What Are the Best Fly Reels For a Novice?

The best fly reels for trout today can be purchased for under $150.

Fly Reel Buying Guide

Let's look at some of the things to take into account before you buy a fly reel.

•The rod and reel needs to be balanced

•Type of reel

•Reel construction

•Drag system

•Fly reel arbor size

The Rod and Reel Needs to be Balanced.

•Before you buy a fly reel you need to decide on a fly rod and the type of waters you plan on fishing.

See Best Fly Rods for help with this.

•The weight of the reel needs to balance the rod. Most reels will tell you what line and rod weight the reel is designed for. You can usually go one or more line weights either direction from the stated number.

Learn about Fly Rod Weight here.

Fly Reel Types

There are two main types of trout fly reels:

•Single action reels are considered the best. These reels have a one-to-one retrieval rate, have very easy to change spools, and in most cases easy to change from left- to right-handed. Maintenance is simple for these reels.

•The automatic fly reel uses a trigger to retrieve the fly line. As the fly line is pulled out, the spring inside becomes tighter. The automatic reel does not allow you to change degrees of drag. It does not allow you to change spools. It is rarely used anymore.

Fly Reel Construction

There are four common methods in constructing trout fly reels:

•The cheapest fly reels are made of graphite. I do not believe these reels hold up well over time. These reels are often included in combo outfits. I would go with an aluminum frame before even going with cast aluminum.

•The next lower quality fly reels are made of stamped metal. These reels often have gaps between the spool and reel, which can cause the line or leader to become pinched. They offer only a coating of varnish for protection and are not worth the money.

•The next type of construction is cast aluminum. They are more reliable and relatively inexpensive. Be careful, like the stamped metal reels it is important to inspect the fit between the spool and base. These are easier to break.

•The best fly reels are machined out of a block of aluminum. They have tight tolerances between the spool and body. Most of these fly reels offer an anodized finish to protect against corrosion.

Expand Your Fly Fishing Knowledge

Everyday on the water is another day to learn; but you can spend plenty of time learning from the comfort of your own home. Explore our fly fishing guides below to learn more.

Fly Reel Drag Systems

Drag on a fly reel is the mechanism that provides resistance to the line so that pressure can be applied to a fish and it does not run off with all the line and backing.

There are two drag systems that are most common in fly reels:

•Click and pawl drag uses a spring to to push a pawl onto a gear. This produces a clicking sound. This drag system is used mostly in lighter trout fly reels.

Trout drag systems.

•Disc drag is used in some of the best fly reels. They are needed when fighting large fish. They use cork or Teflon that press against the spool in a smoother, more efficient way.

They are common in Steelhead drag systems.

Fly Reel Arbor Size

Fly fishing reels come in several arbor sizes. The arbor is the center hub that the line is tied to.

•Small trout reels will have a standard size arbor.

•The mid-arbor size is a compromise between the two sizes. These may be more common in the mid-weight reels.

•The large arbor fly reels are needed when you need to retrieve line fast, which is common when a large fish turns toward you after a run.

Best Fly Reel Recommendations

Best fly reels for spring creeks and small streams (For 3 or 4 weight fly rods)

At this weight a single-action reel with a click and pawl drag works great. Your quarry here will rarely require a serious drag system but a disc drag will be a bonus. The cast or machined aluminum reel is the best way to go, but again, check the tolerances in the cast aluminum reels.

Follow the Amazon links below the descriptions to learn more about each reel, and support this site.

Orvis Battenkill III Reel $139

•This reel has an infinitely adjustable offset Rulon drag mechanism that allows you to land fish using your palm for drag. It is machined from 6262-T6 aircraft grade aluminum. It is available in a black nickel finish. It has a large spool diameter for high retrieval rate, and weighs 3.2 ounces.

Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel 3 $109

•The Liquid has a smooth, fully sealed conical drag system and stainless roller clutch. It is made in the USA from lightweight pressure cast ALDC12 aluminum alloy. Rugged construction with available additional spools allows for multiple fishing setups. It has a diameter of 3.34" and weighs 4.2 ounces.

Redington Zero 2/3 Series $84.99

•This reel has a click and pawl drag system and is fully die-cast, making it lightweight while still durable. The Zero series has a quick release spool system and can be readily changed from left- to right-handed. Nylon case is included and it weights 3 ounces.

Ross Colorado LT Fly Reel $295

•This reel is for a slightly more dedicated fly-fisher, but worth the extra investment. Machined from a single piece of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, this reel has a variety of freshwater applications. Made in the USA, the Colorado LT features a unique material that allows increased grip when wet. It comes in platinum or black. The drag system is smooth with a wide range of adjustment. It has a diameter of 3.2" and weights 2.86 ounces.

Best fly reels for small to medium-size rivers and lakes(your 5 weight fly rod)

Medium to larger trout will require a little more attention toward the drag system and construction of the reel.

Orvis Battenkill Disc Drag Fly Reel $169

Medium to larger trout will require a little more attention toward the drag system and construction of the reel.

Lamson Waterworks Guru 2 $169

•The Guru is fully machined out of 6061 Aluminum Stainless Steel in the USA. It features a sealed conical drag system, and a Anodized finish for durability and reliability. The unique large arbor design allows for faster retrieve and line drying. It has a diameter of 3.5" and weighs 4.58 ounces.

Ross CLA #2 $210

•This reel is difficult to find, and for good reason. The CLA is fully machined of 6061-T6 proprietary aluminum and fully anodized. It has a larger drag knob and very dependable Delrin 500AF Teflon self-lubricating drag system. It has a 3.5" diameter and weighs 5.5 ounces.

Best fly reels for medium-size rivers for steelhead (your 7/8 switch rod)

Larger trout and steelhead call for a larger arbor reel with disc drag. The becomes more important with larger fish.

Ross Animas  $295

•This reel features a tried and true composite disc drag system, which requires zero maintenance. Design elements give this reel quite a fashionable look while the ultra large arbor allows for fast and effective retrieval with larger fish. It has a diameter of 3.88" and weighs 4.74 ounces.

Teton Classic Size 7/8 $155

•This reel is designed for large trout. The large drag know makes it easier to grab when your fingers are cold or wet. Made in the USA, it is 3.75" in diameter and weights 7.6 ounces.

Reel Buying Guide Summary

•Decide on the fly rod first! For the budget minded, spend the extra money here.

•Avoid the automatic and multiplier reel.

•Go with a single-action reel machined from a block of aluminum if you can fit it in your budget.

•Match the rated line weight of the reel to the fly rod.

•Larger trout on a lighter rod will require you to fight the fish with the reel, making the drag more important. The disc drag will be needed for the larger trout.

•In all cases buy an extra spool at the same time that you buy your reel and make  sure you can change it easily. You will need this fly fishing basic.

•Also see our Used Fly Reel Buying Guide.

Complete Your Fly Fishing Outfit

Fly rod, check. Fly reel, check. What about the right line? The best flies? A boat? Get the rest of your setup by exploring our guides below.