Best 10 Fly Fishing Reels for Salmon [2021 Buyer’s Guide]
Fly fishing for salmon is a hugely popular form of angling but does require some specialist gear including fly rods and reels. This buyer’s guide will help you to pick the best fly fishing reels for salmon from the thousands available on the market.
Knowing the exact type and model of fly fishing reel for salmon can be difficult to choose because there are so many options available. I have put together this guide to help to sift through the marketing and focus on the actual metrics that matter.
This guide will show the key criteria including the weight, line capacity, retieval rate, and value for money.
I have also gone through the most popular fly fishing reels available on the marketplace and selected the best 10 for salmon.
Table of Contents
- 1 Quick Summary – Best Fly Fishing Reels for Salmon
- 2 Reel Weight
- 3 Line Capacity
- 4 Retrieval Rate
- 5 Best 10 Salmon Fly Fishing Reels
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Fly Fishing Reel Selection Video
- 8 Conclusion
Quick Summary – Best Fly Fishing Reels for Salmon
- Best Overall – Redington Rise
- Best Value for Money – PISCIFIN Aoka
- Best High Quality – Hatch Gen 2 Finatic
- Best Carbon Fibre – Redington Behemoth
- Best Lightweight – Lamson Light Speed
Salmon come in a range of types and sizes, so there are a different range of sizes and weights depending on what you are going to be targeting.
King Salmon for example, it is worth upgrading to a heavier reel and fishing line combination to make sure you can land those fish when you get a strike.
Trident Fly Fishing has this great recommendation of reel weight for Salmon:
|Fish Species||Rod Weight||Reel Weight|
|Chinook Salmon||9 – 10wt||9/10|
|Coho Salmon||8 – 9wt||8/9|
|Chum Salmon||9wt||8/9 or 9/10|
|Pink Salmon||9wt||7/8 or 8/9|
|Sockeye Salmon||8wt||7/8 or 8/9|
You will want to check the line capacity of your reel before making a buying decision. Thankfully fly reels don’t need to have the thousands of yards of line like a big gamefish conventional reel does.
200 yards of line capacity is more than enough to reel in large salmon.
Salmon are fierce fighters and may fish further away than you would expect. You will also want to have excess line on your spool in case you lose some over time due to structure or rocks snapping your line.
Another important criteria is the retrieval rate. Fly fishing reels have a different retrieval rate than spinning reels.
There are three types of fly fishing reels:
- Single Action Fly Reel – this is the most common and basic design for a fly reel – you turn the handle and the line retrieves on the spool. It couldn’t be more reliable or robust.
- Multiplying Fly Reel – this allows fish to be retrieved at a much faster rate using a gearing system, but can be temperamental and difficult to use. Honestly, this level of complexity is useful for saltwater, but not particularly good for freshwater.
- Automatic Fly Reel – automatic fly reels retrieve the fish without the angler having to turn the spool at all.
Single action reels is the best for freshwater salmon fishing.
We recommend aiming for 10 inches of line retrieve per turn for salmon.
Best 10 Salmon Fly Fishing Reels
There are hundreds of brands and models available to choose from, which can be a daunting task. I have gone through and put together this list of the best 10 fly fishing reels for salmon.
Use this as your starting point to find the reel that best suits your own personal requirements.
First on the list is the Redington RISE – available in five different colors including Black, Olive, Gold, Silver, and Amber, as well as four sizes from 3/4 to 9/10.
The carbon fibre drag system provides 20 pounds of stopping power. The drag is also sealed which makes it suitable for saltwater but you will want to flush it with freshwater after each use.
The twin molded soft-touch handles and oversized drag knob can be easily converted from right to left hand.
Another key feature of Redington is that they offer a lifetime manufacturers warranty. This eliminates all worry about quality and getting sold a lemon. Purchase without fear and you will be reeling in salmon for the rest of your life.
The nylon case also helps to protect your fly reel from damage during transportation.
