Best Overall: Piscifun Sword
“Featuring a specialized and fully sealed drag system, 6061-T6 aluminum frame, and anodized surface treatment, the Piscifun Sword operates in an exceptionally smooth manner – best for anglers who regularly pursue fish that are moderate to large in size.”
Best Value For Money: Maxcatch ECO
“Equipped with a heavy-duty Teflon drag system for potent fighting power and a large arbor for an enhanced rate of line uptake, the Maxcatch ECO is the perfect reel for any angler who is looking for a high-quality fly reel without breaking the wallet!”
Premium Option: Redington ZERO
“With its ultra-lightweight design and large arbor, the Redington Zero offers a rapid rate of line uptake and reduces hand and arm fatigue – perfect for the fly fisherman who simply can not afford to be saddled with the use of a cumbersome reel.”
In many ways, fly fishing is an art form. Anglers spend years perfecting their technique, in order to become proficient in their craft.
Not all fly fishing reels are created equally, and it is of immense importance to locate a particular model that compliments your ability, allowing maximized efficiency while on the water.
The best fly reels are notable for their helpful features and an above-average level of performance. The majority of these particular reels feature robust drag systems, large arbors, and ambidextrous capabilities. Additionally, reels of this nature are also typically lightweight, yet durable beyond compare.
Table of Contents
- The Rundown
- Featured Recommendations
- 10 Best Fly Reels of 2021
- Criteria Used For Evaluation
- Questions & Answers
10 Best Fly Reels of 2021
Best Overall: Silky smooth operation, that should satisfy even the most discerning of anglers
- Specialized, fully sealed drag system for silky smooth operation
- 6061-T6 aluminum frame of enhanced durability
- Anodized surface treatment for next-level corrosion resistance
The Piscifun Sword should be a favorite among anglers who find great value in a reel that operates in an extremely smooth manner. This reel features a silky smooth, multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag system, which is likely to provide consistent operation, even when placed under a significant load. This is an attribute that can be of substantial value, especially for those that regularly pursue fish that are moderate to large in size.
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Best Value For Money: Subdued in price, but not in performance
- Heavy-duty teflon drag system for potent fighting power
- Large arbor for enhanced rate of line uptake
- Numerous color combinations for personalized touch
The Maxcatch ECO should be the perfect reel for any angler who is looking for an economically priced fly reel, that offers many of the same features that are characteristic of reels of an exceedingly higher price. This reel utilizes a substantially sized arbor, a rugged drag system, and is constructed of durable aluminum. The Maxcatch ECO can be purchased at a price that is far less than what many anglers will spend on a tank of gas for their truck.
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Premium Option: A reel so light that you will forget you are holding it
- Ultra-lightweight design for reduced hand and arm fatigue
- Large arbor for rapid rate of line uptake
- Lifetime warranty for peace of mind
If you are looking for one of the most lightweight, high-quality fly reels currently available, then the Redington Zero should be precisely what you have been in search of. This reel weighs well under ½ pound, enabling anglers to fish free of restrictive heft and unnecessary hand and arm fatigue. This is likely to be the perfect fit for any fly fisherman who spends every waking moment on the water, and simply can not afford to be saddled with the use of a cumbersome reel.
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Okuma SLV Diecast
Most Versatile: A reel that is offered in a configuration to meet the needs of every angler
- Numerous sizing options for superior versatility
- Heavy-duty internal components for increased durability
- Multi-disk cork and stainless steel drag washers for ultimate stopping power
If you are currently in search of a fly fishing reel that comes in a number of individual sizes and configurations, then the Okuma SLV Diecast is likely to be your best possible choice. This reel is currently offered in 4 individual sizes, with several additional spool sizes also being available. This should allow nearly any angler to find a Okuma SLV series reel that is exactly what they are looking for, and is capable of fulfilling their every need.
