Tell me, besides the fly rod, what do you think is the most pivotal fishing gear? Yes, you guessed it right! It’s your best fly reel! Now, not only is a fishing reel the cornerstone to your angling gear, but it is often something fly fishers struggle the most with. Jammed lines, poor quality drag, and untrustworthy materials often give anglers a hard time. But you can avoid all this by investing in the best fly reels out there.
Do you want to impress your dad by catching a trophy fish today? Get yourself a decent fly fishing reel!
Want to enjoy the peaceful quiet while you cast your fishing line? Go with one of these best fly reels!
But before we dive into the article, let me explain the layout I’ve designed to help you choose wisely. I’ve organized these best fly reels reviews into eight categories to help you pick one according to their best offer. Also, a buying guide at the end lets you know the key features you need to be aware of before shopping for the best fly reel for you.
So let’s get down to some reel talk!
Best Fly Reels Reviews
Fly Reels are categorized into the following 8 categories:
- Premium Top Fly Reels – Overall Best fly reels
- Budget Fly Reels – Best Under a Budget
- Light As a Feather – Best Lightweight Fly Reels
- Sealed Drag Fly Reels – Best Sealed Drag Reels
- CNC Machined Body Fly Reels – Best Machined Fly Reels
- Die-Cast Fly Reels – Best Die-Cast Fly Reels
- Saltwater Compatible – Best Saltwater Reels
- Cassette Fly Reels – Best Cassette Fly Reels
Now, let’s start with the fly reel reviews for our list of twenty best fly fishing reel:
Premium Top Fly Reels
These best fly fishing reels are towards the higher end of the price range and offer the most luxurious features.
The first entry in our fly reels shootout is why fly fishing is called a sport for the rich. The insanely luxurious design and a powerful drag set this reel apart from most other products on the market.
There is nothing I do not find praise-worthy about this best fly reel. It casts beautifully, and durability is its forte. Then, the minimal weight can balance very well on even the lightest fly rods. And I have found the large arbor to be an absolute pleasure. Also, the drag system is one of the smoothest in all reels I have tried till now, and it is even better than the older Ross fly reels Evolution LT model I have been using.
To be honest, I couldn’t find a single thing I could object to. But there is this fact that, unlike its predecessor, the LTX version focuses more on a powerful drag than on the strength-to-weight ratio.
- Very lightweight
- The design gives luxurious vibes
- Smooth drag system
- Pretty durable
- Not any really, but this version focuses more on the drag rather than the weight.
The Evolution LTX of Ross fly reel is an absolute luxury. Incredibly lightweight and the best when it comes to drag, I think this fly reel is hard to beat.
This updated version of the Hardy Marquis is a class of its own. If you are a fan of classics, this Hardy fly reel will be a gem in your collection. The regulator button with indentations is a valuable addition to its former version. It helps in adjusting the drag with ease.
It is sturdy and functional. And even though it doesn’t look like it, it is pretty lightweight. The quality is fantastic and worthy of the Hardy name. It holds up to 50 yards of backing comfortably. Huge capacity!
While I enjoy the sweet clicking sound it makes when a fish takes on it, I have seen a handful of people think this reel is too loud. Bad for them, I guess!
- Regulator button with indentations for drag adjustment
- Sturdy and functional
- Holds 50 yards of backing
- Maybe a little loud for some.
There is little that could top something made by the legendary Hardy Brothers. And Hardy Marquis LWT fly reel is the same. It is a joy for someone who loves collecting and using traditional pieces.
The Torque by Galvan fly reels is a thing of beauty. The design is highly eye-catching and also very good at its job. It suits right and left-handed people equally since the retrieve is effortless to switch. The large arbor means minimum line memory and maximum performance.
What’s my favorite bit about it is the super-powerful drag system. It is perfect for stopping a Bonefish! Plus, the beautiful design and cutouts make the reel stylish. One of my favorite reels! It performs equally well in freshwater and sea.
