When it comes to fly fishing, having the right gear can make all the difference in the world. That's why we're going to take a look at the best fly fishing reels of 2022 for both freshwater and saltwater. Whether you're just getting started or you're a seasoned pro, we've got you covered.
GearHacking.com provides honest and unbiased reviews of the best fly reels on the market. We discuss what makes a great reel and provide tips on how to determine which reel is best for your needs.
You can use the reviews below to find the best fly reel for your next adventure! We have reviewed some of the best freshwater fly reels and the best saltwater fly fishing reels. We are confident that you will find what you need in the reviews below. We have considered the factors that make a great reel system including size, reel materials, drag systems, durability, and pricing.
Read through the reviews below to find the best fly reel for your next adventure!
Selection of Your Fly Fishing Reel – What You Should Look For
Fly Fishing Reel Size
The size of your fly reel is often considered to be based on the fly line weight. For trout fishing, the common fly line weights are 3 to 6. Saltwater fly line weights range from 6 to 15, depending on the target species and size of the fly.
However, another size consideration is based on the size of the arbor or spool. The amount of line that can be held on the spool, both the fly line and the backing, are important in the reel selection process. If you are targeting fish that will run 100 to 200 yards, you need a large arbor reel that can hold enough backing to bring the fish back.
If you are targeting smaller fish, a smaller arbor reel may suffice. The size of the reel and the amount of backing influences the weight of the reel, which is a counterbalance to the rod you are using. Putting a large reel on a lightweight rod may impact your casting.
Fly Reel Housing Material
Three primary materials are used in fly reels: aluminum, plastic/graphite/carbon fiber, or a combination. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages in regards to weight, strength, and durability.
Aluminum is the heaviest but also the strongest of the three materials. It can withstand more abuse and is less likely to break under pressure. However, it is not as corrosion-resistant as graphite or composites.
Graphite reels are much lighter than aluminum but are not as strong. They are more susceptible to breaking under pressure but are more resistant to corrosion.
Composite reels are a combination of both aluminum and graphite. They offer the benefits of both materials in a lighter package. They are also more resistant to breaking and corrosion than either material alone.
Machined vs. Cast Reels
The cheapest fly reels are made of plastic and graphite. However, many low-cost fly reels are metal. The low-cost models are often cast instead of machined. Casting is done by pouring liquid metal into a mold and some casting processes are better than others. Most cast reels are dependable and meet strength requirements. The best cast reels often include a few machined parts. Cast reels have larger tolerances and do not look as refined as most anglers now prefer. Cast reals are usually heavier than machined reels.
Machined reels are cut from a solid block of metal by milling machines. The metal for fly reels is usually aluminum. Machined reels are precision pieces of equipment. However, the machined reel strength is often fairly similar to quality cast reels. Machined fly reels have advantages that include lighter weight, a fine finish, high strength, and the ability to be efficiently anodized.
Reel Drag System
There are a few different drag systems that are most commonly used in fly fishing reels. One of the most popular is the cork disc drag system, which uses a series of washers and discs to create friction against the line. Another option is the Teflon disc drag system, which also uses a series of washers and discs to apply friction but has the added benefit of being waterproof.
Another option for a drag system is synthetic materials, which are often used in combination with metal bearings to provide a smooth and consistent drag. The drum brake is a less common type of drag system, which utilizes a spinning brake drum to apply resistance to the line. And finally, there's the bar brake system, which uses an adjustable lever on one side of the spool to apply pressure to the line.
Sealed disc drag systems are often preferred in saltwater conditions due to the ease of maintenance.
There are a few things to look for when determining the durability of a fly reel. The first is the materials that it is made from. Reels made from cheaper materials, such as plastic, are less likely to last than those made from more durable materials, like aluminum or titanium.
Another thing to look for is the quality of construction. A reel with tight tolerances and good machining will be less likely to wear out than one with sloppy construction. Finally, you can get an idea of how well a reel will hold up by looking at customer reviews. Reels that have a lot of complaints about them not lasting long are probably not very durable.
There is a wide range of prices for the best fly reels, depending on the type of reel and the intended use. For freshwater fly reels, a budget reel can be found for as little as $20-$30, while premium models can cost upwards of $500. Mid-tier reels typically fall in the $100-$200 range.
