Getting started: The fly reel

Big-game reels, like this Sage Spectrum MAX, are vital for anglers who chase big fish, particularly in saltwater. But for trout anglers, fly reels aren't nearly as important as a good rod, or a good fly line. 

Fly reels are, at their core, simple instruments, and for trout anglers, rarely should they be considered any more important than a good rod or a good fly line. For most trout anglers, fly reels amount to a tool to store fly line when it's not being cast or in the water. 

For larger fish—particularly saltwater fish—fly reels become much more important components of the fly-fishing outfit, simply because they are used more often when actually fighting fish. The construction of these "big-game" reels is of particular to anglers who frequently find themselves connected to big, fast angry fish that seem to have boundless energy and unbelievable strength. 

But, for those starting out fishing for trout or bluegill or even bass to a lesser extent, the reel isn't used as often in the actual fish-fighting process. Most trout anglers will strip line in with their off hand when fighting fish rather than use the reel. That may not be true for larger trout, where "getting them on the reel" is important, but generally speaking, fly reels for trout anglers amount to line holders. 

For that reason, there's no sense in spending a fortune on a fly reel if you're just starting out and bonefish aren't on your immediate fishing menu. A good, drag-free or click-and-pawl fly reel won't set you back much, and it'll hold line just as well as your guide's $400 anodized aluminum reel with the fancy etching and all the trappings. 

It's much more important to learn line control when fly fishing than it is to retrieve line using the reel. When you're shopping for that first trout fly-fishing outfit, don't spend a fortune on a reel. Chances are, you'll never see your backing on a trout reel, and, if you're lucky, you'll get to test it against a really big fish only a handful of times. And most fly reels—even the most basic of implements—can handle that. 

— Chris Hunt

For more in this series:


Add Content