It is tough to find a fault in this one, to be honest. The weight may look higher to some, but it is still one of the lighter reels in its class
- Very eye-catching design
- Hand orientation can be easily changed
- Large arbor means less line memory
- Very powerful drag
- Suitable for sea and freshwater
- Some anglers may find it heavy
If you are someone who looks for appearance and performance both, Galvan Torque 5 Fly Reel is for you. The beautiful shape and impressive functionality justify the weight.
Light As a Feather
A lightweight fly reel balances better on all fly rods.
When it comes to fly fishing gear, Redington is one of the most established names. The Behemoth fly reel may not be as expensive as the Ross Fly Reels, but the performance is pretty up to the mark. This Redington fly reel is my go-to when I am targeting big fish in the river. The carbon drag is very powerful and enough to handle up to 25 lbs of fish.
The durable die-cast construction is another outstanding feature. Plus, the bulky drag knob is easy to hold and adjust. What impressed me the most was its vast capacity to hold line and backing. There aren’t many fishing reels out there that fit more than 300 yards of 80 pounds backing and still have some room left.
The drag knob felt a bit shaky, though. It didn’t affect my performance but was enough to get noticed. Also, this reel is not the one if you fish in saltwater.
- The very powerful drag system
- Durable die-cast construction
- Huge capacity to store reel
- The big drag knob is easy to hold
- Lots of sizes to choose from
- Wobbly drag knob
- Not suitable for saltwater
Great for starters, the Behemoth fly reel combines quality and affordability. When you are looking for the best out of your tight budget, this fly reel is a lifesaver. There may be some minor quality issues that you can easily overlook.
Brands like Orvis lead the fly fishing industry. They have put forward some of my favorite gear. With an emphasis on taking down extra weight, their designs are always a delight to use.
The Battenkill fly reel is one of the best fly reels you can find.
It combines contemporary materials with an old-school design. The click-and-pawl drag system is as smooth as butter, and perfect for catching trout. It is lightweight and balances beautifully on even the shortest of rods. And the best feature is the amazingly affordable price.
But the sound bothers me sometimes. The click-and-pawl drag is usually noisy, but this one is extra loud. Also, the sizes are pretty limited so you may not have an Orvis Battenkill for every fishing condition
- Very lightweight so balances well on wt 2 rods
- Modern materials combined with classic design
- A very smooth drag system
- The price is quite affordable
- Noisy drag system
- Sizes are limited so you may not find a perfect size to match your fishing conditions
For a lightweight reel that goes perfectly well with a 2 wt fly rod, the Battenkill is our top pick. This Orvis fly reel can make you very happy if you can live with the loud click and limited sizes.
Yes, you read it right! This Redington fly reel is plastic, and I am recommending it. I’m usually quite averse to plastic, but Redington made me change my views with this reel.
This fly fishing reel is as strong as any metallic reel, if not stronger. The plastic makes it considerably lighter than almost any other reel I have fished with. Furthermore, it is ambidextrous, and the switch between two orientations is effortless. The click-and-pawn drag system is smooth and straightforward enough to catch medium-sized fish. But it is just as noisy as the Orvis Battenkill reel.
Plus, the drag is only enough to catch a tiny goldfish or minnows. If you need to pair it up with 4 or higher weight rods, I suggest you look somewhere else.
- As strong as metal
- The most lightweight reel I have used
- The smooth click-and-pawn drag system
- Noisy drag system
- The drag system is very weak and not made for 4wt rods.
In terms of weight, this Redington fly reel comes on top. If you have a 2-3 wt fly rod and you only need to catch a few small fish, Redington ZERO Fly Reel might be good for you.
CNC Machined Body
Aluminum reels using a CNC machine for production give more precision and strength to the framework. CNC machined reels are generally more expensive.
Many fly reels offer a CNC Aluminum body, but this one by Sage provides numerous other benefits. The quality and durability of the material justify its make.