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Croch Fly Fishing Reel
Best For Beginners: Simple in design, yet highly efficient
- Compact design for all-day comfort
- Smooth drag system for enhanced fighting ability
- Comes with several tackle items for added convenience
The Croch Fly Fishing Reel should be the perfect option for beginning anglers, or for use as a backup reel for more experienced fly fishermen. This reel is rather simple in design, yet highly efficient, offering a reliable solution for those first getting their feet wet in the world of fly fishing. The Croch Fly Reel is lightweight, compact, and hearty in its ability to manhandle sizable fish to the bank under a wide array of circumstances.
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Sage Spectrum C
Best High End Reel: A reel to take your fly fishing game to the next level
- Ambidextrous design for versatile appeal
- Large arbor for quick line retrieval rate
- One Revolution Drag Knob for ease of adjustment
The Sage Spectrum C should make the perfect addition to any experienced angler’s fly fishing gear collection, as this reel showcases excellent craftsmanship, rugged reliability, and a wealth of ingenious adaptations. The Spectrum C features a large arbor for quick line pick up, a hearty SCS drag system for fighting integrity, and a powder coat finish for enhanced corrosion resistance. As such, this reel is refined to a high degree in nearly every perceivable way.
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Best Package Reel: A reel that comes with everything you need in order to hit the water immediately
- All aluminum design for minimization of carrying weight
- Ambidextrous design for highly versatile appeal
- Robust drag system for ample fighting power
The AnglerDream Fly Fishing Reel is likely the best option for those who are looking for a ready to fish reel package, which comes complete with a good quality fly line, backing line, and a 9 foot nylon fly leader. Not only does this all-inclusive provide you with everything that you need to hit the water, but it is also offered at a price point so low that it must be seen to believe. As such, this kit provides an angler with a tremendous amount of bang for their buck.
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Best Drag System: Powerful beyond comprehension
- First-in-class drag system for extreme fighting power
- Pronounced drag knob for ease of on the fly adjustments
- Comes in multiple colors for a tailored level of aesthetic appeal
If you make a habit out of pursuing trophy caliber fish at every available opportunity, and need a reel that is capable of withstanding a significant amount of punishment, then the Redington Behemoth should be atop your wish list. This reel features a first-in-class drag system, which is capable of providing power when and where you need it, as well as a durable, interlocking, large-arbor spool, which promotes rapid line pick up.
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Best Die-Cast Reel: Machined performance, at a die-cast price
- Pressure casted design for enhanced durability
- Finely machined edging for next-level fit and finish
- Finely engineered exterior design for high level of visual appeal
If you are currently searching for the most durable, well-engineered die-cast fly reel on the market today, then the Waterworks-Lamson Liquid should be just what you have been looking for. While many cast reels have garnered a reputation for being cheaply made and poorly finished, this reel has circumvented the vast majority of these issues by employing the practice of pressure casting within the production process. As a result, the Liquid should provide consumers with a reel with an unparalleled degree of fit and finish.
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Sougayilang Fly Fishing
Most Durable: Durable enough to take a beating and come back for more
- Anodized coating for superior corrosion resistance
- Ambidextrous design for enhanced versatility
- 2+1 ball bearing design for smooth operational characteristics
If you are looking for a worry-free reel, that is backed by an extensive manufacturer’s warranty, then the Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel should be much to your liking. This reel is engineered with unparalleled operating efficiency in mind and is backed by an industry leading 5-year warranty. This is of immense significance, as this allows consumers to fish free of any worry, enabling them to concentrate on making the most out of every day on the water.
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Criteria Used For Evaluation
When searching for the best possible fly reel to suit your individual needs, there are a number of factors which must first be considered. By giving ample consideration to each of the following factors, you will be better equipped to make the most out of your buying experience.
Criteria #1: Weight Considerations
If a fly reel is not matched to the particular application at hand, you will never be able to fish at your highest possible level of efficiency.
In order to make the most out of your fly fishing experience, you must match the weight of your reel to that of your rod weight and line weight. Without doing so, each component will be restricted in its ability to perform to the highest degree. Each of these components are categorized in numerical order, in a bid to assist anglers in putting together a balanced rig.
