best fly reels

The Best Fly Reels (The 2020 Buying Guide!)

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Often, the importance of having a quality fly reel is overlooked among anglers. But if you want to have the best angling experience possible and catch those lunker trout, you should definitely get the best fly reel you can afford.

In this article, you’ll find out why having a good fly reel for fly anglers is key, and what you should consider before buying a reel on Amazon or online. 

We’ve also pulled together reviews of what are, in our opinion, the best fly reels for the money out there on the market right now, to make it really easy for you to choose a great fly reel for your circumstances.

Top Pick
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Redington Reels Rise III 7/8 Reel, Silver
Redington Reels Behemoth 7/8 Reel, Black
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Redington Reels Rise III 7/8 Reel, Silver
Redington Reels Behemoth 7/8 Reel, Black
Top Pick
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Redington Reels Rise III 7/8 Reel, Silver
Redington Reels Rise III 7/8 Reel, Silver
Redington Reels Behemoth 7/8 Reel, Black
Redington Reels Behemoth 7/8 Reel, Black

>> Discounts on PISCIFUN reels available HERE <<

How to Buy the Best Fly Fishing Reel 

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 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.

Which Fly Reel Should You Get?

If you want a quality fly reel, then it’s vital that you match up your reel weight to your fly rod weight and fly line weight. You just can’t get a fly reel that can do it all. You need to narrow it down so that your rod, reel and line will work smoothly together – it’s all about teamwork here! 

Matching the size and weight of your fly rod and reel products is the key to effective fly fishing, so you can catch more trout, bass, or salmon. If the weight of your reel doesn’t match your rod, you’ll feel at a disadvantage out on the water.

What Size Arbor To Go For?

When buying a fly reel, you generally have the choice between a standard, mid, or large sized arbour. This basically means how much space there is between the centre spindle and the spool base.  A large arbour 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 arbour 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 which 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 round the spool to draw in your line any distance. Products with a standard arbour are mainly designed and used for trout fishing on small rivers, where you fish with less line out.

fly reel reviews

Drag System: Click Drag or Disc Drag?

Click drag systems tend to be found on standard arbour reels and are also known as ‘spring and pawl’. This kind of drag system has cogs which control the pressure put on the spindle, but a click drag system isn’t really 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 light weight, giving you a lighter reel overall.

If you’re the type of angler who likes to fish for larger species, look for reels with the more modern drag system. A disc drag system 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.

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 discdrag systems are made of carbon fiber these days.

Construction: Die-Cast or CNC Machined Reel?

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

Quick Summary: 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.

Anglers who travel a lot may prefer to go for a light reel for easy transport. As well as the main factors including price and power, you’ll want the weights of your rod and fly reel to balance out nicely for successful trout fishing. An ergonomic handle is also essential for easy use when reeling in a lunker trout or bass! And if you want to fish in saltwater, go for a corrosion-resistant sealed reel.

Before you start the search online on Amazon or elsewhere, it’s a good idea to head out to a store and give any possible rods a go first. That way, you’ll be able to test the gear in person, check how light it feels, have a practice cast, and see what really works for you. You’re more likely to get the right product on your fly reel search when you can hold it and see how it feels for yourself.

Don’t forget to factor in the price, too. Take a look at your budget and decide what features are most important for you. Now it’s time to take a look at the reviews!

fly reel reviews

The Reviews: Best Reels On The Market

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

The Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel Review

This fishing brand is famous for making brilliant fly fishing products at affordable price points. Their fly reels, including the Rise model, are no exemption from the rule. Their products are durable, high-quality, and well designed. This light, attractive reel has a smooth line pickup which makes it a joy to use, whether you’re fishing for trout, bass, or steelhead. It has a faultless finish and comes in at just 4 ounces, so it won’t weigh you down.

The U-shaped large arbor and spool size and the oversized drag knob are all great details that you would expect to see on a more expensive model.  The handle is ergonomic and soft touch, making it effortless and gentle on your hand. This reel is a joy to use when fishing for bass, trout, and bigger species too.

You’ll love the sturdy drag system on the Rise reels, which is strong enough to stand up to a whopper of a fish. The ultra large arbor size allows you to retrieve your line in seconds.  

You’ll hardly feel the weight of this reel on your rod, and it will balance out your rod outfit perfectly. These reels are known for their durability, but as a bonus, it’s also covered by the generous lifetime reel warranty. To sum up, there’s not much to fault in the Rise fly reel, especially at this price.

The Good

  • CNC Machined, this reel feels high quality
  • This anodized reel is corrosion resistant and suitable for harsh fishing conditions
  • The large arbor design means you can draw your line back in very quickly
  • Lightweight at just over 4 ounces
  • A lifetime warranty is included
  • Twin-molded soft touch handle - gentle on your hand

The Bad

  • There are lighter reels out there if you're looking for something ultra-lightweight
  • Less durable than higher range models

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Review

You’ll be familiar with the brand name Orvis – which fly fisher isn’t?! This well-known company has been creating fly fishing products including reels for anglers for generation. The name always conveys excellent gear and products of the best quality, with top features designed specifically for fly anglers. But things have come on a long way since your grandfather’s day, and the Hydros SL fly reel shows it!

The Orvis Hydros SL reels have been completely updated from the earlier Orvis reels. Now, the Hydros SL is lighter weight with a bigger frame, and the best of modern technology in place. The inventors have come up with a new asymmetric handle that is ergonomic and easy to use, making fly fishing for bass a smooth experience.

