Choosing the best fly reel may not be quite as important as choosing some of the other gear in your kit, like rods and flies, but it’s still important to know exactly what you’re looking for when shopping for reels.

Our team at Into Fly Fishing has personally tested nearly 100 of the best fly reels on the market. Among us, we have over 100 years of fly fishing experience. We’ve put these reels through their paces and chosen our top fly reels in 2022 based on weight, comfort, build quality, warranty, and overall performance.

OUR TOP 3 FLY REELS 2022

Lamson Speedster S 3+ (Best overall)
Redington Behemoth (Best value)
Maxcatch Avid (Best budget)

We haven’t just chosen these reels based on our opinions. We’ve selected them after countless hours of research, and by comparing user reviews online. For most of these reels, we’ve already done a separate hands-on review, so you can learn more about our overall thoughts for individual reels.

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In this post, I’m going to list all of the best fly fishing reels to buy in 2022. Many of these reels have been around for years and still stay at the top of the heap when it comes to quality, durability, and function. But, I’m still going to list the best of the brand new reels that came out in 2022 to keep this list up to date.

Quick Look: The Best Fly Reels

#1 Best Fly Reel Overall: Lamson Speedster 

► WATCH THE VIDEO

There are different fly reels for different species of fish, as well as different conditions, casting techniques, water sources, and weights of fly rods. In this post, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about choosing the perfect fly reel, no matter your fishing scenario.

What Are the Best Fly Reels?

A lot of people ask us about the best fly reels in 2022, and after researching all of the best reels on the market, we came up with this simple answer:

The best fly reels are the Redington Behemoth, Maxcatch Avid, Redington Rise, Lamson Speedster S, Sage Thermo (for salt water), Lamson Light Speed G5, and Orvis Hydros SL.

Update 2022: Late in 2020 Lamson came out with a new Lamson Speedster S – 3+, a complete redesign of their previous Lamson Speedster models with a faster line retrieve rate and a 20% reduction in overall weight.

Because of this, the Speedster S – 3+ now tops our list of the best reels in 2022. Even if you already have a previous model of the Speedster S in your kit, this new version might warrant an upgrade. 

 


The Best Fly Fishing Reels in 2022

Alright, let’s get started with this list. These are the top picks for the best fly reels of all time. Not all of these reels were manufactured in 2022 because, hey, sometimes the best fly reels in 2019 are still the best in 2022. What was great 10 years ago may still be great today. 

That’s why you’ll find that in this list of top 10 fly reels, there are some new models that came out in 2022 and also some older classics.

Here it goes, the best fly reels 2022 has to offer.

Lamson Speedster S Reel1. Lamson Speedster S – Best Overall

  • Pros: Hyper-light, beautiful design, durable, machined
  • Cons: High price
  • Arbor: Super large
  • Available weights: 3-10

Lamson has always made some great quality reels, and while some of the others in the line like the Guru reels could be a bit lighter, Speedster S is their cream-of-the-crop ultra-lightweight fly reel with the highest retrieve rate.

The beautiful looking, extremely large arbor design makes this the ideal fly reel for saltwater fishing, but the Speedster is a very desirable reel for all water types.

Like with all Lamson reels (including the awesome Lamson Guru series), the Lamson Speedster sounds amazing, with a loud, tinny purr for the peel out and a satisfying reel-in click.

Lamson Speedster S Closeup

Taking in an incredible 9.64 inches of line per turn, it’s also one of the largest arbor reels on this list, meaning that you’ll get the fish in the net faster than with pretty much any other reel on the market.

If you’re willing to spend $450 on a fly reel, then you’re probably not the type of angler who’s looking to cheap out on your gear. The Lamson Speedster S is worth the money for sure, thanks to its futuristic, high-quality design, functional fast retrieve, excellent seal drag system, and high-quality material.

Lamson Speedster S Specs & Info

Overall weight: 3.83 oz Spool diameter: 3.65″
Material: Machined 6061 aluminum Spool capacity: WF6 + 100 yds/20 lbs
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: 3+ – 9+ (3wt-9wt)
Warranty: Lifetime warranty Colors: Ember, midnight
Made in: USA Drag type: Teflon/Delrin alloy conical drag

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My Redington Behemoth Fly Reel on The Orvis Clearwater Rod2. Redington Behemoth – Best Value Fly Reel

  • Pros: Quick retrieve, good value, good sound, great drag
  • Cons: Die-cast aluminum, slightly loose drag knob

I know I listed die-cast aluminum construction as a con, but even though the Redington Behemoth reel is die-cast, it’s no slouch. There’s a reason that this reel isn’t machined. 

