If you love the thrill of saltwater fly fishing, you’re going to need a sturdy, specialized fly reel that you can rely on! Saltwater fly reels require some extra oomph and power behind them so that you can land those huge saltwater fish that put up a hell of a fight!
We’ve put together this buying guide with the most important factors to consider when shopping for the best fly reels for saltwater.
Plus, we’ve reviewed some of the best fly reels for saltwater fishing around now, so you can find the best fly reel for you without wasting valuable fishing time on shopping and comparing products! We know you just want to get on out there for some epic fishing!
Why Do You Need a Saltwater Fly Reel?
For freshwater fishing, having a high-end fly reel isn’t necessary. But you should spend a bit more time and money on your saltwater fly reel if you can, as you’ll be catching much larger fish, and you’ll need all the strength you can get.
Having said that, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of some of the budget options, so don’t write off saltwater fly fishing if you have a more modest amount to spend.
A bomb-proof drag system is essential when it comes to offshore fishing, as you’ll quickly come to realize when you hook your first, highly aggressive tarpon, permit, or barracuda!
There are also the conditions to consider: Seawater is incredibly corrosive and harsh on your gear, so you need something carefully designed and corrosion-resistant to withstand the elements.
What Makes a Good Saltwater Fly Reel?
When you first walk into a fly fishing shop or even if you’re just surfing online, all the options can seem overwhelming. That’s where our buying guide comes in!
We want to make choosing the best fly reel easy for you, so here are the greatest and most important factors to think about before shelling out on a new reel:
The drag system should be one of the first things you look at on any fly reel. Check out how much resistance the drag system can provide, as this is what will stop a beast of a fish from just running and running until you run out of line and even backing. If you want to land large fish, a strong, durable fly reel is key.
Some of the best modern drag systems are made from carbon fiber, and occasionally, from Rulon. The startup inertia is another factor to think about – the lower, the better, as it means that the drag will be smoother right from the start.
We would also highly encourage you to go for a disc drag system over a click and pawl system. The reason for this is that a disc drag system is much more capable of standing up to the larger fish that you’ll (hopefully) be landing out on the ocean!
Click and pawl systems just don’t have as much power as disc drag systems, nor are they as efficient. You should also check what size and weight fish the fly reel is designed for, to make sure it can stand up to the type of fish you’ll be after.
The ergonomics of a fly reel refers mainly to the handle and drag knob – are they comfortable and easy to use? In our opinion, the best handles tend to be longer, and the drag knob should have enough grip and be large enough to hold onto easily for quick drag adjustments.
Strong Fly Reel
If you land a massive tarpon or some other huge saltwater fish, you’ll really test the strength of your fly reel. Saltwater fly reels need to be sturdy and durable enough to stand up to a lot of pressure, so go for a durable fly reel that is well-constructed and won’t let you down when you most need it.
Lightweight Fly Reel
When you’re after a good fly reel, you should look for a lightweight fly reel ideally. This generally means one made by CNC machining, as this process means that the reel will be very lightweight. This makes it much more comfortable when you’re out on the water for long stretches at a time and prevents your arm from becoming fatigued.
The best saltwater fly reels have a large arbor size, which means that you’ll get a faster line retrieve. You won’t have to make so many turns when you have a larger arbor which comes in handy if you’re fighting a whopper that just wants to run.
A large arbor size also allows you to carry more line and backing which comes in handy if you snag a fish and it takes off on you! Another bonus is that you’ll get less line memory, too.
Corrosion Resistant Materials
For saltwater fly fishers, it’s vital that your gear can stand up to the harsh conditions and the corrosive nature of seawater.
When it comes to saltwater fly reels, it’s vital to look for one that is constructed from corrosion-resistant materials such as powder-coated steel or anodized aluminum. You want to stop the corrosion process in its tracks so that your gear will last much longer!
When you’re saltwater fishing, your gear comes into contact with all sorts of contaminants such as sand, dirt, grit, and mud.
A good fly reel for saltwater will have a sealed drag as standard. Having a sealed drag is essential because it means your saltwater fly reel will last for longer and not get all gunked up with grit.
The most high-end saltwater fly reels require little to no maintenance thanks to a clever design, sealed system, and hardy materials. If you go for a model that is constructed from corrosion-resistant materials and also has a sealed system, you’ll have very little ongoing maintenance to do.
However, if your chosen reel isn’t so corrosion-resistant or is made up of several smaller parts, you’ll need to take more care in ensuring each separate part is properly cleaned after every saltwater fishing trip. If not, you’ll end up regretting it as it won’t last long before it begins to corrode.
The Best Saltwater Reels
Now, onto the reviews of th best saltwater reels on the market now! Let’s find out how each product performs and whether it’s the right choice for you:
Orvis Hydros SL
Orvis is known for its high-quality fishing gear, and they have not disappointed when it comes to the Hydros SL! The original Hydros has had a complete overhaul, making it lighter, bigger, and better.
Orvis has taken care to create a design which is sturdy and durable but they have also removed any unnecessary weight. This makes for a product which is strong enough to stand up to those hefty saltwater fish and not too heavy to lug around.
Other great factors like the super-fast line retrieval, adjustable drag, and the fully sealed disc drag system, make the Hydros SL an easy pick for the best saltwater fly reels category.
