best fly reels

The Best Fly Reels (The 2019 Buying Guide!)

Often, the importance of having a great fly reel is overlooked. But if you want to have the best fly angling experiences possible, you should definitely get the best fly reel you can afford.

In this article, you’ll find out why having a good fly reel is key and what you should consider before buying a fly 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 (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.

Let’s dig in deep and find out what you should think about before spending any money on fly fishing gear best for your situation!

Which Fly Reel Should You Get?

If you want an excellent fly reel, then it’s vital that you match up your reel weight to your fly rod 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 the teamwork here! 

What Size Arbor To Go For?

When buying a fly reel, you generally have the choice between a standard arbor, mid arbor or a large arbor. This basically means how much space there is between the centre spindle and the spool base. It’s important to consider because it affects your line retrieval rate and also how much backing your fly reel can hold.

A larger arbor means that you can hold more backing 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 reduces your line retrieval rate as you have to wrap your line many times round the spool to draw in your line any distance. Fly-reels with a standard arbour are mainly used for 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 arbor 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 fish. You just won’t get the necessary power 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 the more modern disc drag system. This system will effectively put the brakes on any fish 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.

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 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: Die-cast flyreels are slightly less durable, with a risk of shattering if dropped from a height.

The other, more expensive option is to go for a CNC machined reel. This means that the reel is cut from a solid block of aluminium 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, 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 machined 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. You’ll find some great, lower-budget fly reels available too.

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.

If you travel a lot, you might prefer to go for a lightweight reel for easy transport. As well as factors like price and weight, you’ll want your fly reel to balance your rod nicely. Before you by 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 and see what really works for you.

sage fly reel review

The Reviews: Best Reels On The Market

The Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel Review

Redington make brilliant fly fishing equipment for affordable prices, and the Redington fly reels, including the Rise model, are no exemption from the rule. It looks attractive and because it’s lightweight with a smooth line pickup, it’s a joy to use. 

The U-shaped large arbor, the oversized drag knob and the soft-touch handles are all great details that you would expect to see on a more expensive model. You’ll love the carbon fiber drag system 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. There’s not much to fault in the Redington Rise fly reel, especially at this price!

The Good

  • CNC Machined, this reel feels high quality
  • As this fly reel is anodized, it will stand up to use in harsh fishing conditions
  • The large arbor design means you can draw your line back in very quickly
  • Lightweight at just over 5 oz
  • A lifetime warranty is included

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?! Orvis has been creating fly fishing gear for generations, and the name always conveys excellent gear best quality. 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 reel has been completely updated from the earlier Orvis reels, and now it’s lighter and larger, with the best of modern technology in place. You’ll be amazed by the speedy retrieval rates of these Orvis reels.

The Good

  • A sleek, attractive fly reel in classic black
  • Great drag system - carbon on stainless disc and fully sealed too
  • You can even use this fully sealed reel for salt water fishing
  • A high-quality reel pouch is included

The Bad

  • The drag knob isn't the easiest to use
  • More expensive 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.

It’s hard to believe when you see that this model comes in around $100, but it is CDC machined, sturdy aluminum that will stand up to a lot of hard use. Thanks to the ventilated spool, it’s lightweight, preventing you from tiring early so you can make the most of your fly fishing time! The drag adjustment wheel is easy to use even for beginners, and it’s simple to change the spool if necessary.

>>> CLICK HERE for a discount direct from PISCIFUN <<<

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

The Bad

  • Although this reel can be converted for right-hand retrieve, you have to contact the manufacturer and follow their guide to do this.
  • Slightly heavier 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 aluminium 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 your basic fly reel or you just want something the next level up to take your fly fishing further. The Lamson Guru truly is the best quality in this price range, with flawlessly smooth drag and a reliability that means you just can’t go wrong with this fly reel.

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 fish with this Lamson reel
  • Lightweight, so ideal for travel, and easy to use

The Bad

  • Another more expensive fly reel, it's worth the investment 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. The Lamson Liquid Fly Reel boasts an impressive conical drag system that is smooth and reliable, and CNC machined parts. It’s fully sealed, stopping any harmful dirt or sand from getting into the reel.

You can use this reel for freshwater and saltwater fly fishing, and it stands up to more expensive models easily. 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

The Bad

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

Redington Behemoth Fly Reel Review

Another of the amazing redington fly reels, the Redington Behemoth fly reel is another contender for a top fishing reel. It’s reliable and powerful, so anyone from a beginner to an avid fly fisher will get along with this reel. Redington is a well-known name in fishing gear, and this reel doesn’t disappoint.

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 arbor 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 isn't sealed so requires more maintenance

The Wrap Up

So there you have our guide on how to choose the best fly reel for fly fishing on the market today. You can’t go wrong with any of our recommendations 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 durability to pull in that fish that just wants to run, run, run!

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!

Our Top Pick:

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black Nickel, III
Orvis – Misc.
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