Top 5 Best Budget Fly Reels (2023 Buyers Guide)

Our expert angler breaks down the best budget fly reels in 2023 including saltwater reels, beginner reels, pro reels, what to look for in fly reels, & more.

Getting into fly fishing can be a daunting task, never mind looking for the best budget fly reels suited to your needs. One of the options is to go for a complete fly fishing outfit or combo (see our 10 Best Fly Rod Combos).

Quick Look: Best Budget Fly Reels

#1 Best Budget Fly Reel: Maxcatch Eco


But if you’re like me, you’d want more control over what you buy.

This guide will assist you in choosing the best budget fly reel. I still make use of some of the budget fly fishing reels that I bought 8 years ago. It goes to show that if you buy it right, you’ll only buy it once.

Sage Spectrum Max Fly Reel Lineup

Similarly, if you’re buying fly fishing gifts for a friend or a loved one, you want to make sure that they don’t have to take it in for repairs after just a few uses.

If you’re looking to shop for fly reels, have a look at our Guide To The Best Fly Reels Overall to ensure you get the best reel possible.

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5 Best Budget Fly Reels

The guide is split into two main sections. Firstly, we cover 5 of the top budget reels for fly fishing on the market today. Secondly, we have a look at features you need to consider when considering a budget fly reel.

Whether you’re planning on fishing the quiet rivers of Iiowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, or the large lakes of Wyoming and Montana, you’ll want a fly reel that can stand up to the task, without costing too much.

1. Maxcatch Eco

  • Drag System: Disc drag
  • Models: 5 models suitable from a 1 weight to an 8 weight
  • Claimed Weight (suitable 6 weight): 5.64 ounces
  • Backing Capacity (suitable 6 weight): 60 yards of 20lb Dacron
  • Width (6 weight): 1.02 inch
  • Outer Diameter (6 weight): 3.35 inch
  • Pros: Low price
  • Cons: Durability is a question, heavyweight and low backing capacity

The Maxcatch Eco offers incredible value for money as it is incredibly cheap. Its frame is constructed using the die-cast method, and then polished. The reel is finished in either a silver, black, or rainbow trout finish.

I would opt for either the silver or black finish, as the rainbow trout finish looks more like an 80’s disco outfit than a real trout.

This reel is perfect for the beginner or someone who mostly uses their reel as a line carrier. It has ample stopping power for most freshwater species.

The backing capacity is 60 yards for an equivalent 6 weight model – which is fine for normal freshwater species.

I would recommend this reel to a newcomer to the sport or someone who only fishes a couple of times a season.


2. Orvis Clearwater

  • Drag System: Disc drag
  • Models: 2 models available. The LA II for 4 – 6 weights and the LA IV for 7 to 9 weights.
  • Claimed Weight (suitable 6 weight): 5.4 ounces
  • Backing Capacity (suitable 6 weight): 75 yards of 20lb Dacron
  • Width (6 weight): not disclosed
  • Outer Diameter (6 weight) 3.5 inch
  • Pros: Good value for money
  • Cons: Heavyweight

The Orvis Clearwater is die-cast constructed and finished with a matte grey powder coat finish. It has a large arbor and good backing carrying capacity.

The Clearwater is available in two sizes. The LA II for 4, 5 weight and 6 weight rods and lines, and the LA IV for 7 weight rods, 8 weight and 9 weight outfits.

Although, as indicated by Orvis, it is capable of balancing a 9 weight rod, if you’re hooking this reel up to your best saltwater rod, I would not recommend exposing the reel itself to excessive saltwater use.

The drag is strong and more than adequate for most freshwater species.

This is an excellent budget fly reel that will serve you, dependably, for years.

Orvis also offers this reel in their Clearwater Combo, which includes the Clearwater rod, backing and fly line and is one of our favorite full fly fishing combos on the market today.

Also, don’t miss our full hands-on Orvis Clearwater Review.


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3. Cheeky Preload

  • Drag System: Disc drag
  • Models: 3 models available. The 300 for lines 2 to 4 weight, the 350 for 5 to 6 weights, and the 375 for 7 and 8 weights
  • Claimed Weight (suitable 6 weight): 4.4 ounces
  • Backing Capacity (suitable 6 weight): not disclosed
  • Width (6 weight): 0.9 inch
  • Outer Diameter (6 weight): 3.5 inch
  • Pros: Comes preloaded with backing, fly line, and tapered leader, lightweight
  • Cons: Nothing

According to me, Cheeky has hit a home run with the Cheeky Preload. For $99 you get a very lightweight reel pre-loaded (hence the name) with backing, fly line, and a tapered leader.

Pop this onto a suitable rod, and you’re good to go.

The reel is manufactured using the die-cast process but then finished off by popping it into a CNC machine. The result is a low-cost, lightweight reel.

As with most reels in this price range, it offers a stacked disc drag system. It provides ample stopping power and does so quite smoothly.

If you are new to fly fishing or have never heard of Cheeky fly reels before, I would just like to mention that despite its quirky name, it’s a budget to mid-range fly reel brand that you can take seriously.


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4. Redington Behemoth

  • Drag System: carbon fiber disc
  • Models: 5 models available. There’s Behemoth that covers from 4 to 12 weight applications
  • Claimed weight (suitable 6 weight): 5.7 ounces
  • Backing capacity (suitable 6 weight): 125 yards
  • Width (6 weight): not disclosed
  • Outer diameter (6 weight): 3.6 inch
  • Pros: Great value for money, strong drag
  • Cons: Heavy

For the beginner saltwater angler who is looking for the best high-value, low-cost reel, the Redington Behemoth has you covered.