Weight rating for rods, reels, and line can vary greatly. On the low end of this spectrum, smaller equipment is typically rated in weight designations of 4/5/6. Tackle of this size is generally intended for use when fishing for panfish or smaller species of trout. However, fly fishing tackle intended for use when pursuing large saltwater species of fish can range as high as 13/14/15. As a rule, the larger the species of fish that is being pursued, the heavier the weight of tackle that is needed.
Criteria #2: Arbor Size
A fly fishing reel’s arbor design plays a significant role in determining the underlying rate of line retrieval.
By definition, a fly fishing reel’s arbor is the diameter of the spool where backing is attached. The size of a reel’s arbor is typically denoted in three different designations: standard-arbor, mid-arbor, and large-arbor. Most modern fly fishing reels employ the use of a mid-arbor or large-arbor configuration. Standard-arbors are seldom used today.
The size of a reel’s arbor directly impacts its rate of line and backing retrieval. Reels with larger arbors are capable of much quicker line uptake than that of smaller alternatives. This same reel’s also typically utilizing more robust drag systems. These are traits that are prized by many anglers, as they allow fish to be brought to shore rapidly, preventing loss and entanglement, Large-arbor reels also offer the side benefit of minimizing line memory. This ultimately enhances an angler’s ability to cast and retrieve their line to a high degree of efficiency.
Criteria #3: Drag System
The quality of a fly fishing reel’s drag system directly influences an angler’s ability to sustain a fight, especially when a sizable fish is at the other end of their line.
A fly fishing reel’s drag system is ultimately responsible for metering line dispersal when under a load. The tension that a drag system is set to is variable in configuration and can be adjusted to a predetermined rate by an angler with the manipulation of an adjustment knob. When properly set, a reel’s drag system will allow the line to be pulled outward by a fighting fish, before reaching the point at which breakage becomes imminent.
Many of today’s highest quality drag systems employ the use of carbon fiber drag washers, which are tensioned in a manner that allows slippage as desired. Other popular drag washer material includes cork and teflon. Premium drag systems are also designed to quickly dissipate heat, in a bid to prevent premature wear. This also provides smooth, consistent operation, free of notable dead spots of hang-ups.
Criteria #4: Right-handed VS Left-handed
Before purchasing a reel, it is imperative to check the handedness of any model which is being considered
Just as some individuals write with their right hands, while others write with their left, anglers also naturally reel with their dominant hand. This is a thought worthy of consideration when selecting a reel for purchase. Without ample forethought, an angler can purchase a reel which does not coincide with their dominant hand, thereby leaving them with a problematic situation to contend with. Most reels can be purchased in both right, and left-handed models.
Luckily, many manufacturers have begun building their reels in an ambidextrous fashion, as a means of enhancing their product’s versatility. Ambidextrous reels can typically be quickly converted for hand dominance, by simply completing a quick, straightforward procedure. This usually involves removing a reel’s spool from its frame, disconnecting a center retainer, and removing a one-directional bearing. This bearing can then be flipped, reinstalled, and reclipped in place. With the reel’s spool reinstalled, an angler is then ready to head to the water.
Criteria #5: Reel Material/Quality
A fly fishing reel’s overall construction is every bit, if not more important than any of its operational features.
In order for a fly fishing reel of any type to stand the test of time, it must be built with ample fortitude. It is vastly important to have a thorough understanding of how any reel that you are considering for purchase is constructed. Fly fishing reels are typically either produced of die-cast construction, or CNC machined. Each of these two methods of production have their own list of pros and cons.
Machined fly reels are often thought of as being superior, due to their tendency toward being better balanced if truer in dimension. However, reels of this nature also tend to command a higher retail price. Cast reels, on the other hand, are often regarded as a cheaper alternative to machined units, and therefore carry the connotation of being somewhat less uniform in design. In recent years, subsequent advancement in casting processes have minimized the discrepancies between each form of a reel, making such considerations less critical.