This reel is a jack of all trades. There is an easily adjustable drag, and all Sage fly reels come with Rio backing. The arbor is enormous, perfect for 100-200 yards spool and it comes with a nylon pouch for keeping it safe. This reel balanced perfectly well with my TFO Axiom-II.
Also, the CNC aluminum material is suitable for taking up any hits. However, there is one field where it lacks. The reel weighs a bit more, in my opinion. For competing better in the market, it could have been lighter. The spools felt a bit wobbly too at first but never affected the performance.
- Strong and durable body
- Easily adjustable drag
- The huge arbor accommodates 100-200 yards spools
- Nylon pouch for protection when the reel is not in use
- It could have been lighter
- Spools felt a bit wobbly at first
The Sage fly reels provide a pleasurable fishing experience because of their top-notch quality. But I would have liked the Sage Spectrum C Fly Fishing Reel to be a bit lighter.
Spooling up your reels with lines takes time. How about a pre-spooled fly reel, ready to go fishing?
The Cheeky PreLoad reel comes with 20lbs backing, fly line, leader, and a case for the spool. The drag is powerful enough to catch some big fish. Also, the reels come from a CNC machine so that you can be sure of their strength and longevity.
And don’t worry, the line included in the package is up to the standards of the Cheeky brand. It is abrasion-resistant and low-friction. It’s not often that we see the quality in something that we get for free.
But I cannot say the same for the leader. It was a bit too soft and broke after a few uses.
- Pre-spooled reels to save time
- The drag is powerful
- Strong and durable body
- The lines included in the package are high-quality
- The leader is too soft
Even though the leader’s strength disappointed me a bit, I still recommend buying Cheeky PreLoad Fly Reel for catching big fish. You can always ditch the leader; after all, it comes free!
Best in Die-Cast
A die-cast reel gets its shape by pouring molten metal into a mold. The process means less strength but also less costly.
Just like the Cheeky Preload fly reel, these Redington fly reels are also pre-spooled. What’s different in the making of this reel? The Redington i.D reel is die-cast and is hence much cheaper than CNC ones.
A unique feature this reel offers is a full back frame where you can put any decals you like and personalize your reel. Mine is decorated with my initials and a tiny trout to symbolize my love for fly fishing.
This reel is also pretty lightweight, and the arbor is large. And it is quite well-built for a die-cast reel. The drag system is not too powerful but still enough for beginners. To be honest, the functionality of this reel is overall pretty average, nothing out of the box.
- Pre spooled with Rio Mainstream Fly Line
- Affordable price
- The back of the reel can accept decals
- Lightweight and large arbor
- Average drag strength and functionality. Good for beginners only.
When you are tight on budget and cannot afford a CNC-machined reel, the Redington ID fly reel could be the next best thing. You can even decorate it with decals and be all Pinterest-y with it. Functions-wise it may not be the best out there, but still a decent reel for beginners.
Here is another excellent Orvis product in our list of top fly fishing reels. This one is a die-cast Aluminum with a gigantic arbor. With some valuable updates on the former model, this reel is much better.
I found this version much quieter. The design changes in the spool and the drag knob are also pretty obvious. Speaking of drag, you can even stop a bus with this reel! Good enough for sea monsters, this reel is my go-to when I’m in the mood for an adventure.
But the framework of the reel isn’t as durable as you’d expect from an Orvis product. I’ve used this reel six times now, and I can already see some scratches on the surface.
- Giant arbor for less line memory and fast retrieval
- Quieter than the old version
- The drag is powerful enough to stop big sea fish
- The spool and drag knob is much more ergonomic than the former version
- Not very durable as you’d expect from a die-cast reel.
I think the Clearwater by Orvis Fly Fishing Reels is a decent reel for beginners. You get what you pay for, and this reel is pretty affordable.
I am including only good fly reels that cost less but are not “cheap” quality-wise. You can find products that cost way less than these, but their quality won’t be half as good.
The first thing I noticed in this Lamson fly reel is how simple it looks. The minimalist design compliments all fishing rods well. And with an affordable price, this reel makes fly fishing accessible to all.
