Fishing

The 10 Best Fly Fishing Reels of 2021

Best Fly Fishing Reels

For successful fly fishing, you need the necessary tools for the job and this includes a fly fishing reel. Unlike most of the other reel types, this one has an open design and when using it, the main hand should be positioned in front of the reel.

With that in mind, there are different varieties of these products so we have reviewed the best fly fishing reels to help you pick the one that works for you. Read through and take your pick!

10 Best Fly Fishing Reels – Review

IMAGE

PRODUCT

FEATURES

Redington Behemoth

1. Redington Behemoth (Best Overall)

  • Un-machinable, die-cast aluminum construction
  • High-speed retrieval with reduced line memory
  • Heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system
Orvis Clearwater

2. Orvis Clearwater (Best Budget)

  • Economical
  • Powerful inline disk drag system
  • Audible positive-click drag adjustment knob
Redington Zero

3. Redington Zero (Best Lightweight)

  • Lightweight (less than 3 oz.)
  • Sturdy un-machinable die-cast construction
  • Large arbor for quick retrieval
Piscifun Aoka

4. Piscifun Aoka (Best Mid-Arbor)

  • High-capacity spool
  • Smooth cork/Teflon disk drag system
  • Oversized handle
Redington Rise

5. Redington Rise (Best High-Performance)

  • High-speed line retrieval mechanism
  • Smooth & compact carbon fiber drag system
  • Ergonomic soft-touch, twin-molded handle
Fiblink Crazy

6. Fiblink Crazy (Best for Saltwater)

  • Sealed disk drag system
  • Strong & durable aluminum alloy body
  • 3 ball bearings for smooth running
Croch Fly Fishing Reel

7. Croch Fly Fishing Reel (Best Set)

  • Complete set
  • High-impact aluminum alloy body
  • Strong, high-capacity concave-ported arbor
Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel

8. Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel (Smooth Running)

  • 3 ball bearings plus a roller bearing
  • Smooth release low-profile aluminum-alloy spool
  • Advanced fiber-composite disk drag system
Piscifun Sword II

9. Piscifun Sword II (Corrosion-Resistant)

  • Corrosion & abrasion resistant
  • Hollow frame design to reduce weight
  • Smooth cork & stainless-steel drag system
Piscifun Sword

10. Piscifun Sword (CNC Hollow-Designed)

  • Larger CNC hollow design for reduced weight
  • High-impact aluminum alloy construction
  • Audible click adjustments

PRODUCT

1. Redington Behemoth

(Best Overall)

Redington Behemoth
  • Un-machinable, die-cast aluminum construction
  • High-speed retrieval with reduced line memory
  • Heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system

2. Orvis Clearwater

(Best Budget)

Orvis Clearwater
  • Economical
  • Powerful inline disk drag system
  • Audible positive-click drag adjustment knob

3. Redington Zero

(Best Lightweight)

Redington Zero
  • Lightweight (less than 3 oz.)
  • Sturdy un-machinable die-cast construction
  • Large arbor for quick retrieval

4. Piscifun Aoka

(Best Mid-Arbor)

Piscifun Aoka
  • High-capacity