Shilton SL6 Review (Hands-on Tried & Tested)

Dive into our Shilton SL6 review, showcasing its outstanding features and performance, perfect for fly fishing enthusiasts.

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In this Shilton SL6 review, I am going to explain just how this reel managed to bore a hole in my heart while walking the flats of Seychelles and Costa Rica.

Having chased fish around the world for most of my life (30 years or so), I was introduced to the Shilton SL6 when guiding on Alphonse Island.

Having managed in a bonefish lodge in the Bahamas previous to this, I had certainly seen a tested a lot of saltwater fly reels but none of them were quite compared to the Shilton SL6.

The combination of this fly reel’s low weight, excellent drag, and top-end durability is something to behold.

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My Shilton SL6 Fly Reel

Why Trust My Shilton SL6 Review?

If you have never read one of our gear reviews, you should know that at Into Fly Fishing, we only review rods, reels, and other fly gear we have owned and tested.

My Shilton SL6 Fly Reel

Having spent 6 years using the Shilton SL6 in salty conditions, this review of the Shilton SL6 is one you can trust. I have put it through its paces on triggerfish, bonefish, roosterfish, and it has never failed me.

What’s In The Box?

When opening the Shilton SL6 box you will find three things – the reel itself, a reel cover, and reel lubricant too.

Shilton SL6 Reel

When you first pick up the Shilton SL6, you simply know it is going to get the job done. The finish is smooth, it feels light but strong, and you can feel the quality of craftsmanship that went into it.

My shilton SL6 Taken apart

The grippy drag knob turns effortlessly and the sound is music to the ears.

Shilton SL6 Reel Cover

I love that the Shilton SL6 comes with a reel cover and it is one you can use while you are fishing too. The cover is padded to protect your reel while you travel and on bumpy boat rides.

It secures with an oversized velcro tab, so you can cover the reel and clip the tab around the rod too, plus it even has a slot for the included reel lubricant.

Reel Lubricant

The Shilton SL6 comes with a little bottle of reel lubricant which is a great addition in my eyes.

The SL6 fly reel does not have a sealed drag and therefore adding this to the inner workings and cork is imperative to keep it working as well as possible.

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My Shilton SL6 Fly Reel

Shilton SL6 Review Features & Specs

The Shilton SL6 reel is made for saltwater fly fishing. This means it not only has to survive in one of the harshest environments a reel can find itself in but also continue to perform.

Salt, heat, humidity, and some of the fastest fish in the world are what it is up against, so how do its features and specs ensure the SL6 can handle it?

Below I run through the details of the Shilton SL6’s materials, build quality, durability, drag system, and more so that you can see just how well-prepared this reel is for the task at hand.

Build Quality, Finish & Durability

The body, spool, and drag knob of the Shitlton SL6 are made from very high-quality machined aluminum.

My Shilton SL6 Fly Reel

This is an extremely strong but light material that does not rust or corrode and is the choice material for all high-end fly reels.

Machined aluminum is a step up from die-cast aluminum too, which means if you drop this reel, it will not dent easily.

Adding to this, the SL6 also has a hard anodized finish increasing its durability, impact resistance, and corrosion resistance even further.

The spool locking mechanism and internal workings are made from machine stainless steel and the drag is custom-processed cork.

Overall, this is a saltwater fly reel that is designed to last forever and with proper care, that is exactly what it will do.


  • Physical Weight: 8.1 oz (230 g)
  • Available Weights: 9/10

The Shilton SL6 is a relatively light reel for its class that will balance any 9 or 10-weight setup perfectly. It doesn’t feel too light to be flimsy nor it is not too heavy to throw 60-ft casts into shoals of bonefish all day either.

In all my years of using the SL6, I have never noticed the physical weight of the reel in a fishing situation. It doesn’t take away from the moment, you can stay ultimately focused on catching the fish in front of you, or keep throwing long blind casts into the mangroves until you find what you are looking for.


The sound of a reel is rather important in my eyes, and it is a personal preference of anglers in most cases.

Shilton SL5 top side view

The SL6 makes a lovely sound as far as my ears are concerned.

The reel makes a sound when line is pulled off the reel, when you wind, and when you turn the drag knob. The sound is soft, almost muted, but easy to hear in each case.

Each sound is also different. The reel makes more noise when you wind, less when line is coming off the reel, and the sound of the drag knob turning is also different. You can literally hear what is happening without ever having to look down at the reel.

Drag System

The Shilton SL6 comes with a custom-made cork drag system that is incredibly smooth and has some serious stopping power. It has more drag than you are ever going to need for any species you might target with a 9 or 10-weight setup.

The drag system is also incredibly simple which means there is very little to go wrong. The custom cork sits on a drag plate that simply pushes tighter and tighter against the spool the more you increase the drag.

With very little to go wrong, this drag system is very reliable and easy to fix too.

Drag Seal

The Shilton SL6 does not have a sealed drag. This might be a huge ‘No, no’ for a lot of you, but let me explain why it shouldn’t.

This reel was specifically designed to be used on the outer atolls of Seychelles – a remote location where warranty repairs take a few months, which is simply not an option.

By having a simple, unsealed drag there is nowhere for salt, sand, and corrosion to build up and cause damage. Plus, if the drag does fail you can access it, clean it, and fix it.

Drag Tension & Adjustment

The drag on the Shilton SL6 goes up to a whopping 12 lbs. This is an incredible amount of stopping power and you can go from zero to max drag in three full turns of the drag knob.

The one thing to be careful of with the Shilton SL6 is that the drag does not increase linearly.

At 1.5 turns of the drag knob, you are not at 6 lbs of drag, so be careful when upping the pressure in a fight, especially on a light line.

Drag Knob

For me, a good drag knob is easy to find, grippy, and smooth to turn. The knob on the SL6 is exactly that.