This is easily one of the best fly reels for the money, and it tops our list as the best fly fishing reel for the price.

When you look at the intertwined, twin-molded design, you’ll see that there’s no way you could machine this reel.

But that doesn’t mean it sacrifices quality. The unique design gives the reel an incredibly durable and long-lasting final product, as evident by their lifetime warranty.

Redington is known for putting some of the most effective drag-systems in their reels, and the Behemoth is no different.

If you’re an angler into looking cool on the river, this beautiful reel comes in five colors: black, gunmetal grey, desert yellow, hunter orange, and OD green.

The one issue with this reel is that while it has some of the best drag mechanisms inside of it, the drag and spool knobs that you have to use on a daily basis do feel a bit wobbly and cheap. Despite this, the Behemoth is still one of the top rated fly reels out there.

The Behemoth will be a great reel for fresh water, but it’s best for salt water and largemouth bass fishing. I’d go as far as to say that where value is concerned, the Redington Behemoth is likely one of the best fly reels of all time.

If you’re interested in this reel, be sure to check out our full, hands-on Redington Behemoth Review.

Note, below are the specs and info for the Redington Behemoth. Specs and info for every reel in this post, including weight, diameter, and size, are listed for the 5wt reel variety unless otherwise specified.

Redington Behemoth Specs & Info

Overall weight: 5.2 oz Spool diameter: 3.6″
Material: Die-cast aluminum Spool capacity: WF6 + 125 m/20 lb
Arbor size: Super large Sizes available: #4/5 – #11/12
Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty Colors: Hunter orange, gun metal, black, OD green
Made in: China Drag type: Carbon fiber disc drag

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3. Maxcatch Avid – Best Budget Fly Reel

  • Pros: Med-arbor, good sound, amazing price
  • Cons: Sub-par drag adjustment, cast aluminum design

My Maxcatch Avid fly reel has lasted me through years of fishing and, while it’s a bit heavy, is a great quality reel. I’ve fished this thing extensively and it does the trick. No, it won’t compare to a $1000 reel, and it’s probably not the best fly fishing reel money can buy, but it doesn’t have to be at under $100!

I have to say that this is probably one of the best fly fishing reels under $100…and it’s less than half of that price.

Fly reels in the Maxcatch line are surprisingly well-built for the money. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but when you’re looking for a budget reel, or a budget fly fishing setup, you really can’t go wrong with the Maxcatch brand.

My Maxcatch reels have lasted me and they feel great. The Maxcatch Avid is the best of the bunch, especially considering that you can pick one up for under less than the cost of a cheap dinner for two.

The main con about this reel is that the machining can be a bit misaligned sometimes, making the spool feel a bit wobbly. But honestly, for the price, you can’t really complain.

If you’re looking to get into fly fishing for the first time and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on your kit, then get the Maxcatch Avid reel. It comes in 3-8 weight sizes.

Maxcatch Avid Specs & Info

Overall weight: 4.55 oz Spool diameter: 3.4″
Material: Machined 6061 T6 aluminum Spool capacity: WF6 + 125 m/20 lb
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: #1/3 – #9/10
Warranty: 1 yr manufacturer default Colors: Black, blue, silver, green
Made in: China Drag type: Teflon disc & stainless steel

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My Redington Rise Reel with Pouch4. Redington Rise – Best Midrange Fly Reel

  • Pros: Large arbor, machined aluminum, fully sealed for salt water, great sound
  • Cons: Nothing at this price

The Redington Rise reel has long been a top performer. I’ve just added it to this list of the best reels in 2022 because after fishing it extensively, the team agrees that it’s a top mid-range option.

Coming in at under $250, it’s actually still on the budget end of fly reels, but it’s not built like one. The most recent generation of the Redington Rise has a redesigned U-shaped arbor and a quick-release spool.

They built the reel with a carbon fiber disc drag system that’s incredibly powerful. 

Removing Redington Rise Spool From Reel

Like the Redington Behemoth, the drag on the Rise has a sealed drag system that’s powerful enough for bass and saltwater fly fishing in the larger weights. The reel knob and drag knob are both very ergonomic, and it feels comfortable in hand. 