Then, the start-up inertia is close to zero. The arbor is quite large; hence you can easily retrieve your line without winding it up a lot. The capacity to store lines is also pretty high.
This is a die-cast reel, so I was expecting it to be a bit brittle. And it is! The reel instantly dented and a few pieces chipped off as soon as I dropped it. Also, it could be a little lighter in weight compared to other reels
- Minimalistic design
- Zero start-up inertia
- Huge arbor for less retrieval time
- Affordable price
- Not the most durable
- Could be lighter
Liquid by Lamson fly reels is hard to beat with the smooth drag, huge arbor, and more. At an affordable price, you can always buy another in case you break one.
The Echo may be a lesser-known brand, but their fly reel has always been a pleasure to fish with. I was amazed by how light it weighs. The stainless steel construction is suitable for the clumsiest anglers. I have dropped this reel several times, and it is still standing.
The drag system may not be as fancy as the other high-end reels, but it is still impressive at its job. For smaller fish, it is pretty compelling. The arbor is large enough to retrieve the line quickly, and it comes with an optional drag brass knob.
The only trouble it gave me was the O-ring that kept falling when I took the spool out.
- Very lightweight
- Stainless steel is very tough
- Drag is smooth
- Large arbor for fast retrieval
- O-ring can fall when you take out the spool
The Echo Ion fly reel is a terrific choice for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of fortune on their fishing gear. It is one of the most durable reels out there, and if you are careful with the spool, it goes a long way.
You get what you pay for, but with this fly reel by Maxcatch, you can get so much more. The minimal price tag comes with countless benefits. The CNC-machined aluminum body of the reel makes it very sturdy. Plus, the surface is anodized to fight off corrosion. But strength doesn’t mean an increase in weight. The well-thought design with spokes has shaved down much of the weight. The cork and discs drag system is superb too.
And the warranty is my favorite part as it gives me peace of mind while making a purchase. The drag knob and the spool had a few issues when I first operated them, but nothing too major. So a good product for the price.
- Good product for the price
- CNC-machined aluminum body for durability
- Anodized surface for corrosion resistance
- Lightweight design
- Smooth drag system
- Drag knob and spool had a few issues
A cheap product doesn’t always mean low quality. The Maxcatch fly reel is sturdy, lightweight, and smooth. You can easily neglect the minor faults if you take into regard the affordable price.
Drag systems are prone to damages due to salt and mud getting accumulated in them. Sealed drags protect themselves from such damage.
Maintaining a fly reel can be tricky. Salt and sand can get into the discs or bearings of the drag system and mess it up. A sealed drag ensures no sand grains or small stones find their way in.
Piscifun has been dropping impressive and affordable fly reels for a long time now. The Platte fly reel is a breeze to clean because you just need to rinse it with water. A flattened knob encases the drag system, which avoids any line entangling with it.
The CNC machined aluminum body is solid and smooth. Arbor is also significant to reduce retrieval rates and line memory. But one cannot miss the weight on this thing. It is not the lightest of reels, and you’ll need to keep the size of your fishing rod in mind before buying this.
Also, there’s this weird thing that kept happening to me. As soon as the reel hooked onto a big fish, say king salmon, the spool loosened and even popped out once. If it wasn’t for a timely catch, I would’ve lost it forever due to the fast current.
- Low-maintenance sealed drag
- Flattened drag knob avoids entangling
- CNC machined aluminum body is durable
- Large arbor reduces line memory
- Not very lightweight
- The spool loosened and came out once
If you and your fly rod are okay with a bit of weight, Picsifun has a subtle Platte Fly Fishing Reel you could opt for. But, beware of the loose spool!
This Orvis fly reel is one of the most solid reels I have ever tried. The stainless steel construction can withstand all challenges fresh or saltwater brings. The sealed drag only needs a rinse with fresh water to get rid of any sand grains.