Protruding enough from the reel so you can put a hand on it mid-fight, but not too much that you fly line wraps around it, it is the ideal size.

With a textured grippy circumference, it is easy to grip with wet hands and turns easily but without enough resistance so you do not go too far and break off fish.

Arbor, Retrieve Rate & Line Capacity

The SL6 comes with a large arbor of a 3.8-inch internal diameter. It is not the largest arbor out there in its weight class but it still has a solid retrieve rate so you can gather line and put pressure on fish when you need to.

The reel has an excellent line capacity too. You can squeeze on 275 yards of 50 lb backing and over 300 yards of 30 lb gel spun. You are not going to get spooled while fishing with this reel.

Changing Spools

Taking the spool off an SL6 requires unscrewing the drag knob and pulling out the center pin which has both pros and cons.

I love the security this system provides as the spool is never going to pop off mid-fight. I have seen Hatches, and even Makos do this.

However, if you end up with a wrap of backing around the frame mid-fight, you will most likely break the fish off before you can remove the spool and fix the tangle. But, if your backing is wound on tight, this should never happen.

Reel Handle

I am a big fan of the reel handle on the Shilton SL7. It’s wide, easy to hold, and very smooth to wind with.

Shilton SL6 facing the knob

It is held in place by a small stainless steel Philips head screw that keeps it reliably in place and makes it easy to remove and clean.

Overall Ergonomics

The overall ergonomics of this reel are fantastic. I find it incredibly easy to use in a high-pressure situation.

You can find and use the reel handle and drag knob with a blindfold on and it remains comfortable throughout a long fight too.


This reel is priced about right in my eyes. It is by no means cheap, but it is more affordable than a lot of other reels in its class and therefore delivers excellent value for more.

You also get what you pay for and buying this reel should be seen as an investment as you are getting a buddy for life that will reliably help you land fish forever.


The Shilton SL6 comes with a lifetime warranty included and this only applies to the original owner of the reel. If the reel breaks you can send it back to Shilton for a free repair, and if it can’t be repaired, you will get a new replacement.

Available Colors

The SL6 comes in 6 colors to choose from and they all look pretty awesome, to be honest. You can choose from black, titanium, red, blue, purple, turquoise, and burnt gold to match your overall setup.

Best For

The SL6 is ideal for targeting medium-sized saltwater and large freshwater species. It can handle peacock bass, arapaima, golden dorado, roosterfish, permit, bonefish, triggerfish, snook, milkfish, small tarpon, small GTs, and more.

It is built to live in hot, humid, and salty conditions too. There is nowhere on the earth that the SL6 won’t be able to manage.

Shilton SL6 Review: My Personal Thoughts


  • Super well made and very durable
  • Built from very high-quality materials
  • Incredibly smooth drag with a lot of stopping power
  • Easy-to-fix unsealed drag
  • Simple to maintain
  • Great line capacity
  • Solid ergonomics make it a breeze to use
  • Good value for money
  • The perfect do-it-all 9/10 weight reel
  • Very reliable
  • Lightweight for tireless casting
  • It makes great sounds


  • Could have a larger arbor for a faster retrieve rate
  • The drag is not very linear which makes it hard to know where you are at
  • Changing spools is a little time-consuming compared to other reels

I love fishing with a Shilton SL6 as I know it has my back. There is no doubt in my mind that it can do the job which means I can fish with utmost focus and confidence, and it proved this time and time again on the flats at Alphonse.

While it does have some cons compared to other reels (as mentioned above) I have honestly never noticed them while using this reel. It is ideal for catching any species you might target with 9/10 weight and in any environment.

FAQs About Shilton SL6

You probably have some more questions about the SL6 and I have done my best to answer some of the most frequently asked ones below.

If your question isn’t answered anywhere in the article, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page and we will be glad to answer it for you.

Where are Shilton fly reels made?

Shilton fly reels are designed and manufactured in South Africa.

Is the SL6 a good-size fly reel?

The Shilton SL6 is the ideal all-around size for larger freshwater and saltwater species. It is the size reel you will use more than any other while saltwater fly fishing.

Is the Shilton SL6 a good fly reel?

Yeah, the Shilton SL6 is a great fly reel. It is durable, light, built to last, easy to use, super reliable, and has an excellent drag system.

Is the SL6 worth the money?

Yes, the SL6 is certainly worth the money, especially if you fish in saltwater or for large freshwater species often.

Do you worry about having an unsealed drag?

In the case of the Shilton SL6, I view the unsealed drag as an advantage as you can actually fix the drag if something goes wrong which is very useful when fishing in remote places.


As you might have guessed from my Shilton SL6 Review, I am a massive fan of this reel.

Shilton SL6

It is the saltwater reel I use the most as I am not chasing billfish and giant GTs/tarpon as often as I am wading for more accessible species like bonefish.

Shop The Shilton SL6 Fly Reel

View the Shilton SL6 Fly Reel and compare prices on TRIDENT.

My Shilton SL6 Fly Reel

If you are looking for a fly reel that is perfect for most saltwater species, and large freshwater species, and will most probably last forever, the Shilton SL6 is a very safe bet.

I hope you enjoyed this article and are now as enthusiastic about this awesome reel as I am.

If you have any questions about the reel, please leave a comment below and if you loved the article, go ahead and share it with your fishing buddies who might want one too.

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Growing up fly fishing on the sea, streams and lakes of Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles and offshore, there are not many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand. He has guided for over 12 years and has cast a line almost everywhere including the rivers of Norway and Iceland to the beaches of Costa Rica, the lagoons and banks of the Galapagos, the highlands of Ethiopia, Kenya, the Himalayas and the flats of Mexico, Belize, The Bahamas, and Seychelles.

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