The Rise ships with a nice nylon reel case, and you can even put the case over the reel while it’s attached to the rod. I love these types of reel cases for this reason.

The retrieval rate is great with the Rise because the huge arbor means that you’ll get the fish in quickly without loading the spool up with too much backing.

Redington Rise Specs & Info

Overall weight: 4.6 oz Spool diameter: 3.6″
Material: Anodized 6061-T6 aluminum Spool capacity: WF5/100 yds/20 lb
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: #3/4 – #9/10
Warranty: Lifetime warranty Colors: Black, silver, amber
Made in: USA Drag type: Compact carbon fiber

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Sage Thermo 2022 Saltwater Reel5. Sage Thermo – Best Saltwater Fly Reel (New 2022)

  • Pros: Best sound, machined ultra-high quality aluminum, great value
  • Cons: A bit heavy

The Thermo is Sage’s newest big game reel, and it’s blowing their previous reels out of the water.

Sage doesn’t actually have the best track record when it comes to saltwater reels, however. I mean, I’ve owned plenty of Sage reels and they always make a great product, but their big game reels (like the previous 6000 and 8000) were never their top performers, until the Thermo.

This reel is a great value, especially considering it has the Sage logo on it. This new reel is redesigned from the ground up with the specific purpose of targeting huge game like tarpon and GT.

The drag on the Thermo can pull about 16 lbs, which is comparable to some other great reels like the Mako 9600. You’ll be able to access every pound of this drag thanks to the hard stop on the easy-to-set, numbered, oversized, click-drag knob.

This reel only comes in two sizes, the 10/12 and the 12/16. The 10/12 is great for tarpon and GT, while the 12/16 is good for tuna, billfish, and other larger game.

Wide Sage Thermo Reel on Table

The ergonomics of this reel are what sets it apart from other saltwater reels. There’s a large handle to quickly grasp the knob when big game start peeling out, and what you’ll immediately notice is the enormous drag knob. This is probably the biggest drag knob of any reel you’ll find on the market.

One main thing I’m not crazy about when it comes to the Sage Thermo reel (aside from the $700 price tag) is the weight. This reel is a bit heavier than other reels in this price range like the Hatch 9+ and the Nautilis GTX.

We’ll have a full hands-on review for the Sage Thermo fly reel coming soon. This is definitely one of the best fly reels 2022 offered in terms of new releases.

Sage Thermo Specs & Info

Overall weight: 15 oz (10/12) Spool diameter: 4.4″
Material: Machined aluminum Spool capacity: WF12 + 400yds GSP backing
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: #10/12 – #12/16
Warranty: Lifetime warranty Colors: Stealth (black), champagne
Made in: Korea Drag type: Heat dissipating SCS

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Lamson Light Speed G5 - Best Trout Reel6. Lamson Litespeed G5 – Best Trout Fly Reel

  • Pros: Great drag system, good for salt and fresh water
  • Cons: High price, not the best-looking design
  • Arbor: Large
  • Available weights: 3-12

It’s really not a big surprise that another Lamson reel shows up in this lineup. They’ve been consistently building some of the best reels on the market for years now, and the G5 is the best of the bunch.

In 2015, Trident Fly Fishing did a pretty extensive scientific analysis of 25 different 5-weight fly reels, and they chose the Lamson Light Speed IV as their clear winner.

At that time, I agreed with the overall analysis, as the Lamson Light Speed IV is a great reel. Lamson has since released the Light Speed G5 fly reel, which I think takes the new trophy home as the best trout fly reel on the market.

It has all the pros of the Light Speed IV, including the light, strong design, huge arbor size, and smooth drag, but it has a cleaner finish and higher quality 6061 bar stock aluminum material, which means that it’s corrosion-resistant even after being scratched and dinged.

It may not look as sexy as some of the other reels on the market, but the G5 gets the job done better than all others. When you’re looking for the best fly fishing reel for trout, you probably aren’t too worried about looks anyway.

Like with most Lamson reels, the G5 comes with a super-strong Teflon/Delrin alloy proprietary conical drag system. This system is notoriously lightweight and powerful, and Lamson continues to top other reel-makers when it comes to their drag systems.

If you’re looking for the best trout fly reel, look no farther than the Lamson Litespeed G5.

