The 13 Best Fly Reels in 2023 – Buyers Guide

After many hours on the river and late-night debates with the team, we recommend that the best fly reel for most trout-fly fishermen is the Galvan Torque fly reel. It has the best-in-class drag system, is much lighter than other options, has a lifetime warranty, and is made in the USA.

Over the past decade, I’ve fished nearly 100 different fly reels and rods, thanks in large part to my job as a fly fishing writer. Some we have been sent by companies to test, but most were purchased by myself.

Here are our unbias and honest recommendations for the top fly reels in each category:

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Professional Fly ReelThe Galvan Torque
  • Best Drag System Of All Reels
  • Fast Retrieve
  • Lifetime Warranty
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Fly Reel For Most PeopleRedington Behemoth
  • Good value for money
  • Strong Drag System
  • Various Color Option
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Saltwater Fly Fishing ReelOrvis Hydros SL
  • Low Startup Inertia
  • Good Variety in Models
  • Large Arbor
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Piscifun Fly ReelPiscifun Platte
  • Low Price
  • Good Drag Knob
  • Lifetime Warranty
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Fly Reel for the MoneyLamson Guru S
  • Light In Hand
  • Various Sized for Freshwater
  • Lifetime Warranty
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Any of the reels listed in this article will work well, but you’ll need to find out exactly what reel comes in the correct size for your rod, and matches what you’d like to spend.

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What To Look For in a Fly Reel?

Ultimately, you want a reel that matches the weight of your fly rod and line, and has plenty of space for your backing and fly line. I also recommend sticking with a brand. So if you have a 5-weight Sage rod it’s best to pair it with a 5-weight sage reel until you know what specifics you’re looking for.

Consider your budget up front as this will most likely be your key determining factor. A fly reel can range from $50 all the way to over $600 if you’re looking to get the best of the best.

If you want to fish in saltwater, or even fly fishing saltwater flats, go for a corrosion-resistant sealed reel. This will reduce the amount of upkeep you need to do to the reel to keep it functional.

If you’re just starting out I suggest picking up a reel for between $100 and $200 that matches your rod. That is generally the sweet spot between weight, drag performance, and aesthetics. Anything less than that and you’ll likely be replacing it sooner than you’d like!

The Best Fly Fishing Reels – Detailed Reviews

Before you visit your local fly fishing stores, it’s best to have a range of recommendations for reliable reels. Don’t forget to compare prices online too, because you can save a lot of money that way!  Here are  the top picks for the best fly reels available today:

Galvan Torque – Best Fly Reel With Smoothest Drag

Galvan Torque

Galvan Torque Specs:

Available Size: 3 – 12 Overall Weight: 4.2 – 8.6oz
Arbor Size: :Large Material: Machined 6061 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.00 – 4.50in Colors: Black, Burnt Orange, Green, Clear, Blue
Spool Capacity: 75 – 300yds Warranty: Original Owner Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Disc Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: T3 (2-3wt), T4 (4-5wt), T5 (5-6), T6 (6-7wt), T7 (7wt), T8 (8wt), T9 (9wt), T10 (10wt), and T12 (12wt)
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 3.75 inches
  • Width of Spool (comparable 6 weight model): 0.95 inches
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 5.2 ounce
  • Colors: Silver, Green, and Black
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Made in the USA
  • Wide range of sizes to suit any fishing application
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Might be too expensive for many anglers

The Galvan Torque was introduced way back in 2004. Although it’s been around for quite some time, it remains relative and competitive with newer reals.

In my opinion, this is due to a combination of the high quality of the product, the features the reel has, and the after-sales service the company provides.

The large arbor provides a good line retrieve rate and the reel has the most narrow spool of all the reels on our list.

It is available in Silver, Green, and Black, but can be customized to most colors. The Galvan Torque is an excellent choice for the serious fly angler who spends a considerable amount of time on the water.

Although the reel does seem expensive, the quality and features are exceptional and comparable to reels near the $1000 mark.

We have a full Galvan Torque review here for more information.

