7 Best Trout Fly Reels + Buying Guide

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There aren’t many more relaxing, peaceful, and tranquil pastimes than fly fishing. Escaping the humdrum of city life, being in nature, surrounded by greenery, and sitting on the river bank watching the world go by, brings a feeling of calm and serenity.

An experience of pure escapism, living in the moment, contending with the esteemed trout, and battling the elements.   

Fishing, in its various forms, has been an important profession for centuries, and a survival essential for millennia. What about the history of fly fishing?  

Fishing flies are thought to have originated with Tenkara fishing in Japan over four hundred years ago. The first written mention of fly-fishing was in The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle, which was published in 1496.

The use of reels is mentioned as far back as 4th century China, with various adaptations and improvements taking place over the centuries. Charles F. Orvis from the US is credited with inventing the first fully modern fly reel in 1874.   

This historic pastime continues to grow in popularity, with people of all creeds, and ages, engaging in this joyous activity, be it in a competitive environment, or for relaxation and solace.  

With so much change and innovation over the years, it can be overwhelming trying to find the right fishing gear, whether you’re thinking of taking up the rod, or you’re looking to upgrade your current gear.  Die-cast or machined? Aluminum or carbon fiber? Do I need a drag system on my reel?

Read on to find out the seven best trout fly reels on the market today.

7 Best Trout Fly Reels   

1. Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel

Redington Behemoth 9/10 Fly Reel - O.D Green

The BEHEMOTH has been widely praised for its performance, value, and sleek design, in keeping with Redington’s sterling reputation. The die-cast carbon construction, combined with the large arbor, assures the high-performance associated with a premium reel.

The carbon fiber torque system mixes carbon fiber plates with stainless-steel friction plates to guarantee large amounts of torque and reeling power. The heavy-duty carbon fiber drags system and oversized aluminum drag knob provide superb drag efficiency and line control.

The soft-touch ergonomic grip on the twin molded handles allows for greater control, even in the wettest of conditions. It’s available in sizes from 4/5 through to 11/12, offering a huge range and variety of line and fishing options.  

Pros

  • Carbon Fiber Torque System – Ensuring strong performance when reeling in  
  • Drag efficiency – Oversized aluminum drag knob and heavy-duty carbon fiber   
  • Twin Molded Handles – Soft-touch ergonomic grip for improved handling   
  • Large arbor – Smooth casting and faster, effective line retrieval  
  • Warranty – Redington lifetime warranty  

Cons  

  • Unsealed drag – Harder to keep clean and prevent corrosion
Redington Behemoth 9/10 Fly Reel - O.D Green
  • Most powerful drag in its class, Adjustable, Carbon Fiber drag
  • Unmachinable, unique Die-cast construction, Twin molded, soft-touch ergonomic handles
  • LARGE arbor design speeds retrieve and reduces line memory, Easily converts to left or right hand...

2. Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Fly Reel 

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel (2S53) - Smooth-Casting Fly Reel with...

Orvis has a long and esteemed history in the production of fly reels, well respected by others in the industry, and fly fishermen alike. The Clearwater has a large arbor to aid in a quicker line retrieval and smoother casting technique.

It comes in 4/6 or 7/9 sizes, allowing varied line weights and sizes. Constructed with lightweight aluminum for durability, it’s ambidextrous, so allows for easy switching between left-handed and right-handed use.

The reel is die-cast in matte gray, yet it still delivers the strong performance of machined reels in its range. With a carbon-to-stainless stacked disc drag, to aid in landing the big fish.

Pros  

  • Large arbor – Smooth casting and faster, effective line retrieval   
  • Aluminum construction – Durable, lightweight, anti-corrosive, and easy to handle  
  • Drag – Carbon-to-stainless stacked disc drag for improved landing  
  • Easy conversion – Ambidextrous design to allow easy conversion from right to left-handed retrieval   
  • Warranty – 25-year Orvis protection  

Cons  

  • Die-cast – Not as durable as a machined reel  
Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel (2S53) - Smooth-Casting Fly Reel with...
  • CLEARWATER LA II for line weights 4-6, 5.4 oz., 3.5-inch diameter
  • SMOOTH-AS-SILK PERFORMANCE at an incredible value, delivering the best performance-to-value in the...
  • DIE-CAST REEL with stealthy matte-gray powder-coat finish delivers performance comparable to more...

3. Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel 

Lamson Liquid -5+ Reel Smoke

The Liquid reel from Waterworks-Lamson is die-cast with pressure-cast aluminum, for a lightweight frame and spool. The Conical drag system is CNC machined, which means Computerized Numerical Control, guaranteeing precise construction, and incredibly effective reliability. It’s also sealed to help prevent water damage and corrosion.

The Conical drag is a futuristic, unique design element, that may well become the industry standard in the future due to its reliability and precision. The ultra-large arbor ensures smooth casting and rapid line retrieval.

Available in 2/4, 4/6, and 6/6 sizes, allowing varied line sizes, making landing bigger trout a smoother process. The ambidextrous design creates simplicity in changing between left and right-handed use.

Pros 

  • Drag system – CNC machined and sealed, Conical drag system  
  • Large arbor – Smooth casting and faster, effective line retrieval  
  • Ambidextrous – Easily interchangeable between left and right-handed  
  • Aluminum construction – Durable, lightweight, anti-corrosive, and easy to handle  

Cons  

  • Durability – The lightweight construction requires careful maintenance  
Lamson Liquid -5+ Reel Smoke
  • Lamson Liquid -5+ Reel Smoke

4. Sage Spectrum C Fly Reel  

Sage Spectrum C, Reel W/Backing, Copper, 5/6

Sage consistently produces high-quality and high-performing fly-fishing reels, which continues to be the case with their entire Spectrum range. The Spectrum C comes in many sizes with 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10 available, ensuring suitability for various line sizes and weights.

The 7/8 and 9/10 come with a huge 200-yard spool of line, so even the strongest fish will struggle to stretch its limits. The reel is machined with high-quality aluminum, making it lightweight, durable, and giving a high-level performance. The fully sealed One Revolution Drag Knob gives efficient control and line management.

Pros  

  • Large arbor – Smooth casting and faster, effective line retrieval  
  • Variety – Comes in numerous sizes, suitable for various line weights  
  • Machined – High-quality aluminum for durability and performance  
  • Drag – Fully sealed, One Revolution Drag Knob for efficient control   
  • Warranty -Sage’s lifetime protection  

Cons  

  • Handle – The smaller size could cause issues   
Sage Spectrum C, Reel W/Backing, Copper, 5/6
  • 3/4 and 5/6 reels come with a 100 yard spool of 20lb Rio Dacron Backing - backing is not on the reel
  • 7/8 and 9/10 reels come with a 200 yard spool of 20lb Rio Dacron Backing - backing is not on the...
  • Machined and anodized aluminum One Revolution Drag Knob with numbered and detented settings

5. Redington RISE Fly Reel 

Redington Reels Rise III 3/4 Reel, Amber

The second Redington reel on our list, the RISE features a U-shaped ultra-large arbor for smoother casting and improved line retrieval. Resilient and durable, yet lightweight construction, via its CNC, machined anodized design, ensuring longevity and protection against the elements.

The carbon fiber, cork, and Teflon drag system are smooth and compact whilst offering incredible torque and strength. The oversized aluminum drag knob is easily adjusted to the user’s preference.

A quick-release spool ensures quick and easy switching between left-handed and right-handed retrieval, as well as trouble-free switching of lines. It’s available in a range of sizes, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10 to allow for different line weights suitable for targeting different sized fish.   

Pros  

  • Construction – CNC machined anodized aluminum design for strength and durability  
  • Ultra-large arbor – Smooth casting and faster, effective line retrieval  
  • Twin Molded Handles – Soft-touch ergonomic grip for improved handling  
  • Drag efficiency – Oversized aluminum drag knob, with a carbon fiber, cork, and Teflon drag system  
  • Quick-release spool– Faster and easier switching of line and retrieval hand  

Cons  

  • Unsealed drag – Harder to keep clean and prevent corrosion 
Redington Reels Rise III 3/4 Reel, Amber
  • CNC Machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design with quick release spool, easily converts to left or...
  • Ultra-large arbor design for quick line retrieve, twin molded, soft-touch ergonomic handles,...
  • Smooth, compact carbon fiber drag System

6. Piscifun Sword Fly Reel

Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel with CNC-machined Aluminum Alloy Body 5/6 Space Gray

The precision CNC machined aluminum hollow design removes excess weight, which makes it an incredibly lightweight reel. The multi-disc cork and stainless-steel drag system has a one-way clutch bearing, providing smooth drag engagement and silent retrieve.