Check out our Lamson Litespeed G5 review.

Lamson Litespeed G5 Specs & Info

Overall weight: 3.7 oz Spool diameter: 3.1″
Material: Machined aluminum Spool capacity: 100 yds 20#
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: 1.5-4 (3-11wt)
Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty Colors: Cinder, black, grey
Made in: USA Drag type: Conical drag system

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My Orvis Hydros SL7. Orvis Hydros SL – Best Reel for Bass

  • Pros: Best drag in class, large arbor that’s good for bass
  • Cons: Not the best sound, annoying drag knob
  • Arbor: Large
  • Available weights: 3-11

It’s about time there’s an Orvis reel on this list!

When you’re looking for a fly reel for bass, you’re going to want to look at the drag, retrieval rate, and durability. The Orvis Hydros SL fly reel ticks all of the boxes.

At just 5.5 ounces in the 3-5 weight classes, this is the lightest fly reel of this caliber on the market, and the drag is the most powerful you’ll find in any reel.

At a 10 inches per turn retrieval rate, it’s also one of the quickest-retrieve reels on the market, with an ultra-large arbor design that’s great for bass fishing. Because of this, and its sealed carbon fiber drag system, it’s also one of the best saltwater fly reels.

The Sage just squeaked by it on this list, but if you’re on a tighter budget, the Orvis Hydros could be your pick for the best saltwater reel as well.

The only cons for this reel are the sound and the annoying drag knob that’s simply too small for this reel. It throws off the ergonomics a bit.

Overall, though, this is easily one of the best fly reels on the market today, for most types of fishing.

Orvis Hydros SL Specs & Info

Overall weight: 5.5 oz Reel diameter: 3.7″
Material: Die-cast aluminum Spool capacity: WF6/125 yds/20 lb
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: #1/3 – #9/11
Warranty: Lifetime warranty Colors: Black, silver
Made in: USA Drag type: Sealed carbon & stainless steel

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moonshine rod co. creede fly reel8. Moonshine Creede – Best Freshwater Fly Reel

  • Pros: Med-arbor, good looking, great value, machined aluminum design
  • Cons: Not sealed drag

I’ve tested and reviewed the Moonshine Creede in many different weights on this blog and on our YouTube channel. I personally fished the 5/6 variation extensively both in Montana and back in Canada.

This reel has a beautiful design. It’s very well built, and I love the feel of the drag knob. The etched edges and large size make it easy to adjust even with one hand.

moonshine creede fly reel review

Coming in at under $250, the Moonshine Creede is a great-value reel as well. It has plenty of pulling power in the drag, although I’d like to see it sealed for salt water in later iterations so that we can use the larger weights as a decent crossover reel.

While Moonshine does specify the drag as fully sealed, they also admit that it’s not meant for salt water, which is a bit of a bummer.

But that’s why I’ve listed it as the best freshwater reel on this list. When it comes to freshwater-specific reels, the Moonshine Creede is a great value and a great overall reel. 

Check out our full hands-on review of the Moonshine Creede 3/4 reel.

Moonshine Creede Specs & Info

Overall weight: 5.65 oz Reel diameter: 3.74″
Material: Machined 6061 forged aluminum Spool capacity: WF6 + 150 yd/20 lb
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: #3/4, #5/6, #7/8
Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty Colors: Raven gunmetal, raven copper
Made in: Korea Drag type: Fully sealed, carbon fiber disc

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Me Holding Galvan Torque Fly Reel9. Galvan Torque T-5 – Best 5-weight Fly Reel

  • Pros: Good sealed drag, low startup inertia
  • Cons: Tiny reel knob
  • Arbor: Large
  • Available weights: 2-12

At 4.8 ounces, the Galvan Torque definitely isn’t the lightest 5-weight reel on the market, but it has an excellent drag system and no startup inertia to speak of, which is always a bonus in the 5-weight category.

It was a toss-up between this one and the Galvan Rush Light for the 5-weight fly reel, but ultimately I went with the Torque because I really like the look and feel of this reel.

Coming in at around 7.15 inches per full turn of the reel, the T-5 is about the middle of the line when it comes to retrieving speed. But, it’s a little hard to comfortably reel in a fish with the tiny handle that Galvan fly reels decided to place on this reel.