It’s a pleasure to use and it would be hard to find a salt water fly reel that is just as smooth as this one. If you’re looking for saltwater reels that hit the balance right between strength, durability, and smoothness, make sure this beauty by Orvis is on your list.
Redington Behemoth Fly Reel Saltwater
The Redington Behemoth is another one of the top saltwater fly reels in production right now. If it’s power you’re after, you’ll be thrilled with how the Behemoth (hint in the name right there!) performs.
It won’t let you down when you hook a large salmon or tarpon – the drag strength and power in this product is truly incredible. You’ll have no problem landing big fish with the Redington Behemoth, one thing’s for sure!
The Behemoth is ideal for any fly anglers from beginner to pro, and it makes saltwater fishing more accessible to fishers on a tighter budget. The large arbor size allows you to hold plenty of backing, perfect when a fish just wants to run, and you won’t get as much annoying line memory, either.
Although generally well-constructed, one minor complaint is that the drag knob can feel wobbly at times. It doesn’t seem to match up to the rest of the model, which is a shame. Despite this, we still think the Behemoth is a good choice for fly anglers.
You even get a handy case included, so you can store it safely between fishing trips. The Behemoth should last you a long time and serve you well for all your saltwater fishing needs!
Hardy SDSL Fly Reel Saltwater
Another of the best options out there, the Hardy SDSL has had a complete overhaul and the drag system has been upgraded!
Designed for use in coastal waters and fishing on the ocean, the sealed drag system stops your reel getting gummed up with grit and sand or even just saltwater. You get 16 pounds of pressure with the SDSL which is more than adequate in most situations.
Constructed from one solid piece of barstock 6061 Alloy and completely machined, the Hardy SDSL is one of the sturdiest models around as a result. This also means that it’s really easy to maintain and that it won’t rust or degrade over time – no tiresome cleaning here!
Hardy has included an ingenious color-coding on the drag regulator, and it’s easy to control just how much drag you need in just one turn.
The Hardy SDSL is perfect for keen anglers who like to get out to the sea as often as they can. It’s a worthy investment, as it should last you for years, if not decades. It’s also a very eye-catching model with impressive attention to detail!
Piscifun Sword Fly Reel
At this price, it would be easy to overlook the Piscifun Sword, but we’d urge you to take a second look!. Retailing at the lower end, it’s amazing how many of the right boxes the Piscifun ticks.
As it’s made from CNC-machined aluminum alloy, it’s sturdy, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant. The arbor is constructed with a concave design for increased strength and you also get a pretty smooth drag and quick retrieve with this model.
One minor flaw is that it’s unfortunately easy to flick the drag knob and switch the drag from heavy to light (or vice versa) without meaning to. Very frustrating when you’re in a crucial moment of landing a whopper!
But for this price, we think the Piscifun Sword is perfect if you’re a beginner saltwater angler or if you’re just on a tight budget. It will certainly get the job done! Just make sure you pay careful attention to the cleaning and maintenance of this product as it’s not fully sealed.
Ross Reels Evolution LTX
Another reliable model, you’ll love how reliable and smooth the drag is on the Evolution LTX! Not much is missing from this product (although you’d expect that at this price!)
We loved the large arbor size, the flawless craftsmanship that evidently went into the Evolution LTX, and the lightning-fast line retrieval. It’s made in Colorado in the US, so you can be assured of the high quality of this product.
It’s not for nothing that the Evolution LTX boasts several awards for the best saltwater reel. If you take your saltwater fishing seriously, this one should be in the running when you’re looking for the best reel out there for you!
Orvis Mirage Fly Reel
When it comes to saltwater fly reels, this is the Ferrari of the fly reel world! Specifically designed to rock your saltwater fishing experience and take every detail to the next level, Orvis really has excelled here.
The only downside is the price tag the Mirage comes with, retailing for around $849. It’s safe to say that the Orvis Mirage does merit this hefty price, but it puts it out of range for many fly fishers with more modest budgets.
If you can afford to invest in the Orvis Mirage, you’ll definitely feel the difference. Adjusting the drag is so much easier thanks to the special ball and ramp mechanism that Orvis has invented, and you can go from nothing to full drag with just one turn of the knob.
Made from aluminum barstock, the Mirage is strong enough to stand up to the biggest fish you’ll come across, while also pleasingly lightweight. Every single part of the Mirage has been carefully designed with the utmost attention to detail.
Little things like the titanium shaft for increased sturdiness, the quick-release spool, the super comfy handle, and fully-radiused reel foot put this model in a league of its own. The extra-large arbor size translates to less line memory and coil, while the military-spec anodized coating makes this robust and durable for years of fishing in the ocean.
If you’re an avid angler who loves to get out to the sea on every possible occasion, the Orvis Mirage truly deserves a spot amongst your fly fishing gear. This reel can handle anything and it will be proving its worth for a long time to come.
The Wrap Up
So there you have the best of the best saltwater reels! Whether you’re a new fly fisher heading out for your first ocean fly fishing trip or a veteran angler, you’ll be sure to find the perfect fly reel for you amongst our recommendations.
With something at every price point and for every ability, you’ll have no trouble picking out the right saltwater fly reel to meet your needs.
Now you know what to look for plus some tried-and-tested models, it’s time to get out there, nab yourself a new fly reel and hit the ocean for some awesome offshore fishing!