- CNC Machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design with quick release spool, easily converts to left or right hand retrieve
- Ultra-large arbor design for quick line retrieve, twin molded, soft-touch ergonomic handles, oversized drag knob for easy adjustment
- Smooth, compact carbon fiber drag System
Hatch Gen 2 Finatic
The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic is the highest quality fly reel on the market but also comes with the highest price tag. The aluminum material is extremely light but also durable and corrosion resistant.
The fully sealed drag is also suitable for saltwater.
Not only is this suitable for salmon, it can also handle bonefish, redfish, and baby tarpon.
Ross Evolution R Salt
Another high-end option is the Ross Evolution R Salt. Available in 9/10 to 10/11, this is a larger reel suitable for all salmon species and sizes.
This reel design is ambidextrous and suitable for both right-handers and left-handers. The two spool counterbalances provide vibration-free performance.
Made in the USA from high quality material, mostly aluminum – it is available in both Black and Platinum colors.
Ross Evolution R Salt humorously claim this can reel in a Megalodon, but honestly, there are few fish that this can’t bring in.
- Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel - 9/10WT Matte Black - Made in USA
Orvis Hydros SL
The Orvis Hydros is a versatile fly reel that comes in Black and Silver colors but in 5 different sizes, from 1-3 wt to 9-11 wt. This new design released in 2020 comes with a stainless steel and carbon fibre drag system.
This reel has been targeted to have a large size with a low weight with no added extras.
The sealed drag is suitable for saltwater as well as freshwater.
The design provides high retrieval rates with less line coiling than a standard large arbo reel.
- Refined and improved version for 2020!
- Large arbor fly reel
- Carbon & stainless drag system
When creating this fly reel Galvan had one mission statement – efficiency and simplicity driven by function.
The large arbor design has a low inertia startup and can be easily changed from left hand to right-handed.
The Torque reel is up to Generation 4 with each model getting better than the last. The design is structurally strong but has been able to significantly reduce the weight.
- Innovative, ultra smooth compression disc drag system
- Very low start-up inertia
- Large arbor design
Another Redington fly reel to consider is the Behemoth. Available in 5 colors and 5 sizes, up to 11/12. You will certainly be able to find a combination to suit your requirements.
The drag is adjustable and made from carbon fibre which gives extra versatility.
Like all good fly reels, the handle can be moved from left to right handed. The large arbor design gives it a higher retrieve rate and less line memory.
Given all of this flexibility, the Behemoth is surprisingly affordable. It is also designed with great aesthetics and style.
It also comes with Redington’s lifetime manufacturers warranty so you know quality is first in mind. It also comes with a case to protect it during transportation.
- Adjustable, CarbonFiber drag
- Unmachinable, unique Die-cast construction
- Large arbor design speeds retrieve and reduces line memory
Piscifun make the Aoka Fly Reel. It comes available in three sizes from 3/4 to 7/8. I particularly like the blue stylings – it stands out amongst the wide range of black and silver fly reels.
It comes with a 3 year warranty which gives it a sense of trustworthiness. It also comes with a drawstring bag to protect it during storage and transport.
The Aoka is suitable for saltwater, but make sure you flush it thoroughly with clean freshwater after use to ensure you get a long life.
The drag is made from cork and teflon which makes the retrieve extremely quiet.
The frame is fully machined and the spool is made by a die-cast, so you get high quality everything.
The best thing about it – is the price! This is a high quality product at a great price.
- Three Year Warranty - Your reel has been set at the factory for left-hand retrieve. To convert your reel to right-hand retrieve, please contact us for guidance.
- Smooth Drag - Cork/Teflon disc drag system with one-way clutch bearing for smooth immediate drag engagement.
- Mid-arbor Design - Reducing line memory while also facilitating lightning-quick line pickup.