Galvan Torque Fly Reels In Different Colors on my desk

Other than that though, it’s a great reel. It has a sealed drag system, which is great because the reel is powerful enough for even the strongest bonefish in the Caribbean.

Galvan Torque Specs & Info

Overall weight: 4.8 oz Reel diameter: 3.75″
Material: Machined 6061 aluminum Spool capacity: WF6 + 125 m/20 lb
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: T3-T12 (3wt-12wt)
Warranty: Lifetime warranty Colors: Clear, black, green, blue, burnt orange
Made in: USA Drag type: Torque & T2 anodizing

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Nautilus CCF X2 in my reel case10. Nautilus CCF X2 – Best 8-Weight Fly Reel

  • Pros: Great ergonomics, quick line retrieve
  • Cons: A bit too heavy
  • Arbor: Large
  • Available weights: 8-12

Finally, a Nautilus fly reel makes the list, with the CCF X2 coming in as our pick for the best 8-weight fly reel on the market.

The reel has an incredibly powerful drag system that maxes out at an impressive 15.6 lbs.

Unlike most other Nautilis reels, this one actually has a great sound to it. With a line retrieve rate of 9.9” per turn, you’ll be pulling in a lot of line while listening to the CCF X2 purr.

Nautilus CCF X2 closeup

The only cons to this reel are that it’s quite heavy and a bit expensive.

Nautilus CCF X2 Specs & Info

Overall weight: 7.6 oz (6/8) Reel diameter: 5″ (6/8)
Material: Machined 6061 aluminum Spool capacity: WF6 + 125 m/20 lb (6/8)
Arbor size: Large Sizes available: 6/8-10/11/12 (6wt-12wt)
Warranty: Lifetime warranty Colors: Black, brushed silver
Made in: USA Drag type: Cork carbon fiber disc

CHECK PRICE ON TRIDENT

 

Best Fly Fishing Full Outfits

Fully built-out fly kits are a great way for beginners to get started. If you’re kitting out your fly fishing gear from scratch, then it’s usually worth it to get a fly fishing combo that includes the reel, rod, line, and protective cases.

Below I’ve listed the best full kits based on price and quality.

Orvis Encounter SetupOrvis Encounter 908-4 Fly Kit – Best Budget Outfit

  • Included: Fly reel, fly rod & case, fly line, leader
  • Pros: Decent rod, includes leader, line & tippet
  • Cons: Plastic reel design, quiet reel
  • Available weights: 4, 5 & 6 weight

The Orvis Encounter setup was an easy choice. As far as a cheap full outfit goes, you really can’t go wrong with the Orvis Encounter setup. It comes with everything you need to get started: a great 9-foot 8-weight fly rod with the reel to match, as well as the line, leader, and backing.

I ordered this full kit last year and the only real complaint I have with it is the reel. After pretty extensive testing, I found that the rod, rod case, and line are actually really good quality for the price. The reel is the part of this setup that falls a little bit short.

The reel has a plastic design and is just about silent both on the retrieve and on the peel out, which is a bit disappointing when you get a good-sized fish on. It’s like sitting inside of a Ferrari, expecting the loud roar of the engine, and then realizing it’s electric.

Orvis Encounter Fly Rod For Trout Fishing
Me holding my Orvis Encounter rod setup

If you’re brand new to fly fishing, then you won’t likely find a better value than this kit, but if you’re intermediate or purchasing your second setup, I recommend upgrading to the next level.

VIEW ON AMAZON

Read More: Full Hands-On Review of The Orvis Encounter Setup

Me holding Sage LL Fly RodSage Trout LL – Best Top-End Outfit

  • Included: Fly reel, fly line, fly rod & case
  • Pros: One of the best classic Sage reels included, excellent rod
  • Cons: Doesn’t include leader and tippet, expensive
  • Available weights: 3, 4, 5 & 6 weight

The Sage Trout LL outfits are an amazing option for a full Sage kit with reel, rod, line, and case. The Sage LL Trout Reel that comes with this kit is a great option as well, with a sealed drag system, machined aluminum full-frame construction, and a large-arbor design.

The rod comes with an aluminum tube, and the reel in this kit comes with a neoprene case.

Unfortunately, it only comes with a fly line (no backing, leader, or tippet), but the line is extremely high-quality and you can always pick up some backing and leader for cheap.

