Salmon aren’t modest like trout or bass. They are mighty and know how to run. Without the best salmon fly reels, there is little chance you’ll be able to catch one and brag about it for the entire season.
Best Salmon Fly Reels – Quick Picks
Here’s a summary of the salmon fly reels reviews:
- Orvis Hydros Reels – Best Fly Reel For Salmon
- Redington Tilt Reel – Best Large Arbor Salmon Fly Reel
- Galvan Rush Light – Best Value
- CHANNELMAY Classic Fly Fishing Reel – Best under a Budget
- M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sprint Fly Reel – Honourable Mention
For landing a 20 or 30 pounds salmon, you need power, speed, and excellent tactics. All of these combine in the best fly reels for salmon that I am reviewing below. So in case you are planning on moving to the big fish game, keep reading.
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Best Salmon Fly Reels – Reviews
Let’s carry on with our salmon fishing reels reviews.
1. Orvis Hydros Reels – Best Salmon Fly Reel For The Money
Orvis is a brand that targets anglers who want to enjoy the sport while saving up some cash for beer. The Hydros reels have been in the market for quite some time now, with a few improved versions released after the initial one.
The latest models have an improved drag knob. The knob is now a bit more chunky and has ridges on the outside for added grip. Similarly, the reel handle has shown some increase in size and length compared to the previous edition. It is now easier to grip and rotate. One more change that I found helpful is the decrease in the number of turns the knob needs for bringing the drag force from zero to maximum.
Speaking of drag force, the Hydros is strong enough to be the best salmon fly reel out there. It spins smoothly and has little to no resistance when you start cranking. Also, drag adjustment is okay because of the linear pattern, and finding your sweet spot is easy.
If you compare it to other higher-end brands, you may find this fly reel lacking looks and finish. But given the affordable price point, I don’t mind a few rough edges at all.
- Best performance among affordable reels
- Upgraded knob design, since the last one was horrible
- Less number of turns for maximum drag
- The drag force is more than necessary
- It spins smoothly
- It may not look as classy as other expensive reels.
2. Redington Tilt Reel – Best Large Arbor Salmon Fly Reel
- Color: garnet/gunmetal
- Material: Aluminium
The Redington Tilt not only looks spectacular due to its eye-catching color but is also one of the best options you can get your hands on for euro nymphing. With removable weights, you can customize the reel-rod balance according to your preference. I am very fond of this fly reel with the add-on weights. You can buy it once and match it with multiple rods of all sizes. Such a value option!
Those who are into euro nymphing or tight line approach know what a pain it is when the thin competition lines sneak in between the frame and the spools. Tilt has the perfect solution to your problem. The narrow arbor and tight-fitting frame leave no space for lines slipping between them.
The CNC machined body with an anodized finish is reliable and long-lasting. Plus, the arbor is gigantic but narrow, allowing fast retrieval rates. Throw in a muscly carbon fiber drag system, and you have the best euro nymphing fly reel. But since this fly reel caters to a specific angling style, it is not as versatile as I would like.
- Best salmon fly reel for euro nymphing
- It has removable weights to adjust the rod-reel balance
- No space between frame and spools allows no line slipping
- This reel is durable
- The drag system is solid and smooth
- This reel is specific to euro nymphing only
3. Galvan Rush Light 3 Fly Reel – Best Value Salmon Fly Reel
My favorite fly reel by Galvan is the Torque. But considering its price tag, Torque is not accessible to an average angler. Keeping that in mind, Galvan came up with a more budget-friendly option called the Rush Light. Even though the cost for Rush is still pretty high as compared to other budget fly reels for salmon, it still is a good option for those who like the trust of a big brand and the looks of a fancy reel.
Rush Light has a vintage look. The amount of porting is nowhere near Torque; hence backing takes more time to dry up. The paint job is also a little lower than satisfactory as it scratched when I dragged the reel for testing. The structure, however, is durable and did not dent when I dropped it from a height.
Now the drag strength is not as much as Torque but is sufficient for stopping a salmon. I found some startup resistance, too, but I won’t object to it as it wasn’t much. The handle and the knob are also the correct sizes and easy to find and rotate.
