How are you going to know which of the fly reel drag systems is best? Below we will discuss some of the different types of drag systems for trout. 

What Kind of Fly Reel Drag Systems For Trout?

Drag is simply a way of applying pressure to a running trout. It acts as a brake. It also keeps the line from freewheeling and causing a bird nest of line.

If you are learning the fly fishing basics for trout, the answer is easy.

Trout fly fishing setups will mostly use spring and pawl drag systems

If you are fly fishing for steelhead, it is a different story.

Learn about fly reel drag systems for steelhead.

Spring and Pawl Fly Reel Drag Systems

This is the most traditional and basic of all fly reel drag systems. It has a simple spring-loaded metal clip (pawl) that runs against a toothed gear. It is the most common drag system for trout fly fishing reels. You can hear the clicking of the pawl when the line is pulled out.

Advantages of Spring and Pawl Drag

• It has a simple design and is inexpensive to produce.

• It is adjustable and helps prevent over-spooling of the line.

• Easy to repair.

• It is light-weight.

Disadvantages of Spring and Pawl Drag

• The stopping power does not increase as the fish runs.

• The amount of pressure you can apply is limited.

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Gear-Wheel Drag Systems

Most disc drag systems are overkill for the average trout reel. The gear-wheel system, however, is a disc system that is also used in trout reels. Its smaller disc brake pads are hidden behind the adjusting lever and are near the outside of the frame.

Advantages of Gear-Wheel Drag

• It has plenty of stopping power for trout.

• The price is lower than other disc systems because the parts are stamped out in large quantities.

Disadvantage of Gear-Wheel Drag

• They have smaller brake pads than the drum systems and are not as strong. This should not be a problem with the average trout.


The average trout fly reel will use the spring and pawl system. However, the gear-wheel drag system is also used in some trout fly reels. They are a step up from the spring and pawl so they are worth a look. It then just becomes a basic budget question.

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