Sage Spectrum Max
Another one of the high end fly reels is the Sage Spectrum Max. Available in four different colors – Chiptole, Stealth, Squid-Ink, and Silver. It also comes in five sizes from 5/6 to 11/12.
The sealed drag system made from carbon keeps to free from sand, saltwater, and grit – this means you can use it almost anywhere.
It comes with 40 indented drag settings for adjustable and repeatable drag options.
The design has a large arbor which gives it a high retrieve rate. It is fully machined from aerospace grade aluminum.
Like all good fly reels, the handle can be switched from left to right easily.
If you pick the Max, it will be your go to heavy fly reel option.
- Sealed Carbon System (SCS) Drag keeps out water, sand, grit, and salt
- One Revolution Drag Knob with numbered and detented settings
- Large arbor for fast line pick-up; Concave, ported arbor for greater strength and capacity, Ergonomic handle
Lamson Light Speed G5
Next up is the Lamson Light Speed G5 fly reel. It is made from aluminum and stainless steel and comes in four different sizes.
This reel is made in USA, particularly in Boise, Idaho.
This is the 5th generation of the Light Speed Design which just keeps getting better and better. The large arbor design gives it a high retrieval rate and the narrow spool claims to give better line handling.
The hard alox styling looks great and has a beautiful finish.
- Machined 6061 Aluminum, Stainless Steel
- Large Arbor
- Hard Alox Finish
The Orvis Clearwater ambidextrous fly reel is another model to consider.
Lamson Force SL Series II
The last fly reel on the list is the Lamson Force SL Series II. This is the 4th generation reel design. It is made from machined aluminum and stainless steel which gives it incredible strength with very low weight.
It has the highest possible ratio of retrieve rate to reel weight
Let’s stop for a minute and just look at the styling of this reel – it looks absolutely brilliant.
It has a sealed drag which means it is suitable for saltwater fishing as well as freshwater.
As with the Lamson Light Speed this is built in Boise, Idaho.
The Lamson range are certainly worth considering when making your buying decision.
- Format: Super Arbor
- Materials: Machined 6061 Aluminum, Stainless Steel
- Drag: Sealed Conical Drag
Frequently Asked Questions
Is fly fishing more effective than regular fishing for salmon?
Fly fishing is a different angling method that allows you to fish in fast moving rivers that may not present a hard body lure in the best motion. It is also a very active type of fishing that appeals to a lot of fishermen rather than throwing a bait in the water and waiting.
Should I pick a rod and reel combo?
Yes, picking a reel that suits your rod specifications is the best way to ensure optimal performance. I have seen people come home with a conventional reel that doesn’t fit in their spinning rod and the disappointment is real.
Picking a rod and reel combo means that you will get the best combination as decided by the manufacturer – so you won’t make too many big mistakes.
Can I use a baitcaster reel for salmon?
Baitcasting reels are a popular design of fishing reel for salmon as they provide good casting accuracy for small to medium crankbaits and jerkbaits. They are certainly effective at catching salmon if you can find the right location.
What are fly fishing reel sizes?
Fly fishing reels are classified by ‘weight’ ranging from 3wt as the smallest to 12wt at the largest end.
3wt – small creek trout and bream.
5-7wt – the most standard and versatile trout size.
8-9wt – perfect for the largest sized trouts or other big fish like pike, redfish, or sea trout.
10-12wt – this is the largest sized reels suitable for large saltwater fish like tarpon that you might want to target fly fishing.
Make sure you pair the sized reel with the same sized rod.
Fly Fishing Reel Selection Video
This video by Mad River Outfitters gives a good overview on how to make better equipment decisions for fly fishing:
That brings us to the end of this buyer’s guide. I hope you have found a reel that you enjoy.
If you are looking for more information before making your decision then there are other guides available online which may help.
If you are an experiened fly fishing angler and have your own wisdom to share then please leave a comment below. I love to interact with our readers and learn from your experience. If you have any questions about fly fishing reels then feel free to comment as well.