It’s not the cheapest kit out there, but if you’ve always wanted a full Sage fly outfit, then it’s definitely the best deal you can get for this quality of rod and reel with line.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

Top Recommended Fly Reels by Weight

For many anglers, you need that perfect reel to go with your favorite rod. Of course, if your favorite rod is a versatile 5 weight, then you’re going to need to shop for a 5 weight fly reel to ensure you have a properly balanced setup.

But not all reels are created equal in all weights. Sometimes a 3-weight version of the same reel is lighter, has better balance, or feels better in the hand. A perfect example of this is a lot of the budget reels and saltwater reels.

Best 4 weight arbor size Fly Reels

It might be great to have a budget freshwater reel in smaller weights, but if you’re putting strain on larger reels or corroding them in salt water, then you’ll probably be looking for a higher quality reel.

Here I’ll list the best fly reels of each weight. Plus, I’ll link to each of our posts for that weight of fly reel, which includes a few reel options, including the best budget, midrange, top-end models, and more.

3 Weight

Best used for small trout species, small creeks, and nymphing, the 3 weight is many anglers’ favorite rod weight because of its light presentation of small flies and the sensitivity of the rod blanks, which allow you to feel every tug and turn of the fish.

Redington Zero on a tableRedington Zero

Perfect for small rivers and streams and for tossing tiny nymphs to awaiting trout, the Redington Zero 2/3 is an affordable and well-built reel. Redington has long made some of the top budget-friendly fly reels on the market, and the Zero in the 3-weight is one of their best offerings.

Check Out Our 3 Weight Fly Reel Buyer’s Guide

4 Weight

Still a great line weight for small nymphs and backwoods streams, the 4 weight is getting big enough to target slightly larger trout and to toss larger terrestrial flies with more ease.

Me Holding Galvan Torque Fly ReelGalvan Torque T4

The disc drag system on the Galvan Torque T4 is smooth and easy to adjust. Even though the reel isn’t the cheapest, it can still compete as one of the best 4 weight fly reels for the money.

You just can’t go wrong with this beautiful reel. It’s a self-lubricating, almost frictionless, maintenance-free reel with pretty much no start-up inertia to speak of.

It looks and feels great, and even though the Torque series makes great reels of many weights (the T8 is also one of my favorites), the T4 just feels the best out of all of them.

Check Out Our 4 Weight Fly Reel Buyer’s Guide

5 Weight

The most versatile rod and reel weight of all, the 5 weight is small enough to use tiny nymphs in a clinch, while big enough to land much larger fish species. If you’re looking to only have one rod and reel in your kit, make it a 5 weight.

Redington Behemoth Specs ReviewRedington Behemoth

For the price, you can’t beat the Redington Behemoth 4/5. In the 5 weight category, this isn’t just our favorite reel, it’s also the best reel you can get for the money.

Yes, the design is cast iron, but the way they’ve interwoven the material really makes this rod sturdy and strong. At 5 weight, you’re starting to get big enough that you’ll need some torque on that drag, and the Behemoth has the strongest drag in its class.

That’s why this reel appears as my favorite reel in a few different weights. Catch a big 5 pound trout on this reel, and when you hear the drag and feel the smoothness of the reel, you’ll want to catch all future fish on it.

As I said earlier, this is likely one of the best fly reels of all time.

Check Out Our 5 Weight Fly Reel Buyer’s Guide

6 Weight

Getting into the spectrum of small saltwater species and even river salmon, the 6 weight is for those who are targeting larger species but still want the ability to cast in mid-sized rivers to mid-sized trout without having the setup overpower them.

me Holding Hardy Ultralite ASRHardy Ultralight ASR

The Hardy Ultralight ASR 5/6 is Dallas’s favorite 6-weight fly reel. He’s one of our professional anglers, and he’s gotten plenty of use out of it. I currently don’t have a 6-weight in my kit, but Dallas does, and after trying many reels in this category, he still stands by Hardy’s ASR offering.

The reel comes in 4-11 weight, and the 6 weight really stands out, although you’d be happy with the Ultralight in any weight.

It might not be as affordable as the Behemoth, but it’s still a great value reel with a strong disc drag system and a smooth feel in hand.

Check Out Our 6 Weight Fly Reel Buyer’s Guide

7 Weight

I’ve had my share of 7 weights in my day, and it’s a great rod size for those who want to target both saltwater and freshwater fish. Get a reel with a sealed drag in this weight so you can do both without harming the reel from salt corrosion.