Redington Behemoth – Best Fly Reel For Most People

Redington Behemoth

Behemoth Specs:

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

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 4/5, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10, and 11/12
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6 weight model): 3.6 inch
  • Width of Spool (comparable 6-weight model): 1.4 inch
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 5.7 ounce
  • Colors: Black, Hunter Orange, Gunmetal, Desert, and O.D. Green
  • Construction Type: Die-cast aluminum


  • Good value for money
  • Strong drag system
  • Various color options will allow you to customize your fly fishing outfit
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • The reel might be heavy for the fly angler who’s looking for the lightest setup
  • The drag knob on some of the models I have tested feels a little wobbly
  • The 11/12wt model does not have the best backing capacity

The Redington Behemoth is a good value all-purpose reel. A sealed carbon fiber disc drag provides more than enough stopping power, especially for freshwater applications. The reel’s unusual shape is made possible by the die-cast construction.

Five reel sizes are available, suitable for rods and fly lines ranging from 4 to 12 weight. The backing capacity on most models is more than adequate except for the 11/12wt model. It has a backing capacity of 250 yards, but I do feel that a minimum of 300 yards is required for heavy saltwater use.

The Behemoth spool has a chunky width measuring 1.4 inches. This makes it an excellent choice for large-diameter floating lines. In my opinion, the Redington Behemoth is one of the best value fly reels money can buy.

The reel is especially suited to anglers fishing thick fly lines and targeting freshwater species such as bass, large trout, and golden dorado.

Orvis Hydros SL – Best Saltwater Fly Fishing Reel

Orvis Hydros SL

Hydros SL Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 Overall Weight: 4.7 – 7.7oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: –
Spool Diameter: 3.1 – 4.25in Colors: 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


  • Low startup inertia
  • Good variety in reel models will ensure there’s a size suited to your needs
  • Large arbor size for fast line retrieval
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • The drag knob can be a little fiddly
  • Very heavy

The Orvis Hydros SL is an excellent mid-range reel. It’s a good quality reel that will provide you with many years of dependable service. It has a smooth drag and provides the freshwater angler with all the drag he/she will ever need.

A good range of sizes is available in either Citron (which is like a bright green) or Black. The Hydros SL III weighs in at 5.9 ounces, which is heavy compared to many other reels.

However, this might not be a completely negative point as it will balance faster action rods with heavy fly lines well. I recommend the Orvis Hydros SL for the angler looking to buy a mid-priced reel that will last a very long time.

See also our review of the Orvis Hydros reel here so you can have an alternative.

Piscifun Platte – Best Piscifun Fly Reel

Piscifun Platte Fly Reel

Piscifun Platte Specs:

Available Size: 5/6, 7/8, 9/10, 11/12, 13/14 Overall Weight: 6.2 – 8.8oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum alloy
Spool Diameter: 3.26 – 5.23in Colors: Black & Red, Gunmetal & Green, Blue & Gold
Spool Capacity: 150 – 350yds Warranty: 1-Year Warranty
Drag Type: Fully Sealed Country of Manufacture: China

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 3/4wt, 5/6wt, 7/8wt, and 9/10wt
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 3.6 inches
  • Width of Spool (comparable 6-weight model): 1.1 inch
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 6.2 ounce
  • Colors: Blue, Gunmetal, and Black
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Low price
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • I like the large drag knob


  • Heavy

The Piscifun Platte comes in four different models suitable for line weights ranging from 3 to 10 weights. It features a sealed disc-drag system and is constructed from machined aluminum.

All models are available in blue, gunmetal, or black colors. The arbor size and width is suitable for a wide range of applications. At 6.2 ounces, it’s not a lightweight fly fishing reel.

It does however feel solid in hand. I like the large drag adjustment knob. It has a low profile resulting in fewer line snags. Maximum drag pressure is impressive, although this would never be required in real-world situations.

The Piscifun Platte is a good option for the beginner fly angler looking for a solid workhorse reel that doesn’t break the bank. The price makes it a viable option for a spare reel on remote trips.

Lamson Guru S- Best Fly Reel for the Money

Lamson Guru S Specs:

Available Size: 3 – 9 Overall Weight: 3.73 – 5.83oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: Machined 6061 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.2 – 4.11in Colors: OG, Blaze, Arctic
Spool Capacity: 50 – 220yds Warranty: Waterworks-Lamson Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Conical Country of Manufacture: USA

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  • Sizes Available: 3+, 5+, 7+, and 9+
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 3.55 inches
  • Width of Spool (comparable 6-weight model): 1 inch
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 4.41 ounce
  • Colors: Olive Green, Blaze, and Arctic
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Light in hand
  • Available sizes cover most freshwater fishing scenarios
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Not much I can fault on this reel, to be honest

The new Lamson Guru S fly reel was released in 2019. It replaced the previous well-known Guru. Adjustments include increased reel diameter, narrower spools, larger spool ports for better line drying, and some new colors.

