Ok, now that you have the basics down on selecting a fly rod, it’s time to figure out what reel will best compliment that new rod. Quality does matter when selecting a reel for trout fishing. A fly reel is more than a device to store line. When you hook a large fish, your rod will help you fight it but it’s your reel that will help you keep from losing it. A high quality fly reel will truly last a lifetime and will cost a minimum two hundred dollars. A good quality fly reel, may not last a lifetime but it will last many years and will provide reliable duty in the field and will cost a little over a hundred dollars. A cheap fly reel will be less than fifty dollars and is perfect if you are simply fishing for small trout and panfish all of the time.
Another thing to keep in mind about fly reels is how resistant they are to corrosion. A cheap fly reel often has nothing more than a cheap coat of varnish on it that soon wears off. Once that's gone, the reel will frequently start developing rust spots. A good quality fly reel will resist all forms of rust and corrosion.
An additional consideration is how easy it is to add an extra spool. If you’re only going to be using floating fly line, this is not a concern. However, most fishermen sooner or later end up with several types of fly lines based on the type of fishing they’ll be doing. The ability to easily switch spools from the fly reel is a big factor and will probably be a feature of the good and high quality reels. Make sure you buy extra spools at the time you buy your fly reel. If you wait until two years later, you'll probably not be able to find an extra spool that will fit your reel.
Orvis offers a wide selection of the highest quality reels on the market and they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Orvis states "The Orvis Satisfaction Guarantee: For 150 years, Orvis has offered the strongest return policy in the business. We will refund your money on any purchase that does not provide you with 100% satisfaction. Anytime, for any reason. It's that simple." Orvis is number one for a reason.
Cabelas also has a some fine fly fishing reels to choose from like Abel, St.Croix, J.Ryall, Redington, etc. They also have their own line of graphite reels as well, all at a price that won't break the bank. Check out their selection of fly fishing reels here.
Ok, let’s get started and see what we can learn about fly reels.
The retrieve system of a fly reel is not of vital importance. What is meant by the retrieve system is how the fly reel retrieves line and how fast it does it.
The first type and by far the most popular is the single action. This means that when you turn the reel handle one complete revolution, you will have also completed one turn of the spool as well. They are by far the most durable.
The second type of retrieve system is the multiplying reel. This system incorporates a series of gears whereby one turn of the fly reel produces more than one turn of the spool itself. This allows the line to be reeled in much quicker. The drawback with these types of reels is that the potential exists for these reels to break more often than a single action fly reel because there are more moving parts involved.
The third type of retrieve system is the automatic fly reel. Fly fishing purists have much disdain for the automatic as they view it as taking away the challenge, but it does help in line control. This reel automatically retrieves all fly line at the press of a trigger. One problem with this type of reel is that they are heavy and not very durable because of the motorized system within. They typically do not allow you to set varying degrees of drag and do not hold as much backing as other reels.
The Drag System
Drag is the term used to describe the resistance applied to the reel spool to prevent the fish from stripping line away too quickly. For example, if you hook a 7 lb Steelhead and you have your drag set too light, the fish is going to run and strip line off your reel like it was nothing. In this case, you’d need to tighten the drag so that you still allow the fish to run but you control the run. If you tighten down the drag too much and don’t allow it to run at all, then you run the risk of your leader or tippet snapping from the tension.
There are two different types of drag systems on a fly reel that trout fishermen need to concern themselves with.
Spring and Pawl Drag
This drag system functions by increasing or decreasing tension against a spring applying pressure through a triangular shaped pawl against the reel’s spool. If adjustments to the tension are possible, they can be either internal or external using a knob or lever. Single spring-and-pawl drags are usually the least expensive reels. With the spring and pawl drag, the line is pulled out very smoothly without any variations in the amount of tension. By eliminating the unevenness in tension, the fly reel goes a long way towards protecting the tippet. The drawback of a spring-and-pawl reel is that it is not designed for very large fish. While they work, they don't work as well as the newer disc-drag models which we’ll discuss next.
The disc drag reel allows you to apply more or less tension to the fly line simply by turning the drag control knob on the reel. Two types of disc drag systems exist: the caliper disc-drag and the "true" disc-drag. While the caliper disc-drag is usually considered inferior, I would argue that both work well. Disc drag reels excel in large fish situations such as large trout, steelhead and salmon. The disc drag reel is designed to exert a smooth but hard pressure on the fly line without seizing up and is ideal when large fish strip out hundreds of feet of line.
Congratulations! You've made it through the fly reel section. That one wasn't so bad now, was it? Now feel free to browse a huge selection of Fly Reels below.