The reel has been anodized for improved surface protection and weather resistance. The mid-arbor design, though holding less line than a large, or ultra-large arbor, does allow for easy handling and incredibly quick line retrieval.

It’s available in various sizes of 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10 weight, as well as coming in four colors including pink, for those that truly want to stand out on the river bank.  

Pros  

  • CNC Machined – High-impact durability and precision aluminum construction  
  • Drag – Multi-disc cork and stainless-steel system  
  • Corrosion Resistance – Anodized surface protection   
  • Mid-arbor – Lightning-quick line retrieval   
  • Lightweight – CNC hollow design makes it especially lightweight  

Cons  

  • Warranty length – Only three years, which pales in comparison to some other manufacturers   
Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel with CNC-machined Aluminum Alloy Body 5/6 Space Gray
  • Precision Machined Stainless Steel Spool Shafts and Drag Washers
  • Lightweight / super smooth retrieval / adjustable drag that goes from no drag to tippet-snapping
  • Precision Machined Brass Bushing Drive system / Non-slip positive grip handle knobs

7. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch ECO Fly Reel  

M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch ECO Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel (3/4wt 5/6wt 7/8wt) and Pre-Loaded Fly Reel...

The Maxcatch ECO provides great value and performance within its range. The manufacturers want to make fly fishing accessible to more people, and it’s with this in mind that they have created this model. The all-aluminum construction ensures that it’s lightweight, yet sturdy.

Available in 2/3, 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8 weight to allow for fishing various lines and fish weights. The large arbor allows for efficient casting and smooth technique, as well as quick line retrieval.

The resilient Teflon switch disc drag system provides stability and a smooth drag when landing. Easily switchable between left-handed and right-handed retrieval due to the one-way bearing and switch disc system.   

Pros  

  • Large arbor – Smooth casting and faster, effective line retrieval  
  • Great for beginners – Not in the premium range, so accessible to all  
  • Drag – The resilient Teflon switch disc drag is strong and stable  
  • Construction – All-aluminum design, durable and lightweight   

Cons 

  • Warranty – One-year warranty only  
ON SALE $2.00 OFF
M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch ECO Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel (3/4wt 5/6wt 7/8wt) and Pre-Loaded Fly Reel...
  • ONE-YEAR-WARRANTY – we as a 13 years fly reel factory, offer “No Hassle” warranty for all our...
  • Strong All-aluminum construction, Large arbor design for rapid line retrieval
  • Rugged disc drag for putting serious pressure on the fish

Trout Fly Reel Buyers Guide   

Weight  

When you are fishing, you will usually need quite a lot of gear, especially when you are contending with the various challenges the elements can throw your way. As such, it’s important to save weight whenever possible and pack light.

Due to the technique involved in casting when fly fishing, and the sheer volume of casts throughout a day’s fishing, a light reel is essential. It can help you keep a more consistent and smooth casting motion, will allow you to fish for longer, and reduce any strains you may have after a long day on the river.   

Construction 

Fly reels are typically constructed with aluminum, carbon, stainless steel, or plastic. When purchasing a reel, not only do you want to think about the weight, but also the durability and the resulting life span.

Although plastic reels have grown in popularity, the sturdiness and high quality of the other aforementioned materials are a big reason they remain so popular. When fishing, you and your gear are likely to get wet, so try to buy a reel that is rust-resistant to ensure its longevity.

Nobody wants to be replacing their gear frequently, as this could become costly, besides, when fishing, people often attach a sentimental value to their gear. People experience many rewarding, and special experiences when fishing, be that the first time catching a certain fish, the first trip to a special location, or the shared joy with friends and family.   

