Are you in the market for a new 4 weight fly reel? This article introduces you to 5 of the best 4 weight fly reels on the market. I also take you through the thought process behind selecting a good 4 weight fly reel.
A good 4 weight fly reel should be more than a line holder. On lighter setups, like 2 and 3 weights, a fly reel merely has to store line as you seldomly target fish that are strong enough to make long runs. A 4 weight reel should have a dependable drag.
Here are 5 of the best 4 weight fly reels around:
Galvan Torque T-4
- Spool diameter: 3.25 inches
- Spool width: 0.85 inches
- Weight: 4.5 ounces
- Color: Green, Clear Aluminum, Black, Blue, and Burnt Orange
The Galvan Torque has been around for many years, for a good reason. The Galvan fly reel company is family-owned and run, with all the manufacturing and assembling done in the States.
As the premier fly reel in the Galvan lineup, the Torque is designed to last a lifetime. The foundation of the reel is its Torque Drag System. The stacked drag system utilizes modern thermoplastics and carbon fiber discs to deliver a drag that is powerful, maintenance-free, and very smooth.
Yes, I know that you probably won’t use the T-4 model in the salt, but it’d be fine if you did. Type 2 anodizing and detailed material selection (like the thermoplastics in the drag and spool bushings) means that the Torque won’t corrode over time.
From a functional point of view, the EZ Grab handle is well sized and comfortable. The spool is removed from the cage by pressing the large Galvan button. Another great feature is the ease of changing the reeling direction. Galvan’s unique system makes this intuitive and can be done on the fly.
I rate the Torque as one of the best fly reels out there, even after all these years. The bonus is that it’s available in so many different colors – without any additional cost. I recommend the Torque for the angler who wants something different but doesn’t want to skimp on quality.
Orvis Battenkill Disc II
- Spool diameter: 3 inches
- Spool width: not disclosed
- Weight: 4.6 ounces
- Color: Black Nickel
Another fly reel that has been around for ages is the Orvis Battenkill. It is built around a click and pawl drag system and is excellent for light fly fishing conditions (look at my post about the Best 3 Weight Fly Reels).
Recently, Orvis took the Battenkill and incorporated a disc drag system into it. They also increased the spool diameter slightly so that the reel slots in perfectly between the original Battenkill and their newer, more modern fly reels.
The result is a classic looking yet high performing fly reel. And best of all, it is very affordable. Yes, the compromise for the price is that it’s not made in the States, but this is a great deal if that doesn’t bother you.
I recommend this real for the angler who likes the classic look of the Battenkill but needs something with slightly more drag capabilities. Inside the reel, you’ll find the same drag system as the more pricey Hydros, featuring a combination of stainless steel and carbon fiber discs.
As Tom Rosenbauer states, this is the best Battenkill we’ve ever built.
Sage Trout 2/3/4
- Spool diameter: 3.19 inches
- Spool width: 1.25 inches
- Weight: 4.75 ounces
- Color: Bronze and Stealth/Silver
The Sage Trout reel is perfect for a trout setup. There are three models in the range, with two suitable for a 4 weight outfit, depending on the rod you’re pairing it with. Using a short dry fly rod? Go for the 2/3/4 model. If you’re using a 9ft or longer 4 weight, the 4/5/6 model is perfect.
The Trout aesthetics are classic and sleek, but it has the heart of a modern high-performance fly reel. Remove the spool, and you access the fully sealed stacked carbon fiber drag system.
While the reel is off, you’ll notice that the reel has a fully-caged design. This means the cage itself goes around the entire circumference of the reel. This design makes the reel stronger and prevents your fly line and leader from slipping between the spool and cage.
Continuing with Sage’s theme of combining modern designs with old school aesthetics, the reel has a large arbor. This feature is not something you’ll find in old fly reels. The arbor allows fast line retrieval and reduces fly line memory.
The fully-caged design and small porting means that the reel is slightly heavier than many modern fly reels. Don’t let this deter you from trying it out. The chances are that the reel will balance your older rod well and help keep things stable on longer casts.
Hatch Finatic 3 Plus Gen 2
- Spool diameter: 3.25 inches
- Spool width: 0.825 inches
- Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Color: Clear/Blue, Clear/Green, Clear/Red, Clear/Black, Black/Silver, Gray/Black
The Hatch Finatic needs no introduction. To those who have missed it, this is the improved Gen 2 model. I’ve used many Hatch fly reels in fresh and saltwater scenarios and can confidently say that these reel’s drags are super smooth. That’s probably my favorite characteristic of them.
