In this article, we’ll have a look at some of the best 3 weight fly reels on the market. We thoroughly go over five fly reels ranging from under $100 to well over $300. I also take you through the considerations you need to keep in mind when buying the best reel to suit your 3 weight fly rig.
- Sizes available in the range: Suitable for fly lines between 2 and 5wt
- Diameter (Zero 2-3): 3 inches
- Weight (Zero 2-3): 2.7 ounces
- Colors available: Black, Sand, and Avocado (which is like bright lime green)
The Redington Zero is probably one of the best 3 weight fly reels on the market today. Not only because of its performance, but also the incredible value it offers to light line fly anglers. The reel comes in at under $100, has a respectable diameter, and is light enough to suit even the lightest 3 weight fly rod.
The Zero has a die-cast construction and comes in 3 colors. The button on the side of the reel allows for quick and easy removal of the spool. On the pool itself, the handle is made from molded plastic.
According to Redington, they spent almost two years developing the Zero, and in my opinion, it shows. The combination of the features, price, and lifetime warranty makes this a viable option for any angler looking to buy a new 3 weight fly reel. Don’t be fooled by the price, though; I know many experienced fly anglers who make use of the Zero every day.
Hardy Ultraclick UCL
- Sizes available in the range: Suitable for fly lines between 1 and 5wt
- Diameter: not disclosed
- Weight (Ultraclick UCL 2-3): 2.2 ounces
- Colors available: Olive Bronze
The Hardy Ultraclick is the lightest reel ever made by the manufacturer and almost 30% lighter than their previous small stream clicker reel. For this reel, Hardy specifically focused on designing a reel with Euro Nymphing techniques in mind.
The main design feature for this is the enclosed cage. It prevents your long leader and thin fly line from slipping through the gap between the spool and the cage. Anyone who’s experienced this knows how frustrating it can be, as it usually happens at the worst possible times.
What I like about the reel is that the drag system is made entirely from metal components. This design means that you’ll be fishing the Ultraclick for many years to come.
The theme of reducing weight can be seen throughout the entire reel. One such feature is that the spool simply clicks into place on the cage. No button must be pressed to release it. Simply pull hard enough, and it comes off. I just feel that anyone looking at the reel should know this.
If you’re in the market for a premium 3 weight fly reel, the Hardy Ultraclick is hard to beat. The weight (or lack thereof), features, and price makes this incredible value for money.
- Sizes available in the range: Suitable for fly lines between 1 and 7wt
- Diameter (Battenkill I): 2.75 inches
- Weight (Battenkill I): 2.8 ounces
- Colors available: Black
The Orvis Battenkill has been around for ages in one form or another. The latest model offers exceptional value and still has the classic looks. I find that the reel suits traditional graphite rods, bamboo, and fiberglass rods well.
The arbor is very small compared to some of the more modern designs. The problem with this is that the line tends to build up memory, especially when stored for extended periods. The other downside to the small arbor is that the line pickup rate is relatively low.
That said, if you have an older classic rod that you see yourself fishing with for many years and you’re looking to match it with a new reel, the Orvis Battenkill is an excellent choice.
- Sizes available in the range: Suitable for fly lines between 2 and 5wt
- Diameter (Colorado 2-3): 3.22 inches
- Weight (Colorado 2-3): 3.2 ounces
- Colors available: Matte Black and Matte Platinum
The first thing I need to point out is the Ross Colorado is a thing of incredible beauty. The new Colorado replaced the well known Colorado LT. It’s one of the few upgrades that hasn’t seen a weight reduction but rather a slight increase.
This increase in weight is due to the reel’s cageThisyou don’t have to swap the drag around to suit your retrieving hand. Talking about the drag, you’ll notice there’s no adjustment knob. That’s because the drag adjustment on click and pawl systems are near useless. I’m glad Ross left it out as there’s one less thing that can go wrong. Another great feature is that Ross included a vesconite bushing into the reel. This polymer is known to be self-lubricating and results in a super-smooth feel.
The reel is finished off aesthetically with a canvas micarta handle and an engraving of Colorado’s San Juan mountains.
If money is not an issue and you’re looking for a premium click and pawl reel for your 3 weight fly rig, the Ross Colorado is it. Did I mention it’s made in the USA?
