When you start out fly fishing, there are a few things to consider before you can get out on the water. This mainly involves the choice of a fly rod, fly reel, and fly line. These all depend on what species of fish you will be targeting.
Beginners guide would be to think of what weight rod you will need then the fly reel and fly line are next. The leader and flies are smaller things to look at once on the water.
These are the basic requirements to get out fly fishing. If you’re looking for the best fly reels overall then see our post here.
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Recommended Beginners fly fishing reels
Below is a selection of fly reels that would make great entry-level choices that should last a long time. Please use the below as a guideline to helping you make the right decision.
MAxcatch is one of those fly fishing brands that is doing a super job at bringing quality affordable fly fishing equipment to the market. They offer a range of equipment, including fly reels which are of good quality and with their price tag so low, they are a very affordable choice.
The Maxcatch fly reel is CNC machined aluminum with a Teflon disc and stainless steel disc drag system that offers a smooth and immediate drag engagement.
Available in weights 3/4, 5/6, 7/8 it will cover all freshwater scenarios. It possible may be used for light saltwater but I wouldn’t recommend it. If it has had some light salt work then a good wash in freshwater should suffice.
Immediately noticeable is the sticking colors that the reel has in a lovely sunburn orange it looks a lot more expensive than it is. The biggest surprise of this fly reel is the fact that it’s CNC machined which means that all parts fit perfectly and at a price tag of $55 you won’t find a better deal.
Echo Ion Fly Reel
Echo is no new name in the fly fishing world. They have been selling quality fly fishing gear for years now and are known for providing entry to moderate fly fishing equipment at affordable prices.
Their Echo Ion fly reel is no exception. With a hybrid machine cast design frame and a large arbor, they are popular choices for anglers.
The larger arbor gives you a faster line retrieval and holds more backing, which is great for still water fisherman. Ideally designed for freshwater use it can be used in saltwater with a little extra TLC.
The drag systems on these reels are maintenance-free with a very low startup resistance and no backlash.
An audible in and out click is also a nice added feature that not many modern fly reels come out with these days.
These fly reels are available in a 2/3 weight all the way up to 10/12 weights. The larger fly reels are a little more expensive selling for $99 but they are still great value for money regardless.
See our full Echo Ion Reel Review here.
Lamson Liquid Fly Reel
Beginner fly reels can sometimes be thought of as cheap and never great quality but Lamson fly reels are changing that viewpoint rather quickly.
The Lamson liquid series fly reel has come onto the market and at its price is a bargain deal. It’s targeting first-time buyers, providing them with excellent quality.
With the frame of the reel being Die cast and the crucial parts of the drag system is CNC machined in the USA the reel feels a lot more expensive than it actually is.
Available in a smoke and vapor color they really are attractive-looking reels.
The concealed drag system prevents grit or sand from entering, ensuring a smooth and fast engaging drag. The large arbor allows for minimal line memory and you can load a little extra backing on for those big fish with enough room for your fly line to fit comfortably.
Check out our full post of the Best Fly Line for Beginners here.
Available in weights 2/3 up to 10 weight. For reviews of all Lamson Reels see our full breakdown here.
Orvis has done well with their Clearwater fly reel series. These reels are Die cast aluminum which makes them super light with less bulk. This is an extremely attractive feature that many anglers look for these days.
The Clearwater reel has a large arbor that stores the fly line well and minimalizes line memory.
It balances the matching weight fly rod perfectly which is an important aspect that is often overlooked.
The powerful inline, Rulon to stainless, stacked disc drag is the most impressive part of this Orvis clearwater series as it has a very smooth start-up to protect that tippet with enough power to stop big fish.
Available in a 4-6 weight and a 7-9 weight most of your trout fishing would be covered and possibly some light saltwater fishing as well.
This is a great beginner fly reel but could also double as a backup reel for a guide as well.
For our full Orvis Clearwater Reel Review see our post here.
Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel
Redington makes some of the best fly fishing gear available and their reels are no exception.
The Redington Behemoth fly reel is a die cast reel that has a very powerful drag system. Over the years Redington Behemoth reels have pushed the combinations of good-looking aesthetics and functional parts that last. Offering a good-looking reel that performs like a more premium fishing reel.
A large arbor spool and heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system give this reel reliability and strength that is unprecedented for its price range.
The drag is very forgiving, smooth, and is enough to get you started.
Available in a 5 weight which is great for trout fishing, ideal for beginners and experienced anglers alike. Redington also makes these reels in larger weights for those anglers who need more line capacity when chasing those larger fish.
What’s also a great option is to buy a rod and reel kit from Redington, which comes with the correct weight fly line to reel to the rod. The rod and reel setup is perfectly balanced so you can get out on the water and fish immediately.
For a full Redington Behemoth Review see our article here.
Echo Bravo Fly Reel
The Echo Bravo series has a revolutionary reel drag system.
It has a new saltwater safe pit stop drag system allowing for easy cleaning after those long days out on the salt.
The Carbon fiber disc drag system has an extremely smooth performance that is very budget-friendly to the angler. With fewer surface areas due to the porting, it makes for a very light reel with an overall attractive design.
With a large arbor and a solid aluminum alloy construction, the reel can be used on any rod and it will function well.
Designed to fish the saltwater, the reels are made in a 7/8 weight, 9/10, and an 11/12 weight ideal for those big saltwater fish.
For a full Echo Brave Reel Review, see our post here.
See also our post here on Best Budget Fly Reels for more selection of budget fly reels.
Things to look for when buying a fly reel
There are a few things to look for when a beginner is buying their first fly reel. I always recommend trying to buy a fly reel from a reputable fly fishing manufacturer. Even if it’s a fly fishing outfitter such as Cabela’s and not a fly reel specific brand (they tend to be a bit pricer) but at least you will get some kind of warranty on your fly reel purchase.
You also want to decide on your arbor size. Arbor is the distance from the center spindle to the base of the spool. Standard arbor, mid arbor, and large arbor are your choices.
A standard arbor fly reel is perfect for all basic small stream trout fly fishing requirements, with a mid arbor fly reel being a little wider holding a little more backing. The large arbor is the widest and largest arbor allowing the angler a greater line and backing capacity, faster line retrieval, and minimal line memory
Most of the entry-level fly reels will be made by a Die-Cast production method which basically means that they are cast from a mould and made in bulk. There is nothing wrong with them and this method of production has allowed us to get very inexpensive fly reels to market.
The CNC machined method produces a much more refined reel which is generally more expensive. That said you do find very affordable reels with both technologies applied in their design.
Drag is another thing that should be considered. Again with most entry-level fly reels, their drags will be ‘concealed disc drag systems’ these are great as they don’t let any grit into the drag but they aren’t 100% watertight so always make sure you get as much water out of the drag system once off the water.
The weight reel should always match the rod weight. You may hear for overloading or stepping up in lines but that is for a later stage.
For more selection on fly reel weights see the following reviews:
As a beginner, it’s important to decide on what you want to fish for then choose the appropriate reel weight from there.
I would choose the Orvis Clearwater, it offers me the correct weight reels that I usually fish with. The large arbor and Teflon drag are also features that I like. The MAxcatch Tail and Echo Ion would be my next choices for the best beginner reel.
Bigger outdoor stores like Cabela’s fly shop may offer a fly rod and reel special and is worth looking into. They would also sell various other fly fishing gear.