The 6 Best Saltwater Fly Reels in 2023 – Buyers Guide

Are you planning on spending some quality time fly fishing on the salt flats? Maybe you are planning a trip to Florida for Redfish or Bonefish or a massive Tarpon?  

If you love the thrill of saltwater fly fishing, you’re going to need sturdy, specialized saltwater fly fishing gear that you can rely on! Fishing in the surf can be demanding, so remember saltwater fly reels require some extra power behind them to help you fight and land those huge saltwater fish.

Check out our expert reviews to help you decide on the best saltwater fly reel for you. From the affordable Redington Behemoth to the flagship Ross Reels Evolution LTX see what our experience fishing guides have to say.

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageBest OverallOrvis Hydros SL
  • Large arbor size
  • Very fast line retrieval
  • Strong but lightweight
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest BudgetRedington Behemoth
  • Very cool design
  • Affordable price
  • Available in a range of sizes
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flyfisherpro-table__imageMost DurableHardy SDSL
  • Drag system is fully sealed
  • Simple to use and maintain
  • Study and Durable
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Saltwater Fly Reel Detailed Reviews

We always try to cover a wide range of products, so there’s something for everyone. So let’s find out how each of these reels performs and whether it’s the right choice for you in our detailed reviews:

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel

Orvis Hydros SL

Hydros SL Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10Overall Weight: 4.7 – 7.7oz
Arbor Size: LargeMaterial:
Spool Diameter: 3.1 – 4.25inColors: Matte Olive, Silver, Black, Ice Blue, Matte Green
Spool Capacity:Warranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type:Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features

  • Sizes Available: I (1-3wt), II (3-5wt), III (5-7wt), IV (7-9wt), and V (9-11wt)
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 3.875 inch
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 5.9 ounce
  • Colors: Citron and Black
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Large arbor size
  • Very fast line retrieval
  • Strong but lightweight
  • Fully sealed


  • Drag knob can be a little tricky to use

Orvis is known for its high-quality fishing gear, and they do not disappoint when it comes to the Hydros SL saltwater fly reel! Orvis has given the original Hydros a complete overhaul, making it lighter, bigger, and better for saltwater.

This time around, Orvis has taken care to create a sturdy and durable design, but they have also removed any unnecessary weight. This makes for a saltwater fly reel that is strong enough to stand up to those hefty saltwater fish while performing flawlessly.  Hefty as the Hydrous Sl is, it’s not too heavy to carry around or for all-day casting, and it’s reasonably priced for its quality.

Some great features of the Orvis Hydros SL saltwater fly reel are its super-fast line retrieval, adjustable drag, and fully sealed disc drag system. These make the Hydros SL an easy pick for the best saltwater reels category. You’ll be able to haul in those whoppers thanks to the powerful drag system.

It’s a pleasure to use the Orvis Hydros SL, and it would be hard to find another reel that is as smooth as this one. If you’re looking at saltwater reels that hit the balance between strength, durability, and smoothness, make sure the Hydros SL by Orvis is on your list.

For an in-depth analysis, be sure to check out the video review here.

Alternatively, you can take a look at our Orvis Hydros reel review here for another option from Orvis.

Redington Behemoth Fly Reel

Redington Behemoth

Redington Behemoth Specs:

Available Size: 4/5, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10, 11/12Overall Weight: 5.2 – 11.4oz
Arbor Size: LargeMaterial: Die-Cast Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.4 – 4.7inColors: Bronze, Gunmetal, O.D Green, Black, Desert
Spool Capacity: 75 – 250ydsWarranty: Redington Warranty
Drag Type: Carbon fiberCountry of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features

  • Five Color Finish
  • Drag-Centered Design
  • Large Arbor
  • Die-Cast Aluminum
  • Redington Warranty


  • Very cool design
  • Affordable price
  • Compares well to more expensive reels
  • Available in a range of sizes
  • The spool has a deep V-shape for greater backing capacity


  • Heavier than some other models on the market.
  • Scuffs and marks are easy to see on this die-cast product
  • The drag knob feels cheaper and is not very durable

The Redington Behemoth is another one of the top saltwater fly reels in production right now and is suitable for a range of rod weights. If it’s power you’re after, you’ll be thrilled with how the Behemoth (hint in the name right there!) performs.