Freshwater fly fishing reel prices will generally be lower than saltwater models since they don't need to be as durable. However, some high-end freshwater reels can cost as much as saltwater models.
There is also a wide range of prices for saltwater fly reels. Quality budget reels start in the $100-$200 range. Mid-tier models start around $200-$600. And premium reels can cost over $1000.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a fly fishing reel. But if you take the time to figure out what you need, you'll be sure to find the perfect reel for your next fishing adventure.
If you're just starting, we recommend going with a budget reel. You can always upgrade later as you get more experience. But if you're an experienced angler, then you'll probably want to invest in a quality reel that will last for many years.
No matter what your budget is, there's a fly fishing reel out there that's perfect for you.
Selecting Your Fly Reel
Now that you know what to look for in a fly reel, it is time to select the best one for your next fly fishing adventure! Here are some of the best fly reels on the market divided into two categories: freshwater and saltwater. Read through the reviews below and check out some reels today.
Freshwater Fly Reels
This section covers freshwater fly rods that can be used for small to large rivers, streams, and lakes. We have selected rods that are versatile and can be used for a variety of fish including trout, bass, and panfish. Many beginning fly anglers consider trout fishing the ultimate light freshwater experience. The rod weights for this type of fishing generally range from 3 to 6. Check below for Premium, Mid-Tier, and Economy gear in the following reviews.
1 - Premium Gear – Lamson Guru S
Lamson Guru S is a remake of the Guru. The new Guru S is a lighter, narrower reel with an increased arbor size. The Guru S is made of strong lightweight aluminum to reduce weight. This is a great fly reel for anglers that want or need a durable lightweight reel system.
Lamson redesigned the Guru fly reel to provide a more practical reel that is lighter with a larger arbor and narrow spool. An enhanced spool machining technique increases durability and performance. The fly reel is open ported to limit the weight and the engineering has a counterbalance built into the spool. This is a premium reel at a great price and comes in many colors and line weights to provide character to your fishing outfit. This is one of the best fly reels available for freshwater fishing.
- Lifetime Warranty
- Large Arbor
- Conical Drag that is light and strong
- 6061 Aluminum, Type II Anodized
- Lighter than many reels of the same size
- Sizes: 3+, 5+, 7+, 9+
Best Freshwater Fishing Reel
Lamson Guru S - Premium Fly Fishing Reel
2 - Mid-Tier Gear - Redington Rise Fly Reel
The Redington Rise is a die-cast aluminum fly reel that is probably the best trout fly reel. It is affordable and is a great solution for small water and river fishing. This may be the best trout reel with a click-check drag system on the market. Redington Rise is a great basic fly reel that fits the needs of anglers looking for affordable prices.
The die-cast large arbor increases line retrieval in this lightweight reel. The Rise comes in five colors and four sizes. This is the perfect trout reel.
- Lightweight die-cast aluminum with porting
- Click-check drag system with Delrin gear
- Large arbor
- Nylon reel case
- Lifetime warranty for the original owner for material defects and workmanship
- Sizes: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 8/9
Best Fly Fishing Reel - Mid-Tier
3 - Economy-Tier Gear - MaximumCatch Tino Loaded Reel
The Tino is the newest Maxcatch series and is a die-cast fly reel. The reel combines die-casting and machine-cutting technology and is a high-quality fly reel in the economy gear rating level
The Tino series is designed to be a high-performing reel series and is more advanced than any of MaxCatch's previous lines. It's the perfect addition to your fly fishing equipment in the lower-cost market segment.
- Combined die-casting and machine-cutting for strength
- Die-Cast Aluminum Construction
- Teflon disc and stainless steel drag system
- One-way clutch bearing for smooth, immediate drag engagement
- Quick-release spool with easy to switch left- or right-hand retrieve
- Sizes: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8
Best Freshwater Fly Fishing Reel - Economy Tier
4 - Bargain Basement Gear - Aventik HVCE Graphite Fly Reel
The Aventik C-III, Classic III, is a new graphite large arbor fly reel that is lightweight and strong. This is the best fly reel for those just getting into fly fishing. The reel can be ordered with extra spools to have floating, sinking, and intermediate lines on spools that can be easily switched out. The reel is light and matches well with lighter rods. The only issue with the construction is the reeling handle, which works well, but can be damaged if dropped on a rock.
