The never ending debate amongst anglers goes like this..."a fly reel does nothing but hold your backing and fly line, so don't spend a lot of money on your reel." "A fly reel does a lot more than hold your backing and fly line, so make sure you buy a good one." "Large arbor reels are better reels." Here's FCFF no non-sense take on the subject..."it depends." But before we explain and give our final say, allow us to walk you through reels 101.
Action of Fly Reels
- A single action reel is the most popular type of fly reel on the market today. This means the reel has a 1:1 retrieve ration. A complete turn of the handle equals one complete turn of the spool. Mechanically, this style of reel is simple and if made with quality parts, should last a lifetime.
- A multiplying reel has a retrieve ratio greater than 1:1. Obviously, the benefit of this feature is an angler's ability to retrieve line faster when reeling. Mechanically, they are more complicated than a single action reel, and if high quality parts are not used, then these reels can cause problems (speaking from experience).
- By the use of a trigger, not a handle, an automatic reel, automatically retrievers fly line. Mechanically, this means more moving parts, probable to high failure rates, and adds un-necessary weight to the reel. To be short and direct, do not purchase this type of reel.
|Classic Spring and Pawl Reel|
|Large Arbor Reel with Cork Disc-Drag System|
Note: Before moving on, we should mention the following: a 2lb fish in a fast moving current, with rocks and sub-merged trees, will test an angler using a light weight, e.g. medium action 4wt rod with a spring and pawl reel. Again, the choice of equipment (reels) depends on situational and personal preference factors.
It's simple, remember fly rod weight = fly line weight = fly reel weight.
Note: I typically line-up my reels. I do this because I like how the extra weight loads my rod. For example, I will add a 6wt line to a 9ft/5wt rod. Due to the larger diameter of the 6wt line, I will then reduce my backing so the rod-reel-line is properly balanced.
Buying a reel that offers both left and right handed retrieves is optimal, and does not effect the overall performance and value of the reel. Plus, if you ever hand the rod down to a family member or have a desire to sell it, a left and right retrieve option is a must have feature. Note: Many beginners make this mistake...be sure to spool your backing and fly line properly so the spool's revolution matches a left of right handed retrieve.
|Modern Large Arbor and Spare Spool|
Spare spools are a matter of convenience and personal preference. Most fisherman inter-change spools to change from a floating line to a sinking line. However, what most fisherman fail to realize is that 95% of their time on the water, will only require floating line (depends on waters fished). So why buy an extra spool lined with sinking line, and then carry a heavy-bulky object in your vest that you rarely use? If you find yourself in a situation that requires various types of sinking lines, then you may need a spare spool with a sinking line. Personally, I do have a spare spool (only one), but I travel the world, and I fish in highly specialized waters. Overall, let's say for trout fishing, I don't find spare spools to be a must have item. To go deep, you can lengthen your leader and simply add split-shot; or you could use inter-changeable sinking tips (Poly-Leaders, for example). The downside to these methods is the casting 'feel' stroke (it may feel clunky). As I initially stated, it's a matter of convenience and personal preference. Lastly, if you do not buy spare spools when you purchase your reel, in the future, finding a spare spool that fits your reel, might become challenging.
Note: I recommend buying reels that offer an exposed rim so that the angler may palm the reel (this may be hard to find in older spring and pawl reels). Palming is a technique where the angler gently applies pressure to the exposed rim of the spool while the fish runs. The small amount of pressure from the palm of the hand becomes your drag system.
|Large Arbor spooled with backing and fly line|
When you narrow down your reel choices, I would always recommend going with the lightest, yet structurally strongest reel possible (not the strongest drag system). Why? With a light weight reel and a well balance outfit, you'll be less likely to experience hand-wrist-arm stress/fatigue. Note: beware of low cost, light weight reels made from plastic parts.
|Large Arbor Saltwater Reel. Fish is already into the backing!|
A reel of any sort worse enemies are salt and sand! You could use your freshwater reel in saltwater conditions, but if your real is of poor quality and you do not properly clean you reel after use, it will ultimately corrode and fail. Things to look for in a good saltwater reel: high quality parts designed to take saltwater punishment, and your reel needs to hold at last 200 yards of 30lbs backing (ocean fish are big, strong and fast!). Many high-end ($) reels today have been engineered for both sweet and saltwater. But, remember to chose the lightest weight reel possible (not the strongest drag system).
Always remember, the most important equipment in fly fishing is not your reel, it's your brain and heart.