Criteria #6: Warranty
While no angler wants to think about the possibility of a relatively new reel experiencing any form of mechanical failure, such instances do occur on occasion. At the end of the day, fly reels are still a man-made piece of equipment, and therefore prone to the occasional manufacturing oversight or material defect. Although, this can make for a troubling situation to contend with, many manufacturers do offer a complimentary warranty with any purchase.
Although such warranties are now commonplace, not all policies of this nature are created equally. While most manufacturers now offer a 1-year warranty on most fly reels, a few companies go above and beyond. A number of reels now come backed by 5-year warranties, while select reels are covered under an unconditional lifetime warranty. Even if such a warranty is never used, it can certainly be a good thing to have at your disposal, should the need arise.
Questions & Answers
What Are The Leading Fly Reel Brands?
With every passing year, the list of notable fly reel manufacturers continues to grow. In the past, a handful of brands dominated the market, though this no longer rings true today. On the contrary, today’s fly fishermen are able to choose from a nearly infinite number of quality reels, manufactured by an array of different companies. However, it is worth noting that a few particular brands continue to carry a reputation for unparalleled quality.
Some of the most notable of these brands include Orvis, Lamson, Redington, Croch, Sage, Bauer, Ross, Scientific Angler, and Piscifun. These brands have grown to notoriety through their quality manufacturing processes, excellent customer service, and unmatched performance qualities.
What Should I Look For In The Best Fly Reels?
When attempting to locate the best fly reel to meet your individual needs, there are a number of factors which must be considered. One of the most important of these factors pertains to a particular unit’s reel weight. Prior to purchasing a fly reel, you must determine what type of fishing you will be engaging in. Fly reels are categorized numerically, as are fly rods. Higher numbered reels tend to be used for pursuing larger species of fish, while the opposite is true for reels with a lower number. Above all else, it is imperative to match the number of any fly rod and reel that are to be used.
It is also important to consider a reel’s arbor size. Today, most premium reels feature large arbors. This speeds up the rate of line uptake, thereby maximizing fighting potential. It is also of value to consider the quality of a reel’s drag system. Most of today’s highest quality reels employ the use of carbon fiber based drags systems, which present an enormous amount of stopping power. This often gives an angler the upper hand when fighting fish of sizable proportions.
Another characteristic of today’s best fly fishing reels is the presence of externally applied surface treatments. In many cases, this comes in the form of an anodized coating, which maximizes a reel’s structural integrity. Treatments of this nature resist surface abrasions and also inhibit corrosion. This is of significant value, as treated reels often display a superior level of durability, in relation to those that have not been treated in a similar manner.
What Is The Best Fly Reel For The Money?
When searching for the best value within the fly fishing reel market, it is difficult to argue against the Redington Behemoth’s obvious appeal. This reel is built to a standard which few reels at such a price point can compare. Upon review, the Behemoth is rather deserving of its name. This reel features a first-in-class, sealed carbon fiber drag system, which is capable of stopping a run from even the most sizable of fish in its tracks. When this is combined with the Behemoth’s large arbor, you are presented with a reel that is made specifically for the purpose of wrangling trophy caliber fish.
To further aid in its fighting capabilities, Redington has outfitted the Behemoth with a pronounced, easy-grip drag adjustment knob. While many similar reels feature a dainty drag knob which can be somewhat cumbersome to operate, the Behemoth’s drag adjustment knob can be manipulated solely by feel, without ever taking your eyes off of the fight before you. This allows for on the fly drag adjustments, which should ultimately enhance an angler’s chances toward a favorable outcome.
The Redington Behemoth is also ambidextrous in design, which makes it suitable for use by any angler, no matter their hand dominance. This reel can be set up to accommodate both right and left-handed dominant anglers in a matter of just minutes, by carrying out a simple adjustment procedure. This feature further exemplifies the Behemoth’s already notable range of versatility.
While the Behemoth is certainly not the least expensive fly reel on our list, it is still modestly priced for its extensive range of features. In the vast majority of instances, one would be forced to pay twice the Behemoth’s retail price in order to acquire a reel of a similar caliber.