Fly fishermen going after small stream trout or pan fish can use almost any reel to simply serve as device to store their line. However if you are going for powerful fish like pike, steelhead or salmon, having a reel with a smooth drag and is capable of quickly taking up line are a must have quality in your fly reel, having a reel that is well balanced and light weight is also important to the fly fishermen who spends all day on the river. Keep in mind that if you are after these qualities you are going to have to shell out more of your hard earned cash but you will be glad you did if like me you spend most of your day casting and fighting the powerful steelhead and salmon.
When looking for a trout or pan fish fly reel I look at weight and balance more then any other quality. One trick I use instead of having to take a fly rod with me to assure the reel is balanced is I will wrap pencil lead around the reel seat until the rod will balance at the grip point of the rod and then I just weigh the lead and I know how heavy of a reel I can use.
Now when it comes to picking out a fly reel that I will be using for salmon and steelhead I want to make sure the drag has a full range of adjustment, and works smooth. You’ll want a reel that can keep up with the fish should they suddenly make a run at you as well as being able to hold enough backing when they decide to head down stream on one of their powerful runs as well. Once you find a fly reel with these qualities you can start looking at the weight and keep in mind what weight fly line you will be using as well remember your fly line weight needs to match the weight your fly rod is designed for. Finding a reel with these qualities is the most important part. You can always balance the rod and reel by adding weight to you rod. Balance is the key more then weight as a light rod and reel that is not well balanced will tire you out faster then a heavier setup which is well balanced.
One thing that I have noticed is that the true diehard fly fisherman is always asking is which rod reel combination do you prefer and I have to save after using several different setups that it is one that is well balanced. I truly have no preference as to the make and model as long as it feels right.
I have listed a few of the fly reels that I have tried over the years just as a starting point for you, which one is best is something that you will decide as you determine your needs and type of fish you are after. (They are in no special order or preference.)
Pflueger 1195 Automatic
Because of its ease of use and convenience, Pflueger’s Model 1195 Automatic Reel has been a common fly reel for many trout anglers. It has an aluminum alloy frame which features a lever controlled internal coil spring. As the angler presses on the lever the reel automatically winds in the line. It’s rather heavy though weighing in at 9 ounces, but you’ll like its affordability.
Scientific Anglers Concept 2
There are four Concept 2 fly reels and they normally range in price from $35 up to $56. They are made from light, tough, composite polymer graphite and feature a quality disc drag system. Sizes range from trout/pan fish to saltwater game fish. The Model 58s built for heavy fresh and light saltwater fishing and has an exposed spool for palming strong fish into giving in. Amazingly it weighs in at just 4.3 ounces.
The XSS stand for “Extreme Saltwater and Spey,” These are made for the larger game fish and they too have it all from the large line capacity to their oversize paddle handle and graphite, cork and Rulon disc drag. The reel was designed for anglers who target big, fast game fish. The Size 1 is the smallest of the three, and handles 7 and 8 weight lines and 225 yards of 20-pound backing this fly reel is capable of handling most salmon and steelhead and will run you about $175.00.
Orvis Battenkill Disc Drag
Many fly anglers are familiar with the Battenkill made by Orvis’ and is one of their best-selling fly reels. It is available in three models ranging in price from $79 to $89. It is machined from cast aluminum, the reel features large disc drags and exposed rims for palming. The smallest reel handles line weights from 2 through 5 and weighs just 4 ounces. The largest in this model only weighs 5 ounces and handles 6- to 9-weight line.
G. Loomis Venture
Made with the quality you’d expect from G. Loomis, the three fly reels in the Venture
line are machined from cast aluminum to be tough, yet lightweight. These reels are a simple, classic design, but have quality features. The Model 7 selling at around $100 is the largest of the group, and weighs a mere 3.4 ounces; it handles the 7 weight line with about 150 yards of 30-pound backing.
Sage 2500 Series
Sage, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of premium fly rods, also makes outstanding reels. The four in its 2500 line ranging in price from $300 to $375 are more then capable of handling any fish you will be going after. With a large-diameter spool for fast line retrieval and the offset 3:1 gear reduction disc drag it is very responsive to the tiniest adjustment and would make for a good choice for the serious fly fisherman.
Well these are a few of the reels that I have used over the last few years some I own some I have used and some I wish that I had but just how many fly reels can you use at one time anyways. I hope you have a better idea as to what you need to be looking for in your fly reel and it helps in your decision making. As always good luck and good fly fishing.
Affordable Fly Fishing Reels