Arbor  

The arbor of a fishing reel is the diameter of the spool where the backing is attached. Larger arbors allow a quicker rate of line and backing retrieval, in turn providing a smoother and more efficient casting technique and experience. It’s worth paying a little more for a larger arbor if you’re unsure between two or more reels.   

Capacity

Simply put, capacity refers to how what length of line the reel can hold. The larger the capacity, the more fishing line and backing the reel contains.

The backing is the extra line at the end of the fly line, designed to help you overcome some potential obstacles when landing a fish. Sometimes, be it a large fish, or challenging waters, reeling in your catch can be a drawn-out process.

The extra line provided by the backing, and a large capacity reel, can give you more time in which to contend with the immediate challenges.   

Drag  

The drag refers to the braking system on a fly reel, which allows greater control of the line. It slows the rotation of the spool and stops the fish from making a rapid getaway, where they might snag or damage the line, or even pull you off balance, especially on a wet river bank or when wading in flowing waters.    

Is it essential to have a reel with drag?  

If you are only catching small trout whilst fishing in small streams or backwaters, you may not face some of the aforementioned challenges. However, in more open waters or fishing for bigger trout, a fly reel with drag becomes an essential piece of kit.  

Line Weight   

Fishing line comes in a wide range of weights to allow for fishing for different sizes of fish. Some reel models are available in a variety of sizes, meaning it’s possible to use the same model reel for different fishing trips and targets. The bigger the target fish, the heavier the line that is needed.   

Die-cast vs Machined Reel  

Die-cast reels are made using a mold filled with molten metal, whereas machined reels are carved from a solid piece of material. Die-cast reels are usually cheaper to make but still provide efficient use, though machined reels often have added strength.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to buy an expensive reel?  

Like with anything you buy, it’s important to consider the quality of the product and equipment, as well as the price.
Although there are many options on the cheaper end of the price range, these typically won’t have the technical advantages or sturdiness of a more expensive reel.
That’s not to say that it’s essential to buy the most expensive reel you can find. Considering the factors, as advised in the above buyer’s guide, will help you ascertain what to consider before making any purchase.   

Can I fly fish anywhere?   

Whether you want to fish in rivers and streams or try your luck on lakes, ponds, and fisheries, fly fishing is possible on both flowing and still waters.
It’s important to consider the legal permissions required for any location or waters, such as obtaining the relevant fishing license or seeking permission from the landowners or associated trust that manages the waters.    

Do I have to buy a fishing license to fly fish? 

Anyone wishing to fish in the U.S. must first purchase a fishing license. A license will be valid for the state in which it is purchased, so it’s imperative to apply for multiple licenses if you intend to fish in numerous states.

Usually, a fishing license is required for anyone between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four. Children fifteen and under often don’t need a license to fish, though this is not a blanket rule across the country.

The specific details can vary from state to state, so always research or inquire about the rules in your state, or any other that you intend to fish in.  

Can I keep the fish after I catch it?   

This is entirely dependent on when and where you are fishing for trout. Different states and counties each have their own rules that consider the details such as the type of water, and whether it’s in the fishing season.

Many places commit to a policy of ‘catch and release’, which ensures that the species conservation is carefully considered. Many private fisheries or landowners may also adopt this policy, for both conservation and financial reasons.    

Is fly fishing better than spinning for trout?  

Both fly fishing and spinning are incredibly effective for trout fishing, with each having some advantages over the other. Fly fishing rods are lighter, as is the fishing line used, which makes for easier handling and logistics.

When you’re scrambling up a riverbank or wading into the water, lighter gear is most appreciated. Fly fishing is perceived to be more efficient on moving waters, be it flowing rivers, babbling brooks, or backwater streams, though it’s still regularly undertaken on still water lakes and ponds.

The art of fly fishing, and the techniques in casting, present a more engaging method of fishing, challenging yourself to contend with the fish and waters alike. Traditionalists would argue that fly fishing is a purer way to catch fish though both forms have their fandom and merits.   

Last update on 2022-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Ric Burnley

Author of The Complete Kayak Fisherman, Ric Burnley is a reknowned angling writer having been published in Kayak Angler Mag, Sport Fishing Mag, Paddling Mag, and Outdoor Life. Ric has entertained and informed thousands of anglers through his writing and seminars.