Buying used fly reels really makes sense if you consider the damage that can occur easily. Our buying guide will help you research a used fly reel.

Read Our Used Fly Rod Buying Guide

Why Buy Used Fly Reels?

If you think about where you will be walking when you fish it is a good chance that you will add a scratch or three to your rod and reel soon anyway.

I recently came across an article where the author talked about a fly fisherman admiring and fondling the new reels in a fly shop. The reels operated smoothly and were things beauty.

Be careful, this kind of activity will cost you. It is better to spend the time necessary to learn about the different quality used fly reels that are available on the market today. Careful research can bring you a nice used fly reel.

Once you learn the quality models that will fit in your budget, the next step is to watch for them on eBay or sites like this one. Often times you will get a fly line with the reel, which adds even more to the value. A good fly line can run over $50 all by itself.

For a refresher on the different features of fly reels, types, construction and drag systems go to our Best Fly Reels Buying Guide.

What to Consider Before Buying a Used Fly Reel

Are you a collector or a fly fisherman (or maybe both)? If you want to buy some used fly reels to collect that is one thing. If they are to be used for fishing that is another.

There are some real classics out there. If you want to go the collector route I recommend you visit Vintage Fly Tackle. But hang on to the check-book; high-quality reels like the Charlton, Lamson, Megoff and some Hardy models can cost more than a thousand dollars.

Everyday use is another story. For the average trout, the fancy drags found on costly reels are just not needed. A fly fisher using an automatic fly reel, for example, uses the hand strip and zip routine to fight the trout, never getting the fish "on the reel" at all.

On the other hand if you are going after larger trout with an ultra-light rod, the drag on your reel is very important.

Where Will Your Fly Fishing Journey Take You?

Wherever you get your reel, where you use it is what matters. Explore our fly fishing destination guides.

What to Watch For in Used Fly Reels

• What is the overall condition? Is it like new, average or used hard?

• What weight line was the reel designed for? If you see a good photo of a 1498 Pflueger Medalist on eBay and you are not paying attention you will end up with a reel “a little too big” for your five-weight rod. (The 1498 is for a 10wt rod.)

• Is it reversible? Some reels are made to be right-hand wind or left-hand wind only.

• Does it have an adjustable drag? Some of the older models have a drag but they are not adjustable. This may not be a big deal for the average trout.

• If you get a chance to handle the reel, check to see what the tolerances are between the reel and the spool. If it is sloppy your line can get jammed between the reel and the spool.

• Does it come with a case? Is the case original? This is not a big deal but nice to have.

Names to Look ForWhen Buying a Used Fly Reel

Most of the modern reels made today are fishable. That is not the case for some of the older models. There is a lot of junk out there.

Pflueger Medalist reels have been around for years and you will find many of their used fly reels on the market today. (I would avoid the other Pflueger models.)

You should be able to find a good Medalist for fewer than forty dollars. The 1492 (for 3-wt. and ultra-light rods) and the 1494 (good for 4, 5, and 6 wt. lines) reels are a good place to start.

Some other good reels to watch for and research:
• Diawa 700

• Meek55a

• Crystal River Coachman

• J.W. Young

• Orvis Madison (A Medalist clone, and a good reel)

• Bristol 65 and 66

• Wright-McGill Medallion


There is a theory going around that new fly reels cost so much because fly fishermen are willing to pay the price. We don't see that happening among the spinner fishermen.

Take your time and research the used fly reels on the market. You may just find a real good quality reel from days gone by with many years of service left in it.

What's on the end of your line?

Flies are a crucial element in an effective fly fishing setup. Shop our curated fly boxes so you are ready to Enjoy the Water.