Its performance won’t let you down when you hook a large salmon or tarpon – the drag strength and power in this product is truly incredible. You’ll have no problem landing big fish with the Redington Behemoth, that’s for sure!

Behemoth fly reels are ideal for any fly angler from beginner to pro, while the affordable price makes saltwater fishing more accessible to fishers on a tighter budget.

The arbor size and the V-shaped spool features allow you to hold plenty of backing, perfect when a fish just wants to run. The unique spool shape means that you won’t get as much annoying line memory when you cast your rod, either. It’s the best option to balance out that sturdy 10 wt or 12 wt rod setups.

Although generally well-constructed and high-quality, one minor complaint about the features is that the drag knob can feel wobbly at times. It doesn’t seem to match up to the rest of the product, which is a shame, and it’s not as light in weight as other models. Despite this, we still think the Behemoth is close to being one of the best fly reels for fly anglers.

For an in-depth analysis, be sure to check out the video review here.

You even get a handy case so that you can store it safely between fishing trips. The Behemoth should last a long time and will serve any fly angler well in any saltwater fishing situation!

Hardy SDSL Reel

Hardy Ultralite Fly Reel review

Hardy SDSL Specs:

Available Size: 6 – 8Overall Weight:
Arbor Size: LargeMaterial: Alloy
Spool Diameter: –Colors: Silver / Blue
Spool Capacity: 200 – 290ydsWarranty: Limited Warranty
Drag Type: CarbonCountry of Manufacture: UK

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Key Features

  • Handle Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: Carbon Fiber
  • Dimensions: 6 x 4 x 6.25 inches
  • Hand Orientation: Left & Right


  • Fully Sealed Carbon Fiber Drag
  • Simple to use and maintain
  • Looks really cool and attractive
  • CNC machined


  • One of the more expensive products on our list

Another of the best fly reels for saltwater out there, the Hardy SDSL, has had a complete overhaul, and the drag system has been upgraded!

Designed for use in coastal waters and fishing on the ocean, the sealed drag system stops your reel from getting gummed up with grit and sand or even just salt water. It’s also made from modern, sturdy carbon fiber, which should last you years.

You get 16 pounds of pressure with the SDSL, which is plenty in most situations, even for bonefish. You can also add in an extra spool, allowing you to choose the best fly line for the conditions. The spool works on a Captive release system for easy swapping to save you time.

Constructed from one solid piece of bar stock 6061 aluminum alloy and completely machined, the Hardy SDSL saltwater fly reel is one of the sturdiest models around. This also means that it’s straightforward to maintain and that it won’t rust or degrade over time – no tiresome cleaning here!

Hardy has included an ingenious color-coding design on the SDSL’s drag regulator, and it’s possible to control just how much drag you need in only one turn.

For an in-depth analysis, be sure to check out the video review here.

The Hardy SDSL is of excellent quality, one of the best fly reels for saltwater out there for keen anglers who like to get out to the sea as often as they can. It’s a worthy investment, as it should last you for years, if not decades. It’s also a very eye-catching reel that offers consistent performance and a range of great features, all finished with impressive attention to detail! Hardy SDSL saltwater fly reels won’t leave you disappointed!

Piscifun Sword Fly Reel

Piscifun Sword

Piscifun Sword Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10Overall Weight: 4.1 – 6.1oz
Arbor Size: MidMaterial: Precision CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy
Spool Diameter: 3.9 – 4.05inColors: Black
Spool Capacity: 50 – 150ydsWarranty: 3-Year Warranty
Drag Type: DiscCountry of Manufacture: China

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Key Features

  • Materials: Stainless Steel, Aluminum
  • Handle Material: Aluminum
  • Bearing Material: Stainless Steel
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous


  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy
  • Bargain price
  • Lightweight CNC machined reel
  • Very strong
  • Concave arbor
  • Light in weight
  • Switch from left to right hand easily


  • Tricky to clean
  • Not fully sealed
  • It’s easy to change the drag from heavy to light by accident
  • Complicated to assemble and disassemble (no instructions included)

At this price, it would be easy to overlook the Piscifun Sword Fly, but we’d urge you to take a second look! Retailing at the lower end at an affordable price, it’s incredible how many of the right boxes the Piscifun ticks while offering excellent value for money.

