Quick Guide to Select a Fly Reel

Posted March 25, 2021 by dupeafish

Once you have the right reel to go with the rod weight, you can move to the style or type of reel.

Once you have chosen your rod, you need to choose a fly reel. The first thing to check is the rod weight you have. You will need a reel that is numbered for the correct reel-to-rod pairing. For example, if I have a 5wt rod, you need a reel labeled for a 5 wt such as: 4/5, 4-6, 5/6 etc. Once you have the right reel to go with the rod weight, you can move to the style or type of reel.

Arbor Size

The arbor of the reel refers to the diameter of the spool that holds the line.

Knowing your style of fishing will help determine this choice. For big game or saltwater fish, you need a large arbor reel. These reels pick up more lines per reel turn compared to a small arbor reel.

A small arbor reel works great for smaller fish, such as trout and bass. Smaller species do not run like big game fish and often, you can fight a smaller fish simply by stripping in your fly line through your hands.


Sealed drag is best for people who like saltwater fishing. However, a sealed drag isn’t always necessary, and there are many big game saltwater anglers who still prefer cork drag.

Click-and-pawl reels are common for you if you are fishing for smaller species. If you’re chasing trout, bass, or other lighter tackle species, a heavy-duty sealed drag system isn’t usually necessary.

Tip: When saltwater fishing a good idea is to rinse your rod and reel thoroughly after every outing. The saltwater can eat away at the various materials causing things like pitting and overall degradation of the equipment.

Plastic, Cast Aluminum, or Machined Aluminum

If you are still finding your way around your gear, get machined aluminum reels. It is less prone to breakage and distortion compared to an aluminum cast reel. Plastic reels are the cheapest but also least durable. However, they are good for fly fishing beginners. They can fulfill simple fly-fishing demands, like storing line, retrieving, and letting out line. Cast aluminum reels are better than plastic molded reels. Because of the characteristic nature of pressure-cast aluminum, the tendency for a cast aluminum reel to distort or break is higher if dropped or subject to abnormal pressure. Cast aluminum is heavier than machined aluminum but does not offer the same structural integrity as a machined reel. Machined reels are made out of a single block of aluminum and then typically anodized to add durability and resistance to corrosion. This gives you a reel that can last a lifetime, if properly maintained and taken good care of.

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Author: Christian Bacasa
Dupe a Fish, LLC.

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Last Updated March 25, 2021