The Best Fly Reels in 2021

We spoke with a number of fishing guides, read countless online reviews and even picked up a couple of reels for some in-depth reviews a little further down the track. Here are the top picks for the best fly reels available today.
best fly reels

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After over 30 hours of research, we have concluded that the best fly reel for most people is the Redington Behemoth. It’s good in both fresh and saltwater fly fishing, has a great price and is fairly well balanced.

If you’re looking for a more professional fly reel then we recommend the Lamson Force SL fly reel. It is much lighter, has a lifetime warranty and is made in the USA.

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Professional Fly ReelLamson Force SL Series II
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Large Arbor
  • 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 below 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.

If you are looking for the best saltwater gears for beginners, see our full post on Saltwater Fly Fishing Gear For Beginners here.

Fly Reels Review

The Best Fly Fishing Reels

Before you visit your local fly shop, it’s best to have a range of recommendations of 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:

Lamson Force SL Series II – Best Professional Fly Reel

Lamson Force SL Series II

Specs:

  • 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

The Lamson Force SL Series II is a high-end freshwater fly reel. It is both 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.

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.

Pros

Cons

Redington Behemoth – Best Fly Reel For Most People

Redington Behemoth

Specs:

  • 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

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.

You can see our full Redington Behemoth Review here fore more information.

Pros

Cons

Orvis Hydros SL – Best Saltwater Fly Fishing Reel

Orvis Hydros SL

Specs:

  • 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

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 are 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 complete 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.

If you are interested, see also our full Orvis Hydros Reel Review here.

Pros

Cons

Piscifun Platte – Best Piscifun Fly Reel

Piscifun Platte Fly Reel

Specs:

  • 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

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

It does however feel solid in hand. I really 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 also makes it a viable option for a spare reel on remote trips.

You can check our our Best Beginner Fly Reel here for more selection

Pros

Cons

Lamson Guru S- Best Fly Reel for the Money

Specs:

  • 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

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.

See also our Lamson Guru 2.0 Review here.

Pros

Cons

Orvis Mirage – Best Fly Reel for Trout

Specs:

  • 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

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 weight. The reel has a large arbor which assists with line pickup rate and the reduction of line memory.

One of my favorite features on 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.

Pros

Cons

Galvan Torque – Smoothest Fly Reel Drag

Galvan Torque

Specs:

  • 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

The Galvan Torque was introduced way back in 2004. Although it’s been around for quite some time, it still 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.

Pros

Cons

Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel – Great Quality Reel at Great Price

Orvis Battenkill

Specs:

  • 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

The Orvis Battenkill has been around since the 1960s. It was named after the river that flows near the company’s headquarters 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.

Pros

Cons

Redington ZERO – Best 3 wt Fly Reel

Redington Zero

Specs:

  • 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

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, suite 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.

Available Here:

Pros

Cons

Ross Evolution LTX – Best 4 wt Fly Reel

Ross Evolution LTX

Specs:

  • 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

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 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.

Pros

Cons

Sage Spectrum Max – Best 5 wt fly Reel

Sage Spectrum Max

Specs:

  • 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

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 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.

Pros

Cons

Orvis Mirage LT IV – Best 8 wt fly Reel

Orvis Mirage LT

Specs:

  • 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

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 to 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.

Pros

Cons

NAUTILUS CCF-X2 – Best 10 wt fly reel

NAUTILUS CCF X2 best 10 weight fly rod

Specs:

  • 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

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 specialised saltwater fly reel comparable to reels double its price.

Pros

Cons

More In-depth Fly Reel Reviews Here

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 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 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 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 lightweight, 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 disc drag 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.

See also our post here on Best Fly Reels Under $200 if you are on a budget.

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 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.

You can look at our post here on the Best Budget Fly Reels to help you decide what’s the best for you.

fly reel reviews

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 reels for fly fishing!

 

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