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel Black BackgroundOrvis Hydros SL

I mentioned that you want a reel that’s salt water ready in the 7 weight category. To me, the Orvis Hydros SL 7/8 is the best one on the market, especially considering the high-value, mid-range price tag.

This is surprisingly the first Orvis reel to appear on this list of the best fly reels by weight, but they really do make some incredible reels.

Dallas listed the Orvis Clearwater as his favorite 7 weight in this class (as you’ll see if you click the buyer’s guide link below), but I had to disagree with him on this one.

I think it’s worth the extra money to get the Hydros SL for the added quality of the reel. The sealed carbon drag is far superior to the Clearwater, especially for saltwater fly fishing.

Check Out Our 7 Weight Fly Reel Buyer’s Guide

How to Choose the Best Fly Reel

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing a fly reel. The weight is definitely the most important, but there are other factors to consider as well.

Not all of the best fly reels are expensive. While companies like Sage and Orvis tout themselves for using aviation-grade aluminum, proprietary drag mechanisms, and fast-retrieve technology, you really don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great fly fishing reel.

Just because a reel has a known brand name, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a top fly fishing reel.

Fly reels come in so many different forms, with different factors, weights, drag systems, sounds, and more.  For the best chance of landing that fighting brown on the river, a beautiful rainbow in your local lake, or that massive giant trevally at the beach, you’ll need to be prepared.

Here are a few things to consider when shopping for the perfect reel.

The Weight of the Fly Reel

The weight is the most important thing when you’re considering which is the best fly reel for your current setup. Fly reel weight doesn’t refer to the actual weight of the reel in ounces, but instead, it’s a way of categorizing your fly reel so that you can match it to your fly rod and fly line.

You would never want to have a 5 weight reel with a 7 weight rod. The reel and the rod should both be of the same weight, no matter what.

Fly Reel Weight

The larger the weight of the reel, the larger the tackle that it’s meant to handle. It would be hard to put a 7-weight fly line on a lower weight reel because they just aren’t built for it.

Just like you’d have a hard time casting an 8-weight line with a 3-weight rod, the kit just wouldn’t work properly.

Quick tip: You need to match your fly reel weight to the weight of both the line and the rod.

Recommended Fly Reels by Weight:

Right-Handed vs Left-Handed Reels

There aren’t actually any reels that are specifically created for right-handed or left-handed anglers. Instead, the way that the reel is facing on the rod, and the way that the line is spooled onto the reel, decides which way it will be reeled in.

If you cast with your left hand, then you’ll want the reel to face to the right, and vise versa.

When you purchase a pre-spooled fly reel, make sure to request that it’s spooled for your preferred direction of casting. Fly reels are ambidextrous, in that all of them can work for both lefties and righties, but you’ll need to set them up as such first.

Quick tip: If you tell the fly shop or online store that you want the rod to be spooled left-handed, they’ll know what you mean.

Pre-Set Up Fly Fishing Kits

One of the best ways for beginners to purchase new fly reels is as part of an entire kit. Pretty much every fly shop and online store offers some kind of ready-to-go kit that you can purchase.

Not only are these usually a better deal than buying each item separately, but purchasing one ensures that the reel, rod, line, backing, and leader are all set up to properly match.

Fly Reel Held Out Over River

We have an entire guide on the best fly rod combos and kits, which includes important features to look out for, what a good outfit should include, and much more. Make sure you check it out before purchasing any fly rod and reel combos.

Quick tip: When purchasing a fly fishing outfit, make sure you tell the shop which hand you cast with.

The Price

This can be a major factor for many anglers. I’ve personally had expensive Sage reels that I loved and others that weren’t so great. I’ve used cheap fly reels that were total garbage and others that could compare to the best on the market.

Ultimately, you don’t want to purchase a reel that’s out of your budget. If you have the money to spend, and if the cheaper reels just don’t have the features you’re looking for, then it’s worth splurging.

But if you’re on a tight budget or you’re new to the sport, then consider something a bit cheaper to get started with. We have a full buyer’s guide on the best budget fly reels and the best fly reels for the money. The latter may not be the cheapest, but they’re of great value.

Quick tip: Shop for reels based on the size and features you need, not based on brand names and price.