You’ll be amazed by features such as the speedy retrieval rates and superb performance this Orvis reel offers. Shop for the best offers online at Amazon and other good fly fishing retailers!

The Good

  • A sleek, attractive fly reel in classic black
  • Great drag system which is fully sealed
  • You can even use this reel for salt water fishing
  • A high-quality reel pouch is included
  • Asymmetric ergonomic handle
  • Light weight

The Bad

  • The drag knob isn't the easiest to use
  • Costs more than the budget options

Piscifun Platte Fly Reel Review

Another budget fly reel option with a large arbor and a drag adjustment system, you definitely don’t want to overlook the Piscifun Platte fly reel. You’ll be able to hold plenty of backing, retrieve your line in a speedy fashion and you won’t have to worry about line memory either.

With all these great features, it’s hard to believe when you see that this model comes in around $100. But don’t worry – it’s built from CDC machined sturdy aluminum that will stand up to a lot of hard use. Thanks to the ventilated spool features, it’s lightweight, preventing you from tiring early so you can make the most of your fly fishing time! It also looks cool out on the water, with its matte black color with just a pop of the color red, and the modern design.

The handle is hardwearing, with clever grooves for an improved ergonomic grip.The drag adjustment wheel is easy to use even for beginners, and it’s simple to change the spool if necessary. The only downside is that it’s pretty heavy compared to the top competitors.

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The Good

  • Great budget option
  • The next level up from entry-level fly fishing equipment, you'll see a huge jump in quality from a very basic reel
  • Stands up well in comparison to much more expensive reels
  • The sealed drag system prevents sand and gravel ending up in your reel
  • Hardwearing handle with added grooves for better hand grip

The Bad

  • Although this reel can be converted for right-hand retrieve, you have to contact the manufacturer and follow their instructions to do this.
  • A heavy reel, especially for the 9/10 line weight

Lamson Guru II Fly Reel Review

This striking fly reel has been constructed by Lamson from high-quality, machined aluminum and stainless steel with an anodized finish. It’s sturdy and durable, just what you’d expect of a US-made fly reel, but it has the price tag to go with it too.

It’s worth considering the Lamson Guru II if you’re looking to upgrade the features of your basic reel, or you just want something the next level up to take your fishing further. Sleek in the color silver, it will look awesome out on the river.

The Lamson Guru offers the best quality and features in this price range, with flawlessly smooth drag, strong stainless steel construction, and a reliability that means you just can’t go wrong with this fly reel. If you choose the Lamson Guru II, it will balance out your fly rod perfectly for some epic fly fishing.

The Good

  • You'll be impressed by the performance of this fly reel
  • Also available in classic black if you prefer that aesthetic
  • It's quick and simple to switch the retrieve from left to right or vice versa
  • With a strong and smooth drag, you won't lose a single trout or bass with this Lamson reel
  • Lightweight, so ideal for travel, and easy to use

The Bad

  • Another more expensive fly reel, it's worth the price but will leave a large dent in your bank balance!

Lamson Liquid Fly Reel Review

Another great offering from Waterworks Lamson, this time at a lower and more affordable price, this reel is a great choice if you’re on a budget. The Lamson Liquid Fly Reel boasts an impressive conical drag system that is smooth and reliable, and CNC parts. It’s fully sealed, stopping any harmful dirt or sand from getting into the reel, with a classic black color and design.

You can use this reel for freshwater and saltwater fly fishing, and it stands up to more expensive models easily. Not all fly reels are suitable for fishing in saltwater, but as this one is resistant to corrosion, it fits the bill. So just grab your rod and get out on any water, from mud flats and rivers to the open ocean!

You’ll even find that spare spools are included, so you can have multiple lines set up and ready to go according to the conditions. The Lamson Liquid is definitely one of the top fly reels for the money.

The Good

  • Great price for an excellent fly reel
  • If you like to stand out from the crowd, you can buy a Lamson reel sleeve for the drag canister, to give your fly reel a unique and colourful look
  • Hard-wearing and durable with a sealed system to keep out dirt and make the reel last longer
  • Suitable for saltwater fishing
  • Corrosion resistant

The Bad

  • The reels are pressure cast rather than being constructed from a solid metal block
  • Might not last as long as top quality models

Behemoth Fly Reel Review

Another of the amazing fly reels by this well-known brand, the Behemoth fly reel is another contender for a top fishing reel. It’s reliable, powerful, and comes at an affordable price. Anyone from a beginner to an avid fly fisher will get along with this reel. 

You get an excellent carbon fiber drag system which packs a lot of power. It’s strong and durable and even comes with a padded case for storing and protection when traveling. A great pick if you fish for large fish like whopping carp, pike or salmon – the drag won’t let you down.

The Good

  • Cool looking design with a very powerful drag
  • Large arbour design for speedy line pickup
  • In the affordable price range
  • Available from 5wt right up to larger sizes for saltwater fishing
  • Suitable for freshwater and saltwater fishing

The Bad

  • Tricky to adjust the initial start-up pressure
  • The drag system can let in sand and grit, requiring more maintenance time

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 arbour/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 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 fly fishing reels!

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Large arbor fly reel; Fully sealed drag-clutch bearing; Narrow spool for less line stacking and increased backing capacity

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