- Polymeric material that is made for durability and corrosion resistance.
- Large arbor design for backing capacity and fast retrieve.
- Rugged central disc drag for extremely smooth and consistent drag control.
- One-way bearing for easy conversion between hands, silent forward retrieve, and a clear clicker sound on drag
- Sizes: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8
Best Freshwater Fly Fishing Reel Bargain Basement
Aventic C-III Series
Saltwater Fly Reels
This section covers the best saltwater fly reels that can be used for larger flies and fish. We have selected reels that are versatile and can be used for a variety of saltwater fish and the largest freshwater fish including salmon, steelhead, pike, and tiger muskies. The reel line weights for this type of fishing generally range from 8 to 15. The cost of saltwater reels is higher than freshwater due to the need for strength and resistance to corrosive elements. Buying a bargain-basement reel is discouraged due to the strength of the fish you will be fighting. You do not want your reel to burst apart or your drag to burn up when these large fish take off. Check below for Premium, Mid-Tier, and Economy gear in the following reviews.
1 - Premium Gear – Galvan Torque
The Galvan Torque is a premier reel that is high-performing and versatile. The Torque is engineered from T-6061 aluminum with T2 anodizing. The reel works for both freshwater big game fish and saltwater species. The reel has great stopping power and balances the weight of many fly rods. The Galvan Torque is one of the best fly reels on the market.
The reel models range from a 2-3 weight to a 12 weight. We recommend the 8 weight to the 12 weight for saltwater fly fishing. The EZ Grip reel handle and maximum porting make this a great-looking reel that comes in several colors.
- Torque Drag System is a disc drag system
- High-tech plastic bushing for near-frictionless spool rotation.
- Large arbor to pick up line quickly
- CNC machined T-6061 aircraft-grade aluminum
- T2 Anodized to prevent corrosion
- Lifetime warranty for original owner materials and defects
- Sizes: 8-weight to 12-weight for saltwater fishing
Best Premium Saltwater Fly Fishing Reel
Galvan Torque 8-weight to 12-weight
2 - Mid-Tier Gear – Redington Grande
The Redington Grande is their top saltwater fly reel series. The reel is CNC machined from T-6061 aluminum and has a great drag system. This is a premium saltwater fishing reel that any saltwater enthusiast will enjoy.
Stunningly beautiful and built to last, this is one of the best reels on the market for fly fishing enthusiasts who want something affordable.
The V-shaped arbor has a user-friendly functionality that puts this reel in the top tier for performance. The design of the Grande balances larger saltwater fly rods extremely well. The drag is impressively strong and requires no maintenance even when it is used in rugged environments like inner coastal and deep-sea saltwater conditions.
- Fully sealed Super-Torque disc drag system
- Multidisc full-contact carbon-fiber disc drag system
- Button technology that prevents start-up friction
- CNC machined T-6061 aircraft-grade aluminum
- Lifetime warranty for original owner materials and defects
- Sizes: 7 wt to 14-wt
Best Mid-Teir Saltwater Fly Fishing Reel
Redington Grande 7-weight to 14-weight
3 - Economy Gear – Piscifun Platte Pro
The Piscifun Platte Pro is their top saltwater fly reel series. The reel is CNC machined from T-6061 aluminum and has a great drag system. This is a great saltwater fishing reel for those that are just starting out in saltwater fishing or in large freshwater gamefish.
This fly reel is built to last and has a lifetime warranty. You can't beat this model for an entry level reel. It comes in sizes from 3/4 up to 13/14 weights. We recommend the 7/8 to 13/14 weights for saltwater conditions. Check out our article on deep-sea and inner coastal saltwater rods for more information on sizing.
The large arbor reel has a large drag knob that looks stylish and provides a great range of settings. One drawback is that it is not marked with drag settings, which makes it difficult to have the rod preset for your trip other than by feel.