You’ll notice that the reel isn’t incredibly light. I suspect that Hatch decided to design the best reel they can and not the most lightweight one. As far as a trout reel goes, this thing is bombproof. For a 4wt application, it’s over-designed by a mile.
The Finatic is available in a wide range of colors to suit your every desire. I like the fact that Hatch made all the colors appear matte finished. This reduces the glare projected from the reel and gives it a very soft feeling.
The most noteworthy advancements of the Gen 2 Finatic are the improved double-lip seal; they replaced the bearings and changed the frame and spool machining.
There aren’t many 4 weight fly reels on the market that will beat the Finatic for smoothness of drag and quality. Worth every penny.
- Spool diameter: 3.2 inches
- Spool width: Not disclosed
- Weight: not disclosed
- Color: Black, Amber, Olive, Silver, and Rose Gold
The Redington Rise is a perfect low to mid-priced 4wt fly reel. The carbon fiber drag is more than strong enough for any trout fishing scenario you throw at it. It is a sealed drag, so you won’t have to worry about any maintenance on it.
When you hold the reel in hand, the first thing you notice is the ultra-large arbor, which, in my opinion, is one of the most essential features on a 4 weight reel. It allows for quick line retrieval and reduces line memory significantly.
The generous porting on the reel helps with weight reduction. It also shows up your custom backing and multi-colored fly line well.
The Redington Rise comes with a full lifetime guarantee to the original owner.
How to Choose the Best 4 Weight Fly Reel?
If you look at my article on The Best 3 Weight Fly Reels, you’ll see that I exclusively looked at click and pawl type fly reels. The reason for this is that I believe that you do not need a drag for typical 3 weight applications, such as small stream dry fly fishing, etc.
A 4 weight outfit, on the other hand, is the tipping point where I feel you’ll run into situations where drag is needed. In most cases, probably not, but now and then, I find myself hooking into something more substantial with my 4 weight. Then, you need a drag.
In this section, I’ll go through some thoughts about selecting the best 4 weight reel for your application.
It is not necessary to spend over $500 on a 4 weight fly reel. Yes, I mentioned that you need a sound drag system on a 4 weight reel, but these days a $100 fly reel’s drag is more than sufficient.
So, what are you getting if you buy a premium reel? In short, you’re probably getting an American made reel and superior materials, bearings, and seals. These features could make the reel last more years (notice I said could).
Drag and Drag Adjustment
Most freshwater fly reels these days have a sealed disc drag. It’s basically a stack of carbon fiber, stainless steel, or synthetic washers that provide more or less drag, depending on how tight they are pulled against each other.
The disc system’s advantage is that the drag application is super smooth, and low startup inertias are possible. This characteristic, in turn, looks after your tippet. Sealed disc drags are also maintenance-free.
The only disadvantage of this type of drag system is that the term sealed is relative. Not all drag seals are created equally. I’ve seen a client lose a solid largemouth yellowfish due to a cheap Chinese sealed drag that failed, which allowed the ingress of sand (this was on an 8wt rig though, but the principle remains the same).
On a 4wt rig, you won’t be needing a heck load of drag. So don’t test the drag’s maximum force when you’re in the shop, thinking if it’s “strong,” it’s sufficient. Instead, look at how fine you’re able to adjust the drag and if you’re able to repeat the same setting. Once again, we’re looking to protect light tippets here, not stop a giant trevally.
There is a tendency these days to make gear as light as possible. Although these fantastic light fly reels are engineering marvels, they are usually detrimental to something, especially on cheap fly reels. As the old analogy goes, weight, cost, and quality – choose two.
Don’t let the tackle shop turn your arm for the lightest reel they’ve got. Instead, consider how well it will balance the complete 4 weight rig your fly fishing with. Yes, if you’re buying a light Sage X, a light reel will work perfectly. However, if you already have an older 4 weight rod and in the market for a new reel for it, the chances are that a slightly heavier reel will balance it well.
As mentioned earlier in the article, I rate arbor size as the most essential feature of a 4wt reel. You don’t need a massive drag or an ultra-light construction, but you want a large arbor. This feature will help with quick line retrieval when fighting a fish and reduce the memory your leader and fly line builds up while stored.
I hope that you found this reel selection guide helpful. Any one of the 5 fly reels mentioned above will serve you well. They all have good quality, reliable drags and will last you many years to come.
Please leave any comments and questions at the bottom of the page.
Until next time.