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Best Fly Fishing Reels

image of fly fishing reel

There are a few absolute must haves when it comes to the quality of your fly fishing gear. Your fly rod, reel, line, and flies. All the other accessories a person can buy will help land more fish, but they are not imperative. You can buy the best computer on the market, but if you are using dial up internet connection, it will all be a waste. The same goes for your fly rod and reel. 

One without the other just does not work well. Many new anglers believe they need to spend a small fortune on their rod and then they’re good to go. Unfortunately, if you want to land more fish and do less work throughout the entirety of your day, you will want to buy a great reel as well.  


What makes a great reel? 

So, what are we looking for when it comes to a great reel? There are a few important characteristics our reel should have, but the first thing we want is balance. The weight of your rod and reel should match each other when you are holding it and they should match the line rating you are using. You do not want your reel to be very heavy making the bottom of your off balance. Same goes for the tip of the rod. When you hold your rod and reel, it should balance nicely in your hand. This will save you countless amounts of energy when you are out casting all day.  

The most common fly rod weight is a #5. Therefore, you will want your real to be a #5 as well, or at least close. Weights in fly fishing are labelled with numbers, the higher the number, the large the fish you should be trying to catch. For most anglers trying to catch trout and other smaller species of fish, the #5 is the ideal size to match the size of fish. If you are going after salmon or pike, a #7 or #8 might be more ideal for both your rod and real.  

A light rod and reel will seem effortless when you are hiking into your favorite spot or when you are casting all day. Usually, with fly fishing, the lighter the gear, the more expensive it tends to be. A nice light weight reel is what you should be going after.  

The next thing that we want our reel to have is a mid to large arbor. This is so that you can get quick line retrieval and so the line does not coil up on you.  


Drag system. 

The drag system on your reel is important for when the fish strikes your fly. There are different drag systems out there and some reels do not come with a drag system. The drag lets a fish take your fly and run with it. If you have too much pressure on your drag, your leader or tippet will break off, and if you do not have enough drag, the line will go loose, and you may lose the fish.  

If you are going for a reel with no drag system, when the fish strikes, you will have to use the palm of your hand on the side of the reel to act as the drag. Some anglers prefer this as they feel it enhances the excitement of catching a fish. If you are newer to fly fishing, I would suggest against a reel without a drag system. 

There are two main types of drag systems: click drag and disc drag. The click drag system has cogs that control the pressure that is applied to the spindle. Anglers tend to think that these types of drag systems don’t have enough power to stop a big fish when it starts to run. A disc drag system is more modern and it works by applying pressure to the central spool. This system works great for all sizes of fish, but especially for the larger ones. Either system will work great for trout fishing. 

Ideally, you want your drag system to be sealed, especially if you are saltwater fishing. In freshwater, this is not a big deal. A turn knob dial for your drag makes it easy to change your drag at any moment. This is an important feature to have on your reel. 


Another important aspect to look at is if the reel can be used by both left and right-handed individuals, if not, you will want to get the correct one for you.  


The cost of reels can range from very cheap all the way to over $500. Your budget will have to determine the quality that you receive.  

Let’s dive into some different reels that are on the market today! 

image of fly fishing reel

Colorado Fly Fishing Reel #5-6 Weight 

Retailing for $150, this reel is sure to impress. Lightweight aluminum machined, waterproof and fully sealed, large arbor, capacity of 180 yards of line, multi-disc drag wheel, and it is right/left handed.  



image of orvis fly fishing reel

Orvis Battenkill Disc Drag Fly Fishing Reel 

Retailing for $160, this reel made by Orvis will get the job done. Disc drag, mid-arbor, sealed drag, and stylish ported jewel finish. I have used numerous Orvis reels and they have been able to land me countless amounts of fish. 


image of ross reels

Ross Reels Animas 

This reel looks like the Rolls Royce of fly fishing reels. Retailing for $325, this beauty has a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on The reel comes with two tone drag knobs, composite disc drag, stainless steel interface, and is a #4-5 weight.  


image of sage fly fishing reel

Sage Fly Fishing - SPECTRUM Fly Reel 

Retailing at $250, Sage did a great job engineering this reel. Hold onto your seats for this reel description... Fully machined aerospace grade aluminum that is cold forged, left to right conversion, large concave arbor for greater strength, and Sage’s sealed carbon system drag to keep out water. It’s not as expensive as the Rolls Royce looking reel above, but it still has a decent price tag! 



image of redington rise fly fishing reel

Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel 

A little more affordable, the Redington Rise reel retails for $200. It comes with an aluminum design, quick release spool, easily converts to right or left hand, extra large arbor, carbon fiber drag, and lifetime warranty. The reel only weighs .5 pounds which makes it perfect for casting and carrying on long trips.  



image of piscifun sword fly fishing reel

Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel 

For everyone not looking to spend an arm and a leg on a reel, the Sword reel by Piscifun retails for $55. The reel has multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag, hollowed design to make it lighter coming in at 4.7 ounces, mid-arbor design and it is cold forged and tempered for better strength and rigidity. The reel comes in multiple different sizes and colors, even pink! 



There are thousands of reels to choose from on the market. Every shape, color, size, and style exists. I have personally gone through numerous reels to find the one I like best. Some let the line out just right, others seem to lag. The same goes for the drag, I have had reels apply the perfect pressure and the next reel does not apply enough. There is a huge difference between low cost reels around the $50 range and those that cost over $100. You definitely do not need a reel that costs $300 or more, but they are the Cadillac's of fly fishing reels.  


If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.