be useful.

Let’s say you’re wading a trout stream and fishing with nymphs. In this scenario, you generally throw short throws and drift very close, so when you take a hit, there isn’t a lot of line. You lift to set and you are tight. A larger arbor reel won’t offer much of an advantage here. On the other hand, if you’re making long casts with streamers or dry flies, and a trout immediately blows your fly, you may need to pick up the line quickly to maintain tension or compensate if the trout eats and runs at you. A larger fly reel will catch more fly lines with each turn of the handle, helping you better control the fish. As a general rule, if you rarely throw fish longer than 30 feet you won’t need a lot of line, you won’t need a large tree reel.

In saltwater settings — or when you want to get a muskie or steelhead in the net as quickly as possible — big-tree fly reels make for smoother play. I once made the mistake of casting a school of 30-pound Jack Crevalis with a standard arbor reel, and it was a miracle I landed any because I simply couldn’t get in line fast enough when they came screaming down the boat.

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