What fun is fly fishing when you have to spend hours scrubbing your reel clean every time you fish? Exactly why I am giving you the seven best sealed drag fly reels, I’ve tried. Since their drag system is covered, they are easy to maintain and won’t slow over time. Especially if you are into seawater fishing, I recommend investing in one of these seven best sealed drag fly reels.
Disclosure: The Wading Kit is a reader-supported website and takes part in the Amazon Associates Program. We may earn a small commission if you shop through links on this page. At thewadingkit.com we test products and recommend them based on unbiased research. For info see disclosure here.
Best Sealed Drag Fly Reels – Quick Overview
If you are in a hurry, view these quick picks among the seven best sealed drag fly reels reviews;
- Hardy Fortuna Z Fly Reel – for sheer power
- Orvis Mirage LT Fly Reel – for overall good performance
- Cheeky Limitless Fly Fishing Reel – for an affordable price
Best Sealed Drag Fly Reels – Reviews
Now let’s break down each of our seven best sealed-drag fly reels;
1. Hardy Fortuna Z Fly Reel – Best Saltwater Sealed Drag Fly Reel
When it comes to hardcore fishing, the Hardy Fortuna series is hard to beat. They are the most reliable fly reels I’ve tried to date. The Fortuna Z may not look much like its predecessor, but functionality-wise, it is no different. A fully-sealed drag fly reel is more suitable for seawater and other big fly fishing pursuits.
You’d want to know what’s so special about the drag that it needed so much protection? Well, the machinery is a thing of beauty. With a maximum output of more than 30 lbs, it sure is a powerhouse. The disc drag with multiple discs can stop any fish you set your eyes on.
The adjustment knob does not have any preset settings, so you add precise increments to the torque force to achieve your sweet spot. The reel runs silky smooth. However, there is just the slightest hint of startup inertia that I don’t mind at all.
Next, it is fit for all kinds of use. The bar stock construction with an anodized finish makes this reel practically indestructible. The surface is anti-abrasion and avoids scratches like a pro. Also, the finishing makes this reel resistant to corrosion from saltwater too. The handle and knob are ergonomic, and the spool and cage design are some of the toughest you can get.
- The drag is very powerful
- It runs smoothly
- You can adjust the drag very precisely
- The construction is very sturdy
- Fit for saltwater use and big fights
- There is a hint of startup inertia
2. Sage SPECTRUM MAX Fly Reel – Sealed Drag Fly Reel For Trout Fishing
The Spectrum Max by Sage is an attempt to get a sealed drag fly reel for saltwater in the market, which is just as killer as their freshwater ones. There are so many things where Sage succeeded in its mission.
This reel feels pretty solid as soon as you pick it, and you can instantly feel the strength in its construction and the ergonomics of its parts. The spool is mid-range with a good backing capacity, and the handle and knob are both large and easy to grab. The reel turns smoothly and picks up lines at a decent rate.
It is lighter in weight than most similar reels and certainly the best sounding. The click it produces is loud and crisp, just how I like it. The drag adjustment is where this reel shines, with a quarter of the torque force achieved in half a turn. But the drag force is where lies an unavoidable problem. For a seawater reel, it is just not enough. In terms of power, this reel is more suitable for trout fishing.
- The construction is sturdy
- The knob and the handle are ergonomic
- Mid-range arbor has good capacity and lines retrieval rate
- The drag adjustment is fine
- The acoustics are great
- Not enough for seawater beasts but good for trout fishing
3. Orvis Mirage LT Fly Reel – Lightweight Sealed Drag Fly Reel
When Orvis first released the Mirage LT, there was a lot of hype surrounding it, but I waited to try the reel myself before believing anything I read on the internet. And now that I have, I can safely say that Orvis outdid themselves with this masterpiece!
Sharing the same basic design and features as the previous Mirage reel, this one is 30% lighter and slimmer and a lot cheaper. The shape is more streamlined with a considerably lower weight. The finishing on this reel is anodizing type 2, unlike its predecessor that boasts a more durable type 3 finishing. One more thing that is different between the two versions is the braking power. The LT houses a much lower force than the standard Mirage reel, but I still found it enough.
What’s similar in both models are their smoothness, sturdy construction, ergonomic handle and knob, and low maintenance sealed drag. I also like the sound it produces. However, the spool release mechanism is not the most user-friendly. With screwing and unscrewing, the process is a nuisance.
- The LT version is lighter and slimmer
- It is considerably cheaper
- The drag system is smooth
- The construction feels pretty solid
- It needs little maintenance
- The handle and the knob are ergonomic
- The drag force is less than Mirage
- The spool release mechanism is not very easy
4. Cheeky Limitless Fly Fishing Reel – Fully Sealed Fly Reel
The Cheeky fly reels are known for their bright colors and affordable price tags. I’ve seen the brand grow and produce better products with each passing year, and the Limitless series is proof. These vibrant reels have all the right dimensions and even better functionality.
From the looks of it, these reels show some serious craftsmanship. The finishing is almost perfect, with only the slightest rough edges in a couple of spots. It felt a bit heavy though it has very good porting throughout its structure.
The drag knob is a generous size which makes it extremely easy to find and maneuver. The aircraft-grade material is durable, and the reel even looks built to last. I’m sure it will last me a long time because I went ahead and tested its strength by dropping it on a hard surface from a height. It survived!
