Fly Fishing Reels

Considerations for Choosing a Fly Reel
Choosing a reel for the beginning fly fisherman or for the seasoned veteran can be somewhat mind-boggling. There are so many choices out there that finding a place to begin can give you a headache. For this reason I will do my best to give you a place to start. Ask yourself these questions before you begin your search.

1. What species of fish will I mostly be fishing for?
2. What weight fly rod do I need a reel for?
3. How much money do I want to spend?

These three questions would most likely be the first three asked by the sales person in your local fly shop. Let me explain why they are important.

  • What species offish will dictate what weight of fly line is used, how much backing is needed, and whether or not a good drag is needed?
  • What weight of fly rod is important for matching a reel because you need to balance your outfit. A well-balanced rod and reel will have a fulcrum or balance point somewhere in the top inch of the handle. This is important for casting performance and “feel”.
  • How much money should you spend? As much as you can reasonably afford. The more money you spend the better the drag system and the higher the quality of materials used in the reel.

Some other things about reels drag systems, large arbor vs. standard arbor, and ratios.
Drag systems: In today’s market fly reels either have no drag, pawl and click drags, or disc drag systems. Drag is used to control the speed in which the line can be taken off of the reel, and can be adjusted from free-spool to lock down. In my opinion no drag reels are strictly for economy outfits. Pawl and click drag systems have very little adjustment and are good for ultra-light setups. Disc drag systems have the most range of adjustment and are great for medium to heavy outfits.

Large arbor vs. standard arbor: The arbor of a reel is the cylinder in the center of the reel that the backing and fly line is wound around. Standard arbor reels are the original design of reels, which is a small cylinder usually and inch or less in length and has a circumference of a dime. Large arbor reels have recently become more popular and are an improvement of the original design. They have a cylinder that measures from 1-21/2 inches in length and have a circumference of up to racquetball size. Both styles have advantages and disadvantages some of these are:

1. Large arbor-wraps the fly line in a larger circle; this cuts down on line memory. This also speeds up the line retrieval. Large arbor reels can also be heavier due to more raw materials unless expensive materials are used.

2. Standard arbor-these tend to be lighter in weight and less bulky for lighter and shorter rods, but don’t have the line retrieval speed.

Ratios: This is a term to categorize fly reels. This measures a weight to drag ratio that is how much the reel weighs to the quality of drag it has. An example of this is the Evolution by Ross Reels; this is a super light large arbor reel that has the disc drag system of a saltwater reel. This reel would have a great ratio.
This should give you a good starting place when you are in the market for a new fly reel. Remember your local fly shop is a great price for information and experience when you are ready to buy.

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