Steelheads are big muscly fish and need a super-efficient reel to bring them on deck. But what if you are tight on budget and cannot afford the expensive gear? Here I give you the six best fly reels for steelhead that are tough on the fish but gentle on your pocket! Plus, there are some spey reel recommendations if you are interested in Spey fishing.
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6 Best Fly Reels For Steelhead – Reviews
Here are my reviews of the best fly reel for steelhead fishing:
1. Redington Run Fly Reel – Best Steelhead Reel
The Redington Run fly reel is the newest die-cast addition in the family. After Behemoth, this reel shows promise in terms of affordability and performance.
Run is also pretty lightweight due to excessive porting. The spool base is not solid either, which cuts down the extra weight and gives the reel a stylish appearance. The craftsmanship is appreciable except for a few minor irregularities and unfinished lines.
The drag system is smooth and powerful, and its carbon fiber construction glides without any bumps. I also didn’t notice any startup inertia. The spool-release system is also made highly straightforward with a simple push-button that does the job.
However, there may be a problem with the reel handle as it is pretty tall to make it easy to grasp, but this means that lines may end up winding around it.
- Run is pretty lightweight for a die-cast reel
- The construction looks solid and smooth
- The drag system runs smoothly without any startup inertia
- The Spool-release button is very straightforward to use
- The spool handle may catch lines
2. Orvis Clearwater II Fly Reel – Orvis Spey Reel With Mid-Range Drag
If you live for the simpler things in life, the Orvis Clearwater may be the best steelhead fly fishing reel for you. It lacks the bling and sense of luxury some high-end options may give you, but it wins in performance and value.
The construction is die-cast to keep the pricing low, so you cannot expect a perfectly even finish. There are a few rough spots, not that they bother me at all. The reel is powder-coated, so it does not give a cheap look despite the low price tag.
I was pretty impressed when I tested out its drag system. This reel gave a maximum braking power of up to 5 pounds (which isn’t too bad) and was smooth throughout. There was no startup inertia, and the drag knob clicked beautifully through all settings. The acoustics are fantastic too and give off sheer class.
The handle, the knob, and the spool-release button are all on point. You may notice a bit of sideways play in the spool handle, but only if you concentrate hard enough on it.
- The die-cast construction is powder-coated for an elegant finish
- The drag system is smooth
- There is no startup inertia
- The reel sounds beautiful
- Ergonomics are on point
- Slight play in the spool handle
- The finish may be slightly off in some places
3. Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel – Best Steelhead Fly Reel With Massive Power
This reel’s drag maxes at approximately 16 pounds! Do I need to tell any more about its power? When aiming for a giant and furious steelhead, Behemoth is undoubtedly a stellar choice.
The line’s capacity is good, and retrieval rates are fast due to the triangular spool. It picks up almost 9 inches of line per turn, which is a good enough number for steelhead fishing. Then, the craftsmanship is pretty decent, keeping in mind that this is a die-cast reel. There are a few irregularities here and there, but nothing major. What I didn’t like about this reel at first glance was that it’s prominently heavyweight. But that makes it a good spey fly reel.
Next, come the ergonomics. The Behemoth has the most refined drag knob design among all the best fly reels for steelhead I have tested. It is easy to use because of the correct size. The handle isn’t bad either, and the spool-release mechanism is easy-peasy. That being said, it is NOT the best saltwater fly reel. The drag is unsealed, and the materials are not suitable for the sea. Also, since it has a die-cast construction, you need to use it delicately. Drop it once, and this reel is good as gone.
- Behemoth has the best drag strength among all the reels I’ve tested
- Sufficient lines capacity and retrieval rate
- The drag knob and spool handle are ergonomic
- The spool-release mechanism is easy too
- The craftsmanship is pretty decent
- It is considerably heavy
- You don’t want to drop it
4. OKUMA Sheffield Float Fishing Reel – Reel For Steelhead Float Fishing
If you are a fan of float fishing, Okuma has many options for you. But for steelhead, Sheffield may be the best one. It is a simple piece of machinery and is extremely good at its job. The stainless steel construction is both strong and corrosion-resistant.
