Shop Fly Reels with expert advice
Expert top picks
Sometimes you need great fly reels on a budget. Curated experts make sure to take each fisher's budget into account every time they make recommendations. This list brings together their top recommendations for fly reels under $250. Want a more personalized pick? Don't forget to @@talk to a Fly Fishing expert@@ for free advice and recommendations on the best reels for your needs.
Sometimes you need great fly reels on a budget. Curated experts make sure to take each fisher's budget into account every time they make recommendations. This list brings together their top recommendations for fly reels under $150. Want a more personalized pick? Don't forget to @@talk to a Fly Fishing expert@@ for free advice and recommendations on the best reels for your needs.
Is there such a thing as the "best" fly fishing reel? Here at Curated, we believe that there's only the best reel for you. This list compiles our experts' top recommendations, but be sure to @@chat with a Fly Fishing Expert@@ to ensure that you find your perfect match!
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All Your Fly Fishing Needs Can Be Found at Curated
If you’re looking to upgrade your fly fishing gear or gear up for the very first time, you’ve come to the right place. Here at Curated, we’ll match you with a Fly Fishing Expert who will get to know your needs and goals, make free, personalized product recommendations, and answer any questions you have on enhancing your fly fishing. Our team is filled with passionate and experienced Experts who are out on the water testing gear daily to assure that you’re getting not just the best gear, but the best gear for you. Whether you’re looking for a fast-action beefy saltwater rod or a slow swinging glass rod, we’ve got you covered with price matching to guarantee the best price. You’ll no longer need to step into a fly shop—we can provide everything you need right from your phone, computer, or tablet.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Fly Reel
A fly reel is critical to fly fishing, whether chasing bluegill in a local pond or battling marlin hundreds of miles offshore. Without it, your ability to fly fish is limited and means your enjoyment is also finite. It’s important to choose the right reel for the type of fly fishing you enjoy so you don't miss any opportunities on the water.
Fly Reel Purpose
The reel stores your fly line. At 80 to 110 feet of fly line, an organization system is critical. A reel coils your line around your spool. It allows an angler to release and retrieve the line easily when fishing. Line control is also vital. Anglers that remove the right amount of line while fishing are more efficient and reduce tangled messes that distract from your focus, the fish.
All fly reels have a drag system to apply resistance to the line. This helps land large fish. A hooked trout runs and dives in an attempt to free itself. Smooth and consistent resistance keeps the angler in contact with the fish as it flees, gently wearing it down until it can be safely netted.
High-end reels are extruded out of a block of space-grade aluminum. Others are made from die-cast manufacturing, where molten metal is injected into molds and compressed to increase its overall strength.
Machined reels were once considered more durable than die-cast ones. Modern technology has improved die-casting, but most anglers won’t notice the performance differences between the two. A notable exception may be with large game saltwater reels, which endure substantial heat when battling massive fish. In these instances, a machined reel's strength is more capable.
Standard or Large Arbor Reels
The arbor is the cylindrical part of the reel at the center of the spool. When setting up your reel, you attach the fly backing to the arbor. Winding your reel retrieves and stacks your fly line around the spool.
Quickly retrieving your line is handy when fly fishing, and an arbor helps. A large arbor provides a greater surface area for the line to wrap around. With each spool rotation, a larger arbor picks up more line when reeling in large fish that tend to strip line out on runs.
Standard arbors are mainly used on smaller reel weights, which rarely require increased line pickup. When comparing reels, large arbors are often denoted with an LA while standard arbors list an SA on product descriptions.
Fly reels can be tall and slender or short and wide. Each design has its advantages in terms of line pickup and control. The more traditional slender frame is excellent for a thin diameter line. The reel concentrates the line by stacking it. As the line is retrieved, it increases in pickup. Choose these reels for standard fly set-ups and sinking line applications.
Wider reel designs allow thicker lines to spread out, diminishing line stacking. Large floating lines are best for this reel style to avoid it bunching up when reeling in and risking a jam.
Left and Right Retrieve
Every angler must decide on which side they prefer their reel knob, left or right. Anglers hold their rod and cast with the dominant hand. For instance, if you're right-handed, you maintain your rod with it and retrieve with your left. If you’re left-handed, the logic is inverted with the knob on the right side of your reel.
The caveat of this is when the knob impedes your casting or the general releases of your line. For example, many fly fishers who use streamers prefer the reel knob on the outside of their casting. If you cast steamers right-handed, long forward casts may be inhibited by the knob catching the line.
As a tip, holding the line on your off-hand when casting helps this issue, though some prefer the knob out of the way. Saltwater fishing is another reason to have the reel knob on the outside of your casting hand.
When you hook up a bonefish or tarpon, the last thing you want is excess line tangled around your reel knob. That fish will run, and you want it to do so freely. It doesn’t end well when a bunch of line is caught up around your reel knob.
Luckily, most reels allow you to adjust for right or left retrieval. Start with the knob facing inside, but don't be afraid to try it facing out.
Matching Reel to Rod
The weight of your fly rod dictates the reel's size. Fly rods, like golf clubs, are categorized by their weight. The number doesn't mean the actual weight in units. Instead, rod weights are an arbitrary system for matching and balancing your fly rig.
For instance, lower weight rods (1-4) match with reels rated for the same weight. They are designed for ultralight fly fishing, whereas heavier weights (8-12) are made for larger fish that need a larger reel. Standard trout rod weights are between 5 and 7. Matching the right reel to rod ensures the proper system for the fish you're after and adds balance and efficiency when casting.
Drag systems provide resistance to a reel. This resistance aids in line control and allows anglers to land large fish safely. There are two primary drag systems, click-and-pawl and disk drag.
The click-and-pawl is a simple yet effective way to add resistance to your reel. It functions internally via a metal component called a pawl that presses against the spool. To control the pressure on the spool, anglers cup their palm over it to increase resistance.
Disk drag replaces the metal pawl with a disk that presses against the reel’s spool. The disks are made of various materials, but plastic, cork, and carbon fiber are the most common. High-end reels use carbon fiber and cork. They are more reliable, especially when fly fishing in saltwater.
Use Your Reel to Maximize Your Fly Fishing
Most reel makers sell extra spools as an option as they provide several advantages to fly fishers. For one, spools are less expensive than a new reel, and anglers can switch fly lines as defined by the conditions.
To take advantage of a hatch in the morning, use a reel with a floating line. Dainty dry flies throughout the day require a supple floating line for the perfect presentation. When the sky clouds up, you may want to huck large streamers. You can switch quickly to an extra spool loaded with a sinking streamer line without changing the entire reel.
Talk to an Expert
At Curated, our goal is to help you find the perfect gear for the activities you love. We want you to get the most out of the time you put into fly fishing. Visit our vast selection of fly reels and chat with a Fly Fishing Expert to help you find the perfect reel to match your needs. Reach out to one today. You’ll be glad you did!