- This reel is sturdy
- The drag strength is enough to stop a salmon
- There isn’t much startup inertia
- The handle and the knob are ergonomic
- It is a good value reel
- Less porting means more time for backing to dry
- The paint didn’t hold up well
4. CHANNELMAY Classic Fly Fishing Reel – Budget Salmon Fly Reel
This Channelmay fly reel is true to its name, Classic! The vintage design reminds me of the time my grandpa used to fish. And though it looks old-fashioned, there are so many modern details about it.
This fly reel for salmon fishing is CNC machined, a big hit in the current angling community. You may drop it on hard surfaces or use it in seawater; the structure of this reel won’t budge. I was seriously tempted to buy it after seeing the unbelievably low price, and thankfully I did end up having one. It makes for a great backup reel and is good to use in case of an emergency. Plus, the sound it makes on both incoming and outgoing is a thing of beauty.
This brings me to a few negative things about it. First, the drag isn’t precisely durable. It fell apart after I tried to catch steelhead with it. I did manage to land the fish, but the reel was not usable after that. Such a pity! Also, the spool is almost impossible to take off. I spent two good hours trying to disassemble the reel for maintenance only to find it even more challenging to seat it back in place. If the manufacturers could work on these two aspects, we could have the best salmon fly reel for backup.
- Good-looking vintage style porting
- The body is CNC machined, hence durable
- Very affordable
- Makes up for a good backup option
- It sounds fantastic
- The drag broke after a few uses
- Disassembly and reseating is complicated
5. FinReel Avee Fly Reel – Best Fly Reel For King Salmon
Here’s a decent fly reel for salmon fishing that you may not have heard of. The FinReel is a little unknown in the fishing industry, but I still stumbled upon this gem they have been hiding because I have an eye for good things in life! *wink*
This fly reel is what I had pictured, moderately priced, subtle looks, and smooth drag. Even the structure is pretty durable. When I unboxed this reel, I instantly noticed the neat finishing. There were no overlooked edges. Next, it impressed me with its smooth drag and accurate drag adjustment when I took it to the river for testing. I landed two kings that day.
The spool is generously ported, so I suppose drying the backing won’t be a difficult task in it. Also, the v-shaped spool has tons of storage capacity for lines. The package comes with a neoprene pouch to keep your reel safe. The only doubts I have are regarding how secure it is to use in seawater. The construction is rustproof, but there is no information about whether or not the drag is sealed. So I’m not sure how it will hold up against salt and grit. For now, I am greasing it religiously to keep it going for as long as possible.
- The reel has generous porting, so backing dries up fast
- It has sufficient storage capacity
- The drag is smooth and easily adjustable
- The finishing is pretty neat
- I’m not sure if it will hold up well in seawater
6. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sprint Fly Reel – Best Salmon Fishing Reel With Sealed Drag
I bought this reel as a backup to my best salmon fly reel but had to force it up in rank because of the quality. It truly is an incredible reel and makes me like Maxcatch as a brand even more. So what is in it that I like so much? Let’s dive deeper:
For starters, it is a solid reel. Just holding it in hand gives off its durability. It is CNC machined and also feels like it. I dropped it off a height, and it didn’t dent at all. Impressive! Next, it is reasonably lightweight, and the porting and the overall construction takes off any unnecessary weight to keep the reel light and well-balanced on most modern rods. Then, the large arbor with a v-design is ideal for storing ample backing.
But my favorite thing about it is that it is salt AND waterproof. There aren’t many reels out there that offer a completely sealed drag, and I am yet to find one at this price point. Also, it is super smooth, thanks to its cork and carbon construction.
What could be better? Honestly, there is little room for improvement, but I guess the design could use a little more thoughtfulness. As you can see in the image, the arrows that increase and decrease the drag force point in the same direction. A minor designing glitch, I guess.
- It feels substantial and durable
- Balances well on light rods
- The arbor can store ample backing
- The drag is COMPLETELY sealed
- Cork and carbon drag is super smooth
- Nothing major, just some minor designing glitches
7. PROBEROS Fly Fishing Reel – Best Fly Reel Salmon With Mid-Range Arbor
Next up in our best salmon reel reviews, we have another budget-friendly option. This one is for those who are just starting with seawater fishing or angling in general. It is excellent for practice, and then you can move on to other best salmon fly reels.