The reel is available in 5 sizes, from a 4/5 weight model to an 11/12 beast. For more individuality, it also comes in black, gunmetal, desert, and O.D. Green, and hunter orange colors.

Made out of die-cast aluminum, you’ll find that for its size, it is slightly heavier than most other reels. But for the price and performance, the weight penalty is negligible.

On some of the reels that I have tested, the drag knob and reel handle felt a little wobbly.

The Behemoth features a carbon disc drag system that is ample for most saltwater species. Check out our Redington Behemoth Review here.


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5. Sage Spectrum C

  • Drag System: Sealed carbon fiber disc drag
  • Models: 4 models available, covering 3 to 10 weight outfits
  • Claimed weight (suitable 6 weight): 4 7/8 ounces
  • Backing capacity (suitable 6 weight): 100 yards
  • Width (6 weight): 1 5/16 inches
  • Outer diameter (6 weight): 3 5/8 inches
  • Pros: Great value for money, strong drag
  • Cons: Nothing

The Spectrum C is Sage’s budget fly reel. Obviously, the name does come at a certain premium, but I strongly feel that the product itself is really good value for money.

Sage has also been in the business for a long time and probably will be in the future. That gives you peace of mind should anything have to be repaired or serviced in the future.

The reel has a die-cast construction, is machine-finished (CNC), and comes in either a black or grey powder-coated finish. A sealed carbon disc drag system rounds off this value package.

If you want a budget reel that will last many years, this is a very good option.


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Trident Fly Fishing

What Makes A Good Budget Fly Reel?

Selecting a budget fly reel is completely different from selecting, for instance, a premium fly reel. In most cases, choosing a good value for the money is harder to do, because you don’t have the luxury of only looking at features and top specs.

Best Budget Fly Reels lined up

You have to balance it all with the weight (or thickness) of your wallet.

Below, I have gone through some considerations that will assist you when looking for the best budget fly fishing reels.

The Price

The first place to start a budget fly reel discussion will, naturally, be price. With that, I would like to ask the rhetorical question: “What does a budget fly reel cost?”

That may differ between all of us. My gauge for this category are reels that cost less than $150. For real, anything over $150 starts moving into the mid-range category, and when you get to about $500, you’re looking at premium stuff.

My advice to you when going out to buy a budget fly reel (or any gear, for that matter), decide for yourself what budget means and what you are willing to spend. In our list above, we looked at reels below $150.


Most of the reels in this price range will either be plastic (some of the really cheap ones still are) or die-cast.

Die-cast is when a metal alloy is melted and then cast into a mold. It’s a much cheaper process than straight CNC and they can mix in less expensive materials. The result is usually a stiffer, heavier reel.

Two fly reels in grass by river

Be careful of letting it fall, though, as most cast products tend to be more brittle than forged or machined units.

In this price range, most reels will also have a powder coat finish, especially when they are colored.

Drag System

For small fish applications and small streams, consider a clicker reel. They don’t offer high drag capabilities, but in these scenarios, it’s not necessary. The reel is basically a line holder that ensures you do not get an overwind.

A clicker-drag system is very reliable, so you’ll have a budget reel that can provide you with many years of service.

For the rest of the applications, most reels will come with a stacked disc drag. Depending on the brand and price, these discs might be made of stainless steel, carbon fiber, Rulon, or a mixture of these.

The drag will mostly be sealed to some degree. Although I must urge you not to expose reels in this price range to excessive saltwater.


With the construction taken into account, most of the budget fly reels won’t be very light. This might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Chances are, if you’re looking for a budget fly reel, you’re planning to strap it onto a budget fly rod or pack it away in your fly fishing vest, your fly fishing pack or the pocket in your waders.

Budget fly rod and reel on table

More important than specific weight is the total balance of the rod, reel, and line combination. So instead of looking at weight, think of how the reel will suit and balance the intended rod.

Arbor Size

A large arbor fly reel assists with two issues. The first is that it reduces, to some degree, the amount of memory that your fly line obtains while stored on your reel. Obviously, this is also dependent on the quality of the fly line that you are using.

But, in general, the larger the arbor, the fewer issues you’ll have with line memory.

A larger arbor also helps you pick up line faster when you are reeling it in. I’ve seen many fish lost due to low line tension when the fisherman can’t reel fast enough.

In my opinion, buy the largest arbor you can find suitable for your rod.

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Concluding The Best Budget Fly Reels

Somewhere in your fly fishing career, you will look at buying a budget-friendly fly reel. Whether it’s for a backup setup or to get your significant other to join you on the water – choosing the best budget fly reel is essential.

I hope that this guide assisted you, or at least, pointed you in a helpful direction. Please let me know what your experiences are.

Until next time.

Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Disclaimer: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see our Privacy Page for more information.

Pierre is a fly fishing guide and professional photographer who has guided and hosted trips for top fly fishing outfitters. Since being introduced to fly fishing over 21 years ago, he has travelled, fished and guided across the globe. He has extensive knowledge on specific gear and tackle selection for various salt- and freshwater species. Some of his writing work includes blogposts for Alphonse Fishing Company and African Waters.

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