The Fly Reel

The Fly Reel

Last time we took a look at the fly rod so it is only fair to take a look at fly reels. As a person who started out with a cheap rod and reel set up in the 1970s I never really appreciated the fly reel and just stripped in all my fish I still do that today although I have a reel with drag. To me it is just a line holder, but I don’t fish for large fish either most everything I catch on the fly is under 24 inches. I have spent the last few years catching up on flyfishing technology after meeting a friend who has a selection of higher end gear. This has led me to spend more time and money to get better equipment and enjoy the sport even more, so I think I will have to start using my reel more on big fish and learn to appreciate it. So with that said lets dive in and take a closer look at the Reel.

What to look for

there are 2 types of drag for fly reels, the first Spring- and-Pawl which is a toothed gear attached to the spool and the pawl is just a triangle of metal with a spring attached which meshes with the gear so it clicks a long and slows the spool down.

The second type is the Disc drags. Uses compressed washers made of various materials to create friction against the spool this applies tension to the line  most reels now use the Disc drag system as it offers more fish stopping power, they start smoother so they are easier on line and maintain consistent pressure during the fight. And the system allows for more adjustments. Other things to look for in a reel are weather resistant( they are going to get wet )

Reels come in a variety of styles and price points from very cheap $30 to high end reels, for most of us the best reel will depend on a lot of factors( type of fish, fresh or salt water, size of fish, etc.) but I don’t think you need to spend a fortune on a reel something in the mid range $100 to $200 should handle every thing we need.Fly reel


It is believed that the Chinese invented the fishing reel back in 300 AD. We’re not sure what it looked like, but ancient writings reveal that a “winder” was useful in catching larger fish.

Jump ahead to 1891 the first Hardy Perfect was offered in Great Britain it is the archetype for all modern fly reels it had a detachable spool and a drag system. The company that made the Hardy Perfect are still around today.

Then we jump ahead to 1936 when the Pflueger Medalist was offered as a “blue collar” fly reel and Orvis in 1874 offered their first reel which was described by historian Jim Brown as the benchmark of American design. Everything after that is a version of one of these with some improvements along the way

Work together

Fly reel to the rod

It is easy to match a fly reel to the rod. You want to make sure that the fly reel covers the weight of the fly rod. Most fly reels will cover 2 or 3 weights. 4/5/6 or 5/6 weight reels are the most common. If a fly reel says 4/5/6, then it can correctly be used on 4, 5, or 6 weight rods.


Keep it clean. If sand or dirt gets inside, remove the spool and wash the spindle and drag mechanism as soon as possible. Occasionally wipe the spindle clean and lube it with a drop of light grease.At season’s end, clean the reel with soapy water and rinse it off, then back off the drag.


So with all the selection of reels out there different colors, different materials and all kinds of styles it may be best to pick a rod and reel from the same company as you will get a reel paired with the rod they make. If you are more daring then go ahead and pick the one that suits you personality as long as you match the weight of rod, reel and line you should be alright. Good luck in your selection and tight lines.


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