The reel models available will suit most fly rods and lines ranging between 2 and 10 weight. The Guru uses a slightly narrower drag system but features the same conical drag technology that all other Lamson reels use.

The Lamson Guru S is also available in a heavy-duty model, dubbed the Guru S HD. This variation features a full cage design offering more stiffness.

However, these are only available in 7+ and 9+ models. The Lamson Guru S is ideal for the intermediate fly angler who’s looking for a no-fuss freshwater fly reel. The combination of the reel’s features and affordable price is bang on target.

If you want another option from Lamson, here is our Lamson remix review.

Orvis Mirage – Best Fly Reel for Trout

Orvis Mirage Specs:

Available Size: 3 – 13 Overall Weight: 5.6 – 12oz
Arbor Size: Extra Large Material: 6061 T6 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.5 – 5in Colors: Midnight, Pewter
Spool Capacity: 125 – 600yds Warranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Disc Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: II (3-5wt), III (5-7wt), IV (7-9wt), V (9-11wt), VI (11-13wt), and VI-Deep (13-15wt)
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 3.875 inches
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 6.2 ounce
  • Colors: Pewter and Midnight Black
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Made in the USA
  • Go from minimum to maximum drag with one turn of the drag knob
  • Large arbor size for quick line retrieval
  • Round reel foot prevents kinks in leader and tippet
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Not the lightest reel for the price

The  Mirage is a high-quality durable fly reel offered by Orvis. Six reel models cover a wide spectrum of fishing scenarios, from 3 to 15 fly reel weights. The reel has a large arbor which assists with line pickup rate and the reduction of line memory.

One of my favorite features of the reel is the rounded corners of the reel foot. This small adaptation allows the fly angler to wrap the leader around the reel foot without it resulting in kinks.

The reel is available in Pewter and Black colors, matching any setup. On the downside, the reel is quite heavy. For the price, you would expect it to be more competitive in this category.

Lamson Force SL Series II – Best Lightweight Fly Reel

Lamson Force SL Series II

Lamson Force SL Series II Specs:

Available Size: 5 – 7 Overall Weight: 3.31 – 3.7oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: Machined 6061 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 4.1 – 4.4in Colors: Azure, Thermal, Flash
Spool Capacity: 125 – 180yds Warranty: Waterworks-Lamson Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: – Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 5+ and 7+
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 4.1 inch
  • Width of Spool (comparable 6-weight model): 1 inch
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model): 3.31 ounce
  • Colors: Azure, Flash, and Thermal
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Extremely lightweight
  • Made in the USA
  • Large arbor for increased line pickup
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Only two sizes are available

The Lamson Force SL Series II is a high-end freshwater fly reel. It is the lightest and has the largest spool diameter of all the freshwater reels on our list. A sealed conical drag system provides smooth power application.

There are two reel sizes available, but can be realistically used on fly outfits ranging from 4 – 8 weight. The new Force SL is intended for the angler who puts a high premium on having the lightest gear around. One of the best 8-weight fly reels around today.

The large arbor reel makes for quick line retrieval. In my opinion, the thin spool makes the reel more suited to thin-diameter floating lines and sinking lines.

This reel is an excellent option for the advanced nymphing angler who high-sticks most of the day.

Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel – Great Quality Reel at Great Price

Orvis Battenkill

Orvis Battenkill Specs:

Available Size: 1 – 3 Overall Weight: 2.8 – 3.2oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: Bar Stock Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 2.75 – 3.25in Colors: Black
Spool Capacity: 100 – 150yds Warranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Click-Pawl Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: I (1-3wt), II (3-5wt),  and III (5-7wt)
  • Reel Diameter (comparable 6-weight model): 3.25 inches
  • Weight (comparable 6-weight model):  3.2 ounces
  • Colors: Black
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Simplistic design perfect for general trout use
  • Light in weight
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Small spool size
  • Not possible to adjust the drag while fishing

The Orvis Battenkill has been around since the 1960s. It was named after the river that flows near the company’s headquarters for manufacturing and trout fishing in Vermont. The four-position click-and-pawl drag system provides a constant drag to prevent overruns.

