Stillwater Anglers Choose A Fly Reel

How to Choose a Fly Reel – What You NEED to Know

No one can forget the excitement they felt when the first huge trout bit. Any angler will tell you that getting an impressive trout to bite depends a lot on how you choose a fly reel.

That’s right! You don’t have to have 20 years of experience under your belt or be a founding member of fly fishing communities to get record-breaking catches.

You just need the right tools for every type of fish. Even small-sized fish can slip away if you underestimate the importance of the fly reel. Let’s see how you can make sure that you get the right one, regardless of your level of experience.

Fast & Easy Tips on How to Choose a Fly Reel

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a reel. You just have to be smart about it and know what you are looking for. Don’t worry, we are here to help!

Weight and Size Play an Important Part in Choosing a Fly Reel

Reels are rated by weight and size. The reel you choose needs to match the size of the rod. The gear needs to have the right balance. A quick example: a 5-weight trout needs to pair with a 5-weight reel. The right combo can make it nearly impossible for your catch to escape. You also want to get the right line to support your efforts in battling large-sized trout.

If you are looking for an oversized reel that accommodates large shooting head fly lines consider investing in a switch and spray reels. For salt water expeditions, salt water reels are the ideal choice, as they have more backing capacity to allow the fish to run.

Check the Construction of the Reel

There are two ways a fly reel can be made: pre-cast and machined.

Pre-cast reels are made from liquid metal. These reels are cheaper and excellent for beginners who want to get a taste of what fly fishing means. They are reliable and will serve you well in your first fly fishing expedition. On the downside, they are heavier and less durable.

Machine reels are the “Holy Grail” of fly fishing. They are made of solid block metal for long lasting optimum performance. They are lighter and stronger than their pre-cast counterparts.

Drag Fly System

It’s no secret that a huge trout can pull you in the water before you can realize what’s happening. But only if you have a weak drag. A strong drag has the capacity not only to fight the weight and the strength of the fish, but prevent it from pulling you away.

There are two types of drag fly: the traditional click-and-pawn and the disc drag. The click-and-pawn drag is weak and offers less adjustability. It is best suited if you want to catch small fish.

If you aim for bigger captures, a disc drag is your best friend. Consider buying a click-and-pawn drag only if you’re on a tight budget.


The arbor is the center of the reel that ties the backing and the line together. (For more fly fishing terms & definitions, click here!) Most reels will come with a large arbor, which makes it easier for you to retrieve the line faster and create less “memory” in the line. Large arbors are excellent for chasing fish in warm or salt water because they aid in smooth runs and allow you to retrieve the line quickly when the fish turns and runs back.

The classic fly reel is smaller in arbor and ideal for beginners. They are also lighter and less expensive than reels with large arbors.

Aside from objective factors, the right reel is the one that helps you feel confident on the river. You may not get it right from the beginning, but you will eventually learn what the best choice for you is. If you’re still uncertain about how to choose a fly reel, we can help you with personalized advice in our Montana fly shop!