Here’s what I noticed at first glance: The shiny silver color gives it an elegant look. Plus, the weight is moderate, especially if you don’t count the spool, which is a bit heavier than usual. The arbor size is large and can hold loads of backing. The spool isn’t too broad either, so line piling isn’t much of an issue. But that could lead to lines wrapping up around the handle if you are not careful.
Next, how was the performance? Pretty decent, I would say. The ball bearing on this thing is smooth. There was little startup inertia, and the take up was good too. However, when I wanted to clean the reel at the end of the day, I struggled with the spool-releasing screw. But, it is worth mentioning that the simple design of this reel makes it extremely straightforward to clean and reassemble.
- The stainless steel construction looks solid
- It looks elegant
- The weight is mid-range
- Narrow spool means less line pile up
- It runs smoothly
- It is effortless to maintain due to the simple design
- The spool is a little heavier than usual
- Lines can wrap around the spool handle
- The spool-releasing screw is knurled and tiny
5. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sparta Fly Reel – Smoothest Steelhead Fishing Reel
If you are really into smooth steelhead fishing reels, the Maxcatch Sparta is a good all-rounder reel. It is famous for its buttery drag system and retrieves; all you need to have a rewarding day at the river. Also, its size and weight make it one of the classic spey reels.
The first time I saw this reel, I was taken aback by how good it looked. The finishing is fantastic, and together with the eye-catching color and the machining, it can indeed turn around some heads when you hit the river with it. Next, the arbor size is enough to hold up to 200 yards of backing and still have room left to take up 100 feet of the fly line. Impressive, I would say.
Then, this reel continued to amaze me when in action. The drag is powerful and the smoothest I have yet experienced. There is no resistance when you start rotating it, and the reel retrieves lines without a single bump.
The weight is where it disappointed me a little. It is heavier than some other similar reels. Also, it is as good as silent on the retrieve, so if you like a loud clicking sound that fly fishing is famous for, you may not be pleased with this one.
- Sparta has the smoothest drag I have experienced
- Machined construction, flawless finishing
- The color is lovely
- Enough room for lines storage
- No startup inertia
- It weighs more than similar reels
- It is silent on the retrieve
6. Waterworks-Lamson Remix Fly Fishing Reel – Affordable Lamson Spey Reel
It is hard to find the best steelhead fly fishing reel that is affordable and stylish. The Lamson Remix fly reel is one of the few good reels that fall into this category. The die-cast aluminum construction looks solid, has a sophisticated design, and has the most flawless finish. The painted top may look odd at first, but it may be easy to digest when considering the affordable price.
The arbor is quite large, and so is the spool, meaning you may have to compromise a bit on the line’s capacity. Also, the drag system gives a maximum power of 1.4 pounds, so you may not be able to stop the biggest steelhead with it. But, this reel is lightweight and smooth, and it gets going without any resistance and keeps rotating without a single bump.
Also, the drag knob and handle are okay, not too extraordinary, but good enough to get the job done. The spools are durable and can face some abuse which is praise-worthy considering the die-cast construction.
- It is affordable and beautiful
- The arbor is large but lightweight
- The reel cranks very smoothly
- There is no startup inertia
- The drag knob and handle are okay
- The construction is durable
- The painted top looks cheap
- The drag strength is nowhere enough for a big steelhead
- The line’s capacity may be compromised too
Buying Guide For Best Steelhead Fly Reel:
Looking for the best fly reel for steelhead may be tiring as many options overwhelm you. But when you are on a limited budget, these features will help get the best fly reel for the money:
- High drag power
- Ample storage capacity
- Fast retrieval rate
- Durable construction
- Ergonomic spool parts
What Size Reel For Steelhead?
Steelheads are big and strong, so you’ll need a reel that can carry more than seven weight fly lines. Also, heavier sizes make the best spey reels.
Do try it and let me know! Also, check our guides on the best budget fly reels.
And best lightweight wading boots for fly fishing.
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