The palm of the angler’s hand is used to apply any additional drag as required. The classic styling, functionality, and weight of the rod make the Battenkill very popular among small stream anglers who require very little drag.

At $98, the reel offers exceptional value for money and is a good option for any trout fly angler.

Redington ZERO – Best 3 wt Fly Reel

Redington Zero

Redington Zero Specs:

Available Size: 2/3, 4/5 Overall Weight: 2.7 – 3oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: Die-Cast Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3 – 3.30in Colors: Burgundy, Black, Grey
Spool Capacity: 100yds Warranty: Redington Warranty
Drag Type: Clicker Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 2/3wt, 4/5wt,
  • Reel Diameter (3 weight model): 3 inches
  • Weight (3-weight model): 2.7 ounces
  • Colors: Black, Sand, and Avocado
  • Construction Type: Die-cast


  • Very light
  • Cheap
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Non-adjustable drag

The Redington Zero is an affordable click-and-pawl reel suited for most trout fishing situations. The reel is available in two sizes and, in my opinion, suit rods ranging from 1 to 4-weight the best.

A non-adjustable drag offers enough resistance to prevent overwinds. Any additional stopping power is applied by pressing the palm of your hand against the spinning spool.

The reel is available in three colors, including black, sand, and a funky avocado color. For its size, the reel has a large arbor making for fast line pick up.

Due to the basic drag system, the reel is incredibly light. I recommend the Redington Zero for beginner trout anglers or an angler looking for a good reel to balance his small stream outfit.

Ross Evolution LTX – Best 4 wt Fly Reel

Ross Evolution LTX

Ross Evolution LTX Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 7/8 Overall Weight: 4.2 – 4.91oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: 6061 T6 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.42 – 4.03in Colors: Matte Olive, Black, Platinum
Spool Capacity: 60 – 175yds Warranty: Ross Limited Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Stacked Disc Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 3/4wt, 4/5wt, 5/6wt, and 7/8wt
  • Reel Diameter (4-weight model): 3.48 inches
  • Width of Spool(4 weight model): 0.97 inch
  • Weight (4-weight model): 4.29 ounces
  • Colors: Black and Platinum
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • High-line pick-up rate
  • Light in hand
  • Made in the USA
  • Warranty: Lifetime


  • Might be on the expensive side for the most anglers

The first thing about the Ross Evolution LTX that appealed to me is its good looks. A fly reel needs to be functional, yes, but it doesn’t hurt if it’s easy on the eye. The Evolution LTX is made in Ross’ manufacturing facility in Southern Colorado.

The LTX is one of the best 4 weight fly reels. The reel is light in hand and the modern large arbor assists with a fast line pick-up rate. The 5/6 weight model has a spool width of just over an inch, making it more suitable for thinner-diameter lines.

As with all Ross reels, it comes with a warranty to the original owner. Although the Ross Evolution LTX is relatively expensive to many reels on our list, it competes with reels in almost double its value.

This reel is perfect for the medium to advanced angler looking to treat him/herself with a high-quality fly reel.

You can check out our full Ross Fly Reels Review here for more fly reels from Ross.

Sage Spectrum Max – Best 5 wt fly Reel

Sage Spectrum Max

Sage Spectrum Max Specs:

Available Size: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 Overall Weight: 4.19 – 7.63oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: Fully Machined 6061-T6 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.25 – 4.38in Colors: Black, Platinum, Copper
Spool Capacity: 100 – 200 Warranty: The Sage Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Sealed Carbon Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 5/6wt, 6/7wt, 7/8wt, 9/10wt, and 11/12wt
  • Reel Diameter (5-weight model): 3.69 inches
  • Width of Spool (5-weight model): 1.31 inches
  • Weight (5-weight model):  5.5 ounce
  • Colors: Chipotle, Cobalt, Silver, Stealth, and Squid Ink
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Drag knob increments numbered for precise adjustment of drag
  • Four color options
  • Good range of sizes to choose from
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Expensive

The Spectrum Max is Sage’s most advanced and expensive reel. It features their SCS (Sealed Carbon System) drag offering reliable and smooth operation and is built out of sturdy Aerospace Grade Aluminum. one of my favorite features of the reel is the incremental markings on the drag knob itself.

This allows for precise adjustment of drag before you cast to a fish which can mean the difference between landing that big rainbow or not.