As it’s made from CNC machined aluminum alloy, Piscifun Sword Fly is sturdy, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant. The Piscifun reel will balance out your fly rods well for effortless casting. The arbor is constructed with a concave design for increased strength, and you also get a pretty smooth drag system and fast retrieval with this product.

One minor flaw in the design is that it’s possible to flick the drag knob and switch the drag from heavy to light (or vice versa) without meaning to. Very frustrating when you’re in a crucial moment of landing a whopper!

For an in-depth analysis, be sure to check out the video review here.

But for this price, we think the Piscifun Sword Fly is one of the best fly reels for saltwater if you are a beginner saltwater angler or if you’re just on a tight budget for your fishing gear. It will undoubtedly get the job done and offers all the features a beginner/amateur fly fisher will need. Just make sure you pay careful attention to your gear’s cleaning and maintenance, as Piscifun Sword reels do not have a sealed drag system.

Ross Reels Evolution LTX Fly Reel

Ross Evolution LTX

Evolution LTX Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 7/8Overall Weight: 4.2 – 4.91oz
Arbor Size: LargeMaterial: 6061 T6 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.42 – 4.03inColors: Matte Olive, Black, Platinum
Spool Capacity: 60 – 175ydsWarranty: Ross Limited Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Stacked DiscCountry of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features

  • Type II Anodizing
  • The Perfect Combination Design
  • 6061 T6 Aluminum
  • Large Arbor
  • Ross Limited Lifetime Warranty


  • So much stopping power
  • Quick line retrieval
  • Drag system is buttery smooth
  • Fewer tangles
  • Saltwater and freshwater fishing


  • On the higher end of the price scale at around $385

You will love how reliable and smooth the drag system is on the Ross Reels Evolution LTX! Not much is missing from this saltwater reel (although you’d expect that at this price!) This excellent fly reel is suitable for freshwater as well, making it one of the best all-around reels. Whether you fancy fly fishing for bonefish or trout, this reel can do it all!

We loved the big arbor size, the flawless craftsmanship that evidently went into the Evolution LTX, and the lightning-fast line retrieval. It’s made in the US in Colorado so that you can be assured of this product’s high quality. The canvas phenolic handle reduces the overall weight of this reel, it’s corrosion-resistant, and offers super-fast line retrieval, too.

For an in-depth analysis, be sure to check out the video review here.

The price is on the high end compared to the range of fly reels reviewed here, but the Evolution LTX boasts several awards for the best fly reels. If you take your saltwater fishing seriously, this one should be in the running when you’re looking for the best reel out there for you!

Orvis Mirage Reel

orvis mirage III

Mirage Specs:

Available Size: 3 – 13Overall Weight: 5.6 – 12oz
Arbor Size: Extra LargeMaterial: 6061 T6 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.5 – 5inColors: Midnight, Pewter
Spool Capacity: 125 – 600ydsWarranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: DiscCountry of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features

  • Type III Hard Coat Anodizing
  • 6061 T6 Aluminum
  • Technologically Superior Design
  • Superlarge Arbor
  • Orvis Lifetime Warranty


  • Fully sealed
  • Saltwater Specific
  • No maintenance necessary
  • Designed for big, beastly fish
  • Fast-release spool
  • Can switch from right to left hand easily


  • The most expensive product on our list, it’s a BIG investment

When it comes to saltwater fly fishing reels, this is the Ferrari of the fly reel world! Specifically designed to rock your saltwater fly fishing experience and take every detail to the next level, Orvis really has excelled here.

The only downside is the price tag the Mirage comes with, retailing for around $849. It’s safe to say that the Orvis Mirage does merit this hefty price, but it puts it out of range for many fly fishers with more modest budgets. Not everyone can set aside this amount of money for a fishing reel.