It is rare to find a CNC machined body under $50. One would take such a reel to be mediocre in terms of performance to make up for the cost of machining. But this is not entirely true for Proberos. These have a reasonably powerful drag that is sealed for use in seawater. The reel is also lightweight and suitable to pair up with a lot of rods.
The arbor size is mid-range, so it has enough room for backing, and retrieving lines is pretty fast too. Plus, the anodizing on top gives it protection against corrosion and scratches. But what’s the catch? The drag adjustment is a pain, and it goes from freewheeling to jammed. There is no in-between. Also, the setting won’t stay put, and you’ll have to set it again and again or just palm the reel.
- It has a durable CNC machined body
- The drag is powerful enough for seawater use
- It is lightweight and pairs up with many rods
- The mid-range arbor has sufficient room
- It has an anodized finish
- The drag adjustment isn’t perfect
- The setting won’t stay put, so you’ll mostly have to palm it
8. River Peak Fly Reel Classic Clicker Salmon Game CLA – Specific For Salmon Fishing
This reel is designed specifically for salmon fishing. It says a lot about it, doesn’t it!
With a vintage design like the Channelmay Classic reel, this one has all the necessary specs to catch a mighty salmon.
The age-old clicker drag is tried and tested to stand against speedy fish. The construction looks solid and long-lasting, but I haven’t had the reel for long enough to give a final verdict about its durability.
Also, the size and weight are ideal for salmon fishing and match the fly rods built with the same purpose. But just as Channelmay, this fly reel is also tough to take apart for maintenance. I guess it is a thing with classic reels. The drag adjustment with this one is a lot better, but I feel obliged to point out that it costs way more than the former with no apparent additional feature.
- Specific for salmon fishing
- Classic clicker drag is ideal for salmon
- The weight and size are fit for the cause
- It feels solid
- Taking the spool apart requires effort
- It costs way more than similar products
9. Okuma Raw II Mooching & Float Reels – Best Durable Fly Reel For Salmon
Okuma is a well-established brand when it comes to center pin reels. I’ve tried a few of them and found the Raw II to be the best fly reel for salmon. The reason for my liking is mainly its durable construction and long-lasting finish. The CNC machined structure is topped off with an anodizing type 2 coating to make this reel fit to combat abuse. The shaft is also stainless steel, so it is safe to declare this float reel almost indestructible.
Also, the design is ported for minimal weight and maximum control over the exposed rim. The reel cranks smoothly once it gets started, but that is where it lacks. The startup inertia is pretty massive, and it takes some effort to get it spinning. Also, it got stuck while cranking on a few occasions, and the clicker feels weak too.
But it still is an incredible catch if you are into float fishing and don’t want to spend $700 on a reel. The affordable price tag is one of its main selling points.
- The structure is CNC machined and durable
- Type 2 anodizing prevents scratches and abrasion
- Ported spool cuts down on the weight
- It cranks smoothly once it gets going
- It is pretty affordable
- It has massive startup inertia
- The reel can get stuck and has a weak clicker too
Salmons are famous for their quick runs that make the reels scream when you try to stop them. The best salmon fly reels are bound to have the following features:
1. Strong Drag
The best salmon fly fishing reels have a robust drag system to stop the mightiest salmon on its track. A weak drag won’t suffice.
2. Big Arbor
Arbor size matters since it affects the rate at which a fly reel retrieves lines. Fast pick up is necessary to land a salmon which is quick to run away. Also, check our best large arbor fly reels guide.
3. Good Capacity
Salmons tend to make an angler run out of their backing capacity. It is good to have as much room for lines storage as possible. Learn more on How much backing on a fly reel.
In my opinion, the best fly rod for salmon fishing is the Sage X Fly Rod, and the best salmon fly reel is the Orvis Hydros Fly Reel.
Ideally, you should go for 7-10 wt reels to cover almost all salmon species.
Atlantic salmons are athletic and fast. You need an equally powerful and efficient reel like the Galvan Rush Light Fly Reel.
The best salmon fly reels are all about the muscles. A decent option like the Orvis Hydros Reel will help you land the largest King Salmon that you can boast about for years.
So see you out there while you are catching your trophy fish!