The reel is available in five sizes suitable for setups from 5 to 12 weights. It is available in four color combinations that will suit most outfits.

The slightly wide spool (1.39 inches), is suitable for thicker diameter lines with heavy heads.

Orvis Mirage LT IV – Best 8 wt fly Reel

Orvis Mirage LT

Orvis Mirage LT IV Specs:

Available Size: 1 – 8 Overall Weight: –
Arbor Size: Large Material: 6061 T6 Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3.1 – 4in Colors: Midnight, Olive, Blackout, Carbon
Spool Capacity: 75 – 200yds Warranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Disc Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: I (1-3wt), II (3-5wt), III (5-7wt), and IV (7-9wt)
  • Reel Diameter (8-weight model): 4 inches
  • Weight (7-weight model): 5 ounce
  • Colors: Olive and Midnight
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Round reel foot which protects tippets and leaders when hiking or wading
  • Lightweight design
  • Made in the USA
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Might be too expensive for many anglers

The Orvis Mirage LT is a lightweight version of its bigger brother, the standard Mirage. It is designed to be the ultimate freshwater rod.

Four reel models cover the entire freshwater spectrum from the small LT I suitable for 1 -3 weights to the large LT IV suitable for 7 – 9 weights. The rod features a clever rounded reel foot that protects the leader or tippet when hiking or wading.

The carbon fiber drag is dialed in to protect light tippets. This, together with the low startup inertia, makes for an excellent trout reel.

The reel is available in olive or midnight black, suitable for either classic or more modern rod setups.

The Orvis Mirage LT is the perfect fly fishing reel for the angler who prefers fishing with products made in America but doesn’t want to break the bank.

NAUTILUS CCF-X2 – Best 10 wt fly reel

NAUTILUS CCF X2 best 10 weight fly rod

Nautilus CCF-X2 Specs:

Available Size: 6 – 12 Overall Weight: 7.6 – 8.9oz
Arbor Size: Large Material: Machined Aluminum
Spool Diameter: – Colors: Black, Brushed Silver
Spool Capacity: 175 – 250yds Warranty: Nautilus Limited Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Sealed Cassette Country of Manufacture: USA

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Key Features:

  • Sizes Available: 6/8wt, 8/10wt, 10/12wt, and Silver King
  • Reel Diameter (10-weight model): 4.5 inches
  • Width of Spool (10 weight model): 1 inch
  • Weight (10-weight model): 8.9 ounces
  • Colors: Silver and Black (there are many custom colors that can be ordered through Nautilus)
  • Construction Type: Machined aluminum


  • Lifetime warranty to the original owner
  • Very smooth drag
  • High line pickup rate
  • Durable
  • Made in the USA


  • Expensive

The Nautilus CCF-X2 is a high-tech advanced saltwater fly fishing reel.  The sealed carbon fiber drag system is smooth and dependable and offers up to 20lb+ of drag, although in most cases you’ll never require a drag of this strength.

Ceramic bearings make for super low startup inertia, protecting light tippets when big fish turn right at the boat. There are 4 models in the CCF-X2 range. The spools of the 8/10 and 10/12 weight models are interchangeable, giving you more options when out on the water.

In my experience as a flats guide, I found the reel to be particularly impressive on Milkfish. It protects the lightest of tippets on these bullet trains.

Starting at $445 it might not be viable for most anglers, but the Nautilus CCF-X2 is a specialized saltwater fly reel comparable to reels double its price.

Fly Reel Buyers Guide

There are a few different factors to consider before you splash out on any of the fly reels you find, to make sure that it’s going to work for your fly fishing set-up.

You’ll find a wide range of fly reels on the market, so choosing which one to buy can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Let’s dig in deep and find out what you should think about before spending any money on fly fishing gear!

From the spool size to the fly reel drag system, here’s what you need to know! We’ll recommend the best quality products across all price points, to make it easy for you to find the best one for your needs.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly fly reel, take a look at our post here on the best fly reel under 200 for more options.

What Are the Different Types of Fly Reel?

If you want a quality fly reel, then you must match up your reel weight to your fly rod weight and fly line weight. You just can’t get a reel that can do it all.

You need to narrow it down so that your rod, reel, and the line will work smoothly together – it’s all about teamwork here!  Matching the size and weight of your rod and reel products is the key to effective fly fishing, so you can catch more trout, bass, or salmon.

What Size Arbor To Go For?