Performance-wise, I found no issues. The reel is smooth as butter and has no detectable startup inertia. The drag strength is more than necessary, and its adjustment is easy thanks to the knob. The acoustics are subtle, too, and the spool release system is user-friendly.
- The finishing is very neat
- The drag knob is chunky and easy to grab
- This reel is pretty durable
- It cranks smoothly without any detectable resistance
- It weighs more than similar reels, so balancing it on a rod may require some effort.
5. Redington Grande 7/8/9 Fly Reel – Saltwater Sealed Drag Fly Reel
For a long time, Behemoth was the only seawater fly reel Redington had. Thankfully, they have now filled the void up with their new Grande fly reel. Both the models have some similarities in their design but are worlds apart. While the Behemoth is known for its outrageous braking power, Grande is more subtle in that area but has other qualities that Behemoth lacked.
First, the spool has a more thoughtful design. It is not too sunken in the middle, giving it more capacity to store lines and better retrieval rates. The drag is completely sealed and can prevent the salt and sand from messing up the internal assembly. The fly reel feels a bit tacky at first, but after the initial startup, it revolves smoothly. It is not the most powerful reel out there but still good enough for most sea monsters.
Next, changing lines on spools is easier than ever. The quick spool releasing system is hassle-free. The handle is also large enough to feel comfortable in your hand. Then, the drag adjustment knob is ergonomic and changes the drag setting quickly. I’m not a fan of those reels where you have to rotate the knob a lot for a very slight change in lines tension.
- The spool design is more thoughtful
- More capacity and better retrieval rate
- The drag is sealed for long-term performance
- Easy spool release system
- The handle is an ergonomic size
- The drag adjustment is quick
- There is noticeable startup inertia
6. Sage SPECTRUM LT Fly Reel – Durable Sealed Drag Fly Reel
Like the Sage Spectrum Max, the Spectrum LT is also a very worthy mention in the list of best-sealed drag reels. It has all the good qualities of its big brother but with a much lower price tag.
The weight is ideal for lightweight rods, and this reel goes perfectly well with the newer lighter rods such as Asquith and H3. The durability is also its forte. The construction and the materials are top-notch and make this reel trustworthy in rough conditions.
The arbor is mid-range with loads of capacity. The retrieval rates are less than that of Max but still good enough. The clicking sound is less crisp and not one of my favorites. Like the Spectrum Max, this reel’s best part is its drag adjustment knob which lets you tailor the drag force to your requirements. But again, LT also has the same problem with the drag force; it just isn’t enough!
- Spectrum LT is ideal for superlight rods
- It is very durable
- The arbor is capacious
- The retrieval rate is less than Max but is still good
- The drag adjustment knob is fantastic
- The drag strength is not enough for sea fish
7. Lamson Liquid Fly Reel – Best Budget Sealed Drag Fly Reel
The Waterworks-Lamson Liquid fly reel is one of the best-sealed drag reels I have found with the most affordable cost. There is so much Lamson has managed to provide while staying within a reasonable price range. Hence our budget fly reel.
The construction of this reel is die-cast, which cuts down on the cost. You may think that it won’t be very durable since it is not machined, but that is where this reel may surprise you. For a die-cast structure, the Liquid is pretty sturdy and stands up against wear and tear bravely.
Next, the best thing about Lamson reels is their drag. The conical housing and complete coverage of the machinery make the drag powerful, low-maintenance, and long-lasting. The drag adjustment is smooth with no clicks, so you can rotate the drag knob as much and as little as you like. This budget fly reel is also lightweight and balances beautifully on many rods. I have this reel as a backup option, but I still make a point of using it when I am out to catch some smaller fish.
The only thing that disappointed me about it was its finishing. There were quite a few rough edges that made the reel feel cheap when I held it. Something Lamson could work on.
- The price is very affordable
- Pretty durable for die-cast construction
- The powerful conical drag system
- Smooth drag adjustment knob
- This reel is lightweight
- The finishing is not the best
What To Look For in The Best Sealed Drag Fly Reel?
Finding the best-sealed fly reel may be a little difficult because of so many brands and models available in the market. It is best to narrow down your search by first asking yourself this question: what do I need the sealed drag reel for?
Saltwater Sealed Drag Fly Reel
Most often, anglers prefer a sealed drag for seawater fishing because the sand and salt can mess up the drag machinery if it is exposed. If it is the same for you, consider looking for better-equipped options for handling marine species. These sealed drag fly reels will have more drag strength, better line storing capacity, and a corrosion-resistant structure. Also, check best saltwater fly reels for more info.
Freshwater Sealed Drag Fly Reel
If you are planning to cut down your reel maintenance by getting the best-sealed drag fly reel for freshwater fishing, too, a fly reel with some or even none of the above features should do the job too.
A sealed drag is where the middle portion of the fly reel, which houses its machinery, is covered to avoid any elements from penetrating.
A waterproof sealed drag reel protects from corrosion due to salt or sand and grit jamming up its components. Hence, such fly reels are easier to maintain and crank smoothly even after years of service.
The best-sealed drag fly reels make your life easier by cutting down on the time you need to spend cleaning your reel after every fishing trip.
I reviewed seven best-sealed drag fly reels above, but the Hardy Fortuna Z steals the crown. It looks good and performs even better. Undoubtedly a champ when it comes to braving the ocean waves.
So when are you getting one for yourself?
Do check out our best wading boots guide before hopping on a fly fishing trip.