The drag is also good in many other aspects too. I felt zero inertia in the start-up and had no troubles with it during my entire 15-days fishing trip. It is sufficient for small fish you usually find in a reef, and Arbor is as large as any of its competitors.
The drag knob is easy to maneuver, but it is not switchable to left and right-hand side orientations. You need to specify which way you need your knob before ordering it.
- Rough and tough
- Suitable for seawater
- Zero inertia start-up
- Ergonomic drag knob
- The drag knob is not ambidextrous
The Hydros by Orvis fly reels are a good investment if you need something long-lasting. But, I think this reel could have been ambidextrous because most of the reels in its class are.
You don’t usually see a machined Aluminum body at such a reasonable price, and Colorado offers not only this combination but also numerous other high-end features. The craftsmanship on this fly reel is excellent.
The moment I got my hands on this reel, I was impressed by its design. It balances beautifully on my rod and has caught me much fish. The drag is smooth and low-maintenance, and it makes a crisp but light-click sound when you retrieve the line. I have heard this click only in the most expensive reels. It gives perfect fishing vibes!
The let-down for me is the spool-releasing knob. It is small and hard to disengage the reel with. Seating it back is also not the easiest.
- The CNC-machined body is durable
- Smooth and sealed drag
- A pleasant click on retrieval
- Reasonable price
- The reel is hard to disengage and seatback.
Colorado fly reel is a high-quality one if you can compromise on the spool-release knob. The price is excellent for beginners or if you fly fish only a few times a year.
Corrosion-resistant materials and a sealed drag system make a fly reel suited to seawater.
- Check reviews of 10 best fly reels designed for saltwater
Piscifun fly reels stand for two things: quality and affordability. It may sound cliche, but I haven’t seen these two things combine better in many other reels. Plus, this is great for use in saltwater too. The stainless steel and carbon drag seal ensure salt or other residue doesn’t enter the system and mess it up.
The Aluminum body made from CNC machines is tolerant to abuse. And the reel has numerous cutouts to make it as light as possible. I found the drag good enough when I caught a trout weighing more than 5 pounds.
You may experience troubles when you catch a bigger fish, though. If you run out of line, there is only a 50 yards capacity of backing, which may be less in case of a big catch. Also, I struggled a lot to find extra spools for this reel but they are somehow non-existent. So my reel is lying in the corner after only one use.
- The reel is affordable
- It is suitable for saltwater
- CNC Aluminum body is tolerant to abuse
- Drag is good enough for small fish
- Limited backing in case you run out of line
- I could not find extra spools for it
The Piscifun Crest Fly Fishing Reel has features that can make you ditch all the high-end name brands. The quality is impressive, and the drag is just how I need it. But, it is good for one-time use only since I couldn’t find extra spools.
With a crisp machined body, lightweight, substantial drag, and compatibility with seawater, what’s not to like in this fly reel by Maxcatch?
The 2kg drag is enough to tackle nymph fishing to saltwater trout fishing. You can take this reel to a sandy beach or a muddy riverside, and you don’t have to worry about scrubbing the drag to get the tiny sand grains out. The sealed drag requires minimal maintenance and is seawater-friendly. The stunning red color makes this reel a statement piece on your rod.
But the manufacturing of this fly reel is Chinese, which makes me a wee bit skeptical. There are countless other American reels in a similar price range, so I guess I’ll stick to them.
- CNC aluminum bar stock body
- Strong drag system
- Sealed drag is compatible with seawater
- Stunning red color
- There are American products available at similar prices.
If you have had a pleasant experience with Chinese products, I’ll suggest you go ahead and purchase Maxcatch Fully Sealed Waterproof Fly Fishing Reel. But if you are reluctant, you can buy a USA-based product.
Best Cassette Fly Reel
You can change a reel’s arbor size by placing clear plastic cassettes in it.
Why buy different sizes of spools when you can buy one with cassettes and switch between the sizes per your fishing needs. This fly reel is even cheaper than its actual price because you save up on the cost of buying extra spools.