If you can afford to invest in the Orvis Mirage, you’ll definitely feel the difference. Adjusting the drag is so quick and a lot easier thanks to the special ball and ramp mechanism that Orvis has invented, and you can go from nothing to full drag with just one turn of the knob.

Machined from aluminum bar stock, the Mirage is strong enough to stand up to the bonefish and tarpon while also pleasingly lightweight in hand. This reel can haul in much bigger fish than trout – you can really put it to the test in saltwater. Every single part of the Mirage has been carefully designed with the utmost attention to detail.

Little things like the titanium shaft for increased sturdiness, the super comfy handle, and the fully-radiused reel foot put this model in a league of its own. For super fast spool replacement, you can make sure of the fast-release spool feature. The large arbor size translates to less line memory and coil, while the military-spec anodized coating makes this robust and durable for years of fishing in the ocean.

For an in-depth analysis, be sure to check out the video review here.

If you’re an avid angler who loves to get out on the sea a lot, here is our Orvis Mirage reel review for more information. The Orvis Mirage truly deserves a spot amongst your saltwater fly fishing gear. This saltwater fly reel can handle anything, and it will be proving its worth for a long time to come.

Why Do You Need a Saltwater Fly Reel?

For freshwater fly fishing, having a high-end fly reel isn’t necessary. But you need a dedicated saltwater fishing reel, and you should spend a bit more time and money on your saltwater gear if you can. One reason for this is that you’ll be catching much larger fish, and you’ll need all the strength you can get. So saltwater reels need to pack more power than freshwater models.

Having said that, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of some of the budget fly reels, so don’t write off saltwater fly fishing if you have a more modest amount to spend.

A bomb-proof, preferably fully sealed drag system is essential when it comes to offshore fishing, as you’ll quickly come to realize when you hook your first, highly aggressive tarpon, permit, or barracuda!

There are also saltwater conditions to consider when shopping for fly reels: Seawater is incredibly corrosive and harsh on your fly rod and especially your fly fishing reels, so you need something carefully designed and corrosion-resistant to withstand the elements.

good saltwater fly reels

What Makes a Good Saltwater Fly Reel?

When you first walk into a fly fishing shop or even if you’re just surfing online, all the fly reel options can seem overwhelming. You’ve got your saltwater fly rod, but now you need a reel. That’s where our buying guide comes in!

We want to make choosing a saltwater fly reel easy for you, so here are the most important factors to think about before shelling out on a new fly reel:

Drag System

The drag system should be one of the first things you look at on any reel. Check out how much resistance the system can provide, as this is what will stop a beast of a fish from just running and running until you run out of line and even backing. If you want to land large fish with your fly rod, a hard-wearing reel is vital. Also, consider if the drag system is sealed.

Some of the best modern drag systems are made from carbon fiber, and occasionally, from Rulon. The startup inertia is another factor to think about – the lower, the better, as it means that the drag will be smoother right from the start.

We would also highly encourage you to go for a disc system over a click and pawl system. The reason for this is that a disc drag system is much more capable of standing up to the larger fish that you’ll (hopefully) be landing out on the ocean!

Click and pawl systems just don’t provide as much power as disc drag systems, nor are they as efficient. So check the type of system before buying your reel. You should also check what size and weight fish the fly reel is designed for to make sure it can stand up to the type of fish you’ll be after when you cast.


The ergonomics of a fly reel is one of the most essential features to check out. When it comes to fly reels, this refers mainly to the handle and knob – are they comfortable and easy to use?

In our opinion, the best handles tend to be longer, and the knob should have enough grip and be large enough to hold onto easily for quick drag adjustments.

Stronger Gear

If you cast out and land a massive tarpon or some other huge saltwater fish with your fly rod, you’ll really test the strength of your gear.

Saltwater fly reels need to be sturdy enough to stand up to a lot of pressure, so go for a durable reel that is well-constructed and won’t let you down when you most need it. Your average trout fishing gear just won’t cut it.

lightweight fly reel

Lightweight Fly Reel

When you’re after a good reel, you should look for a lightweight fly reel. This generally means fly reels made by CNC machining, as this process means that the reels will be very lightweight.