When buying a fly reel, you generally have the choice between a standard, mid, or large-sized arbor. This means how much space there is between the center spindle and the spool base.

A large arbor reel will have more space between the spindle and the spool base. For serious fly anglers, the size of the frame is important to consider because it affects your line retrieval rate, and also how much backing your fly reel can hold.

You’ll realize how important this is when you cast out and hook a trout that just runs and runs! A larger arbor means that you have a more substantial frame. giving you the capacity to hold more backing, all while being able to retrieve your line quickly.

Your line will have less coil memory too. Although they are generally light in weight, a fly reel with a large arbor will be bulkier to hold and travel with. In contrast, a standard arbor has a spool base that starts right in the middle of your reel.

A standard-sized model will reduce your line retrieval rate, as you’ll have to wrap your line many times around the spool to draw in your line at any distance. Products with a standard arbor are mainly designed and used for trout fishing on small rivers, where you fish with less line out.

drag system

Click and Pawl Drag or Disc Drag?

Click and pawl drag systems tend to be found on standard arbor reels and are also known as ‘spring and pawl’. This kind of drag system has cogs that control the pressure put on the spindle, but a click-drag system isn’t suited for larger trout and other fish.

Most of the time, you just won’t get the necessary power from a click-drag system to stop a big fish when it starts to run. They do have the benefit of being reasonably lightweight, giving you a lighter reel overall.

A disc drag fly reel works by applying pressure to the central spool to slow a fish down, so you won’t be left struggling to haul in that fish. If you’re the type of angler who likes to fish for larger species, look for reels with the more modern drag system. 

This system is designed to effectively put the brakes on any trout you catch by applying tension on the reel, allowing you to pull it in. You can find disc drag systems made from carbon fiber, cork, ceramic, titanium, and other materials.

Cork systems are rare to come by, however, while most disc drag systems are made of carbon fiber these days.

Die-Cast or CNC Machined Reel?

There are two main ways of manufacturing fly-reels. The first is by pouring molten metal into molds to create die-cast reels. This construction method was developed to bring down the costs of manufacturing, making more affordable fly reels available for anglers on a budget.

However, there is a downside: These fly reels are slightly less durable, with a risk of shattering if dropped from a height.

The other, more costly option is to go for a CNC machined reel. This means that the reel is cut from a solid block of aluminum by a machine, creating a rock-solid reel that will last for years, if not decades.

Reels made in this way are also generally anodized and resistant to corrosion, giving them greater protection against the elements.  Which you go for may depend mainly on your budget. If you’re thinking of long-term benefits and durability, aim for a CNC aluminum reel.

Having said that, there are some great die-cast reels out there, depending on the brand you go for, so don’t feel like you have to avoid them completely. If you’re looking to save some cash, you’ll find some great, lower-budget fly reels for trout and bass fishing.

How much does a fly reel cost?

A fly reel can cost anywhere from $50 to $600+. The main difference between the two is the weight, drag system, and quality of the materials.

What is the most popular fly reel size?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it largely depends on the size of the water you are fishing and the fish you’re targeting. That said, some of the most popular fly reel sizes include 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8.

Anything above an 8 weight and below a 3 weight are very specialist and should only be purchased if you have a specific target in mind.

What is the lightest fly reel?

The lightest fly reel is the Waterworks-Lamson Force SL Series II. The 5-weight version of this reel comes in at 3.31 oz (93 grams) which is barely noticeable. Add to that it’s simply beautiful! I highly recommend this reel if your budget will allow it.

What are the most popular brands of fly reel?

There are many brands of fly reels available on the market. Some of the most popular brands include Sage, Orvis, Redington, Waterworks-Lamson and Hardy.

fly fishing reels

The Wrap Up

So there you have our article on how to choose the best fly reel for fly fishing on the market today. Now you know what to look for, from arbor/frame size and capacity to reel type and the best materials, you’re all set.

You won’t go wrong with any of our recommended products, so long as you match them to the right fly rod and line weight.

They combine the key factors of a good fly reel: the ability to hold a decent amount of backing, to balance your rod, and the power to pull in that fish that just wants to run, run, run!

These reels will hit the balance right between durability and performance so that you can catch more fish!  So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself to your nearest fly shop, or shop online for your new fly reel now!

Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful. As always, feel free to drop me a comment or a question. Good luck in your search for the best reels for fly fishing!

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