Furthermore, the drag is sweet. It could be better if the manufacturers sealed it because lots of sand and dirt get into it right now. So cleaning it is a hassle. But if you limit using it only in freshwater, this will prove very handy.
The lightweight construction balances nicely on all rods. And the steel and aluminum framework can withstand a lot of abuse.
- Switchable spool sizes
- Cost-effective because of multiple spools
- The drag is smooth
- Sturdy, lightweight body
- Not compatible with seawater
Cassette fly reels are a superior technology that is both ergonomic and economical. For fishing in freshwater, the Pflueger cassette reel is better than what I expected them to be. The interchangeable clear plastic spools have made me their fan.
What’s better than one spool for your fly fishing reel? Three spools!
This cassette fly reel by Snowbee comes with three spare spools that you can easily place in the reel to change its arbor size. You can customize your line capacity according to your needs. Plus, these spools can fit other Spectre reels too.
The plastic spools come with a precise CNC aluminum body which is lightweight and sturdy. The steel spindle in the middle has a reverse lock that helps you crank the line forward.
Price-wise it costs almost 70 bucks more than the Pflueger reel. So that’s that!
- Three spare spools
- Customizable arbor size
- CNC aluminum body
- Anti-reverse central spindle
- Costs more than competitors
The Snowbee Spectre by cassette fly reels is a real value for money for the versatility it brings. However, I still think it could be a bit more affordable considering the price of the Pfleuger reel.
Guide to Buying The Best Fly Reels
Buying the best fly reel is a reel struggle (excuse the puns). There are countless factors you need to take into account while shopping for the right one.
Here I am making a list of what you ought to look for:
Weight is the first thing I’m mentioning since it is the most important. It plays a vital role in balancing out your reel-rod combo. You cannot just throw any reel at your fishing rod. A light rod and heavy reel will do you no good.
My advice is when you need to make a choice, always choose the lightest reel you have in hand.
2. Arbor Size
The size of the arbor influences many things while you are fishing. If your arbor is more oversized, you can store more lines, have more backing, and have less line memory. Also, the retrieval rate is directly related to the arbor size.
After you cast the fishing line, you hope to lure the biggest fish out there. But big fish are also powerful. They run and tug the line with them. A good drag will prevent fish from getting away and your line breaking with them. A solid drag system is of paramount importance.
4. Mode of Manufacture
Basically, there are CNC machines that manufacture aluminum fly reels, or they are made manually by pouring molten metal on die-casts. CNC machined reels are stronger, more expensive, and generally better quality-wise. But you can still go for die-cast reels because first, they are cheaper, second, you don’t need a lot of strength in a fly reel since it is not likely to smash into rocks often.
Q. Which is the best fly fishing reel for seawater?
The Piscifun Crest Fly Fishing Reel is very suitable for seawater. It is affordable and has a sealed drag.
Q. What are cassette fly reels?
Cassette fly reels come with plastic spools that can fit in the central arbor of the reel. You can use different sizes of cassettes to change the size and line capacity of the arbor.
Q. Why are Hardy fly reels so popular?
Hardy is a well-established brand in the fly fishing world. They have been around for quite some time now, producing some of the best fly reels of all time. Their products are true classics.
Q. Which are the top fly reels with a die-cast construction?
The Redington i.D Fly Fishing Reel is one of the best die-cast fly reels you can find. Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel is another one that is very strong, unlike most die-cast reels.
I have mentioned many of the best fly reels according to a variety of needs. You can choose what is best for you under your circumstances.
But there is one particular reel that I at The Wading Kit just love in almost all settings. The Ross Reels Evolution LTX Fly Reel is an all-rounder and fits the criteria for the best fly reel available in the market. It is durable and functional. The drag is a thing of beauty, and the luxurious design is eye-catching.
So, the next time you need the best fly reel to go with your rod, you know where to find all the guidance you need. With years of experience on my hand, I can promise you that these top-rated fly reels are reely something. (Ah, the puns!)
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