This makes it much more comfortable when you’re out on the water for long stretches at a time and prevents your arm from becoming fatigued. The best reel won’t leave you tired after a few hours of casting, but it also needs to balance out your rod effectively.

Arbor Size

The best saltwater fly reels have a large arbor, which means you’ll get a faster line retrieval after casting. You won’t have to make so many turns when you have a larger arbor, which comes in handy if you’re fighting a whopper that just wants to run.

A large arbor also allows you to carry more fly line and backing, which comes in handy if you snag a fish, and it takes off on you! Another bonus is that you’ll get less line memory, too.

Corrosion Resistant Materials

For saltwater fly anglers, it’s vital that your fly gear can stand up to the harsh conditions and the corrosive nature of seawater – especially your fly rods and your fly reels! Aluminum can withstand the elements better than stainless steel, which can quickly be damaged by corrosion.

So aluminum is often the best option for corrosion resistance. The other option is to look for a reel with a protective coating such as titanium.

When it comes to saltwater fly reels, it’s vital to look for one constructed from corrosion-resistant materials such as powder-coated steel or anodized aluminum. You want to stop the corrosion process in its tracks so that your gear will last much longer!

Sealed Drag

When you’re saltwater fishing, reels come into contact with all sorts of contaminants such as sand, dirt, grit, and mud.

A quality reel for saltwater will have a sealed drag as standard. Having a sealed system is essential because it means your saltwater reel will last for longer and not get all gunked up with grit.

Taking Care of Saltwater Fishing Reels

The most high-end saltwater fly reels require little to no maintenance thanks to a clever design, sealed system, and hardy materials. If you go for one of the fly reels that are constructed from corrosion-resistant materials and also has a sealed system, you’ll have very little ongoing maintenance to do.

However, if your chosen reel isn’t so corrosion-resistant or is made up of several smaller parts, you’ll need to take more care in ensuring each separate component is properly cleaned after every saltwater fishing trip. If not, you’ll end up regretting it as it won’t last long before it begins to corrode.

So there you have the most important factors to consider when purchasing a saltwater reel. If a reel combines most of these essential features, you’re all set for consistent performance when out fishing. Other factors like a fast line retrieve will be an added bonus.


Which is the best saltwater fly reel?

The best saltwater fly reel is subjective, as it depends on the angler’s individual preferences, needs, and budget. However, some popular saltwater fly reels include the Orvis Hydros SL, the Nautilus X-Series, the Hatch Finatic Gen 2, and the Tibor Signature Series.

What are the best saltwater fly reels for the money?

The best saltwater fly reels for the money depend on the angler’s individual needs and budget. Some popular options include the Redington Behemoth, the Orvis Clearwater, the Sage Spectrum C, and the Ross Reels Evolution R Salt.

What brands make the best saltwater fly reels?

Some of the best brands of saltwater fly reels include Orvis, Nautilus, Hatch, Tibor, Redington, Sage, and Ross Reels.

Do you need a different fly line for saltwater fly reels?

Yes, it is generally recommended to use a different fly line for saltwater fly reels, as the line needs to be designed to withstand the harsher conditions of saltwater fly fishing.

saltwater fishing reels

The Wrap Up

So there you have the best of the best saltwater fly reels! Whether you’re a new fly fisher heading out for your first ocean fly fishing trip or a veteran angler, you’ll be sure to find the perfect reel for you amongst our recommendations.

If you’re looking for the best overall, you can go for the Orvis Hydros.

With something at every price point and for every ability, you’ll have no trouble picking out the right one from these reels to meet your specific needs. Whether you’re fishing for bonefish, tarpon, or permit, these reels can handle the pressure! With this wide range of options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect reel for you.

Now you know what to look for, plus some tried-and-tested models, it’s time to get out there, nab yourself a new fly reel, and hit the ocean for some awesome offshore fishing!

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Ben Kepka

Hey, I'm Ben, a fly fisherman for over 20 years and also an aspiring blogger. I've been into fly fishing since my graduation from spin fishing when I was 12 years old. I started to help introduce as many people into this amazing sport. Tight lines everyone! You can read more on our about page here.

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