- Sizes available in the range: Suitable for fly lines between 0 and 6wt
- Diameter (Click 3-5): 3.44 inches
- Weight (Click 3-5): 2.63 ounces
- Colors available: Stealth, Bronze, Champagne, and Lime
The Click is the lightweight basic reel offering from the big S. The Sage Click has been around for some time and what a real workhorse it is. It is lightweight and has a proper large arbor.
The Click comes in 4 colors, which means you can get one that exactly suits your rig (if that’s your thing). There are 3 sizes available in the click, which allows you to pair with rods ranging from 0 to 6wt.
What Makes the Best 3 Weight Fly Reel
Before going into more detail, the keen observer would have noticed that all the fly reels mentioned above have one thing in common. They all have a click and pawl type drag. Many anglers believe that this system is outdated, but I still firmly feel that this is the best reel-type you can buy for a 3 weight fly rig.
This is because they are lightweight, basic in design (which makes them reliable), and apply just enough stopping power to prevent overwinds and protect extremely light tippets. If you need to apply more drag, simply press your finger or palm on the spool.
Now, let’s have a look at how to select the best 3 weight fly.
As with all things in life, the eventual reel you’re going to buy needs to suit your pocket. Luckily, a click and pawl type fly reel is less complicated than disc drag versions. So, they tend to be cheaper.
However, you’ll see in our list above that the price range varies considerably. This all depends on the country of manufacture, materials, and techniques used, etc. Most of these fly reels will get the job done, so you don’t have to hesitate whether your less expensive Redington can compete with a Sage.
Drag and Drag Adjustment
Go down to your local fly shop and have a look at a fly reel in this class. You’ll notice that all of them don’t have much drag torque at all. The drag range is only enough to prevent overwinds and protect light tippets.
An upside of a click and pawl drag system is the beautiful sound you get as a fish runs or when you reel. It’s one of those quintessential fly fishing sounds.
I would like to express my opinion regarding drag adjustment on click and pawl drag systems. I don’t understand why manufacturers include this in these fly reels, as they rarely make any difference in stopping torque.
Shop around enough, and you’ll notice that most of the cheaper reel’s drag systems are made from plastic. This does reduce the manufacturing cost, but it significantly compromises the durability of the reel.
Opt for a reel where all the components in the drag are made from steel. The sound will benefit from this feature too.
Although this isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for me, I’ve noticed that some manufacturers are omitting a spool removal button to save weight. Some of these fly reels have an excellent system that I have much faith in, such as the Hardy Ultraclick.
It’s just something you should take note of and decide for yourself if you want a spool removal mechanism or not.
Material and Finish
Apart from where the reel is made, the most significant contributing factor to the reel’s price is its materials. More affordable reels are usually of die-cast construction, where expensive reels are machines. That said, there are many exceptions to this rule.
In the past, a die-cast fly reel had poor tolerances and was of poor quality. However, the latest reels made through this process are astounding. One such example is the Redington Zero.
The only real difference between the two processes, in my opinion, is what happens when these fly reels fall. Machined fly fishing reels usually get a nick or, at worst, are bent. Die-cast fly fishing reels are stiff but very brittle, so they might crack or break completely.
In my opinion, the weight saving game has become quite ridiculous. Yes, a lightweight reel is an engineering marvel and probably more efficient. But, there’s a more important factor to take into account than weight – balance.
Choose a reel that balances the 3 weight fly rod that you’re going to use it with. For instance, if you’re using a 6’ ultralight dry fly rod, the lightest reel would be perfect. However, if you’re using a 10’6” nymphing rod, the chances are that you’ll need a heavier reel to balance the system.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the arbor size of a fly reel. It has more to do with what suits your fishing style and application. A small arbor reel, like the Battenkill I, is perfectly suited for a short dry fly rod.
The downside of a small arbor is that the line tends to build up memory (coils on the water), and the line pickup rate is very slow. But, the reel will balance a light system well.
On the other side, a large arbor reel has a high line pickup rate, which works a treat if a fish swims towards you. Your line also is kept free from memory.
A 3 weight fly fishing reel is mostly used for trout and panfish. Therefore, it doesn’t need an immense drag, but rather should apply a delicate drag to ensure you don’t get an overwind and protect light tippets.
I am confident that any one of the five fly fishing reels mentioned in this article will serve you well. I’ve used all of them on the streams before and wouldn’t mind owning any of them.
Please leave any comments and questions at the bottom of the page. I would love to hear what your favorite 3 weight fly reel is.
Until next time.