The sealed drag is impressively strong and requires no maintenance even when it is used in rugged environments like inner coastal and deep-sea saltwater conditions.
- Innovative Full-size Drag Knob
- Platte Pro frame is comfortable with a great grip
- Fully Sealed Drag that is impervious to water, sand and grit.
- Corrosion-resistant coating on aluminum make a great reel saltwater fishing
- Precision CNC Machined Aluminum Body of 6061-T6
- Large Arbor Spool Design with increased retrieval rate
- Several colors available
- Sizes: 5/6 wt to 13/14-wt
Best Economy Saltwater Fly Reel
Piscifun Platte Pro 8-weight to 14-weight
This is the best fly fishing reel if you are on a budget to start your saltwater fishing adventure. This reel available will handle the needs of saltwater fishing. This reel can also be used for larger freshwater fish like salmon, steelhead, pike, muskie, and carp.
Best Fly Fishing Reels FAQs
Choosing the right reel can be difficult. Many brands range from well-known to low-cost imports. The price ranges, features, and quality can all impact your buying decision. We've created a comprehensive buyers guide of frequently asked questions to help you choose the best fly fishing reel for your needs. This guide will help you understand what to look for when choosing the best fly fishing reels for 2022.
What is a good trout fly reel?
A good trout fly reel is lightweight, yet durable. It should have a smooth drag system that can handle larger fish. Additionally, it may be helpful if the reel has an audible clicker to let you know when a fish is taking line.
How much should you spend on a fly reel?
How much you should spend on a fly reel depends on your budget and what kind of fishing you plan on doing. If you are going to be doing a lot of saltwater fishing, then you will want to invest in a higher-quality reel that can stand up to the corrosive nature of salt water.
If you plan on doing a lot of big game fishing, then you will want a reel with a high drag rating so that you can put the brakes on those big fish. But for the average freshwater angler, there are plenty of quality reels out there that won't break the bank.
One thing to keep in mind is that fly reels are designed to work in conjunction with your particular rod. So, if you have your heart set on a certain reel, make sure that it is compatible with the rod you plan on using it with.
How do I choose a fly reel?
When choosing the best fly reel for you, consider the size of the fish that you're targeting, the weight of the line that you'll be using, and your budget.
For smaller fish, a 3- or 4-weight reel will work well. For larger fish or heavier fly lines, you'll need a larger reel with more line capacity.
And finally, remember to consider your budget when making your decision. You can find good-quality fly reels for under $200, but if you're looking for something top of the line, you'll likely need to spend more.
In general, I would recommend going with a reputable brands like the brands covered in this article, Redington, Mako, Tibor, MaximumCatch, Orvis, and Aventik when choosing.
Does the fly reel need to match rod weight?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some anglers feel that it's important to use a reel that's equal in weight rating to the rod, while others believe that it's more important to use a reel that has a higher drag rating than the rod. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.
What does 7/8 mean on a fly reel?
The 7/8 is the line weight rating for the reel and generally is used to match the rod with the fishing line weight. If you have more than one rod, this marking is helpful because it allows you to match reels, lines, and rods quickly. Generally, as the number goes up, the arbor size increases. You can also select standard, mid-arbor, and large-arbor reels to hold the amount of backing you need when fighting specific fish species. The longer the run lengths expected, the larger the arbor should be.
Does fly reel size matter?
Yes and no. It depends on what you're fishing for. If you're targeting big fish, then you'll need a reel that can handle a lot of line and that has a high drag capacity. If you're targeting smaller fish, then a smaller reel will do just fine.
Gear Up and Get Outdoors!
So, now that you have looked through all of the information above, you are probably ready to choose the best fly reels for your needs. It is obvious that each fly fishing reel has pros and cons, and the best fly reel varies from person to person based on skill level, your target species, the waterbodies you fish, how you treat your gear, and your pocketbook. We've tried to provide a variety of the best fly reels for you to choose from based on reading thousands of reviews and personal experience in fly fishing. We hope that you found this information helpful and that you find the best fly reel for you. All you have to do now is tap the Check Price button on the best fly fishing reel for you so that you can Gear up and Get Outdoors! Thanks for stopping by!