The Sound

This may sound a bit ridiculous, but believe me, the clicking sound that a reel makes when being stripped out or reeled in can have a massive impact on the way you feel when retrieving a fish.

Not only are quiet reels hard to hear if you’re casting with a strike indicator and not paying attention, but they’re just not as fun. Unfortunately, most reel producers don’t disclose the sound of the reel on their sales pages, but don’t worry, I’ll include them in my reel selection in this post.

Two fly reels in grass by river

My last reel was an Orvis Encounter, and it was a decent budget reel…except for the sound. It was too quiet.

Click here to listen to an ocean fly reel screaming and you’ll get the idea.

Quick tip: You want your reel to have a satisfying click that gets the blood pumping when you hear the fish take the fly.

The Reel Material

Most of the fly fishing reels that you’ll find on the market today are made of machined bar-stock aluminum, which means that the reel was carved down from a single solid piece of aluminum by a machine.

Die-cast aluminum reels, on the other hand, are die-cast, which means they’re made by pouring molten metal into molds.

Both reels can be very well-built and last for years, but without a doubt, the highest quality is the more maintenance-free machined aluminum.

Quick tip: If you can afford a machined body reel, go for it.

Arbor Size

The arbor size of a fly reel is a relatively new concept. Back in the day, all reels used a conventional spindle in the middle which is where the line would be spooled onto, but these days there are reels known as “mid arbor” and “large arbor”.

Basically, the larger the arbor, the larger the diameter of the center of the reel, which means it can take in line much faster. How much faster? With large arbor reels, you can retrieve line as much as three times faster than a conventional fly reel.

Unless you’re fly fishing in salt water or fly fishing for salmon, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a large arbor reel. These are the most popular for larger ocean fish because of the faster retrieve time and larger backing capacity.

That’s not to say that trout anglers can’t still use a large arbor reel, it’s just that they’re much more common in salt water.

Different Fly Reel Sizes Different Weight Class Reels

If you’re trout fishing, smaller traditional reels will be perfect for you. They’re more lightweight, easier to cast, and very responsive.

These days, the compromise is the aforementioned mid arbor, which gives all anglers a bit of added retrieve speed and load capacity without sacrificing agility and weight. The mid-arbor sized reels are making waves with saltwater and trout anglers alike.

Quick tip: If you want the best of both worlds, go for the best mid-arbor reels.

The Reel Drag System

The drag system within a reel is the mechanism the reel uses to slow down the fish so that you don’t end up peeling all of your line and backing from the reel and ultimately losing the fish.

Fly Reel Drag System

The drag system inside the reel allows the angler to set a tighter or looser line peel (known as high or low drag).

Drag Types

Typically, fly fishing reels come with three types of drag system: click drag, disc drag, and spring-and-pawl.

Click drag and disc drag are both are excellent systems, and the spring-and-pawl system is the old-school way of slowing the reel with cogs. These types of reels are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

Basically, if you’re fishing for larger game, you’ll want to have the more modern disc drag system in your reel. For smaller fish, click drag reels are still the favorite of many anglers.

Drag Materials

There are also three types of materials that fly reel manufacturers use to build their drag systems. Cork systems were once the most popular because of their low startup inertia, but these days synthetic materials like nylon, Delrin, Teflon, and other plastics and polymers are used in place of traditional cork.

Quick tip: Don’t set the drag higher than the breaking point of the tippet/line.

Who Makes the Best Fly Reels?

Every angler has their favorite fly brand, and they tend to return to them for all of their fly fishing purchases, kind of like how there’s Ford people and Chevy people. But with reels, anglers often use whatever brand they felt like purchasing at the time.

But not all brands are created equal. Here are some of the most popular brands with links to their products on Amazon, in case you didn’t find the perfect reel already in this list.

Budget Fly Fishing Brands

Mid-Range Fly Fishing Brands

Top-End Fly Fishing Brands

Review

In case you got this far and still haven’t been able to choose a reel, check out the table of contents to jump back up on the page.

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In Conclusion

Whether you purchase your fly fishing rods and reels separately or you go for a full fly fishing outfit, you’ll need to consider many different factors when shopping for the best fly reel.

This article was meant to answer all of your questions about fly reels and list which ones are best for each situation. I hope you found it useful! If you did, please feel free to share it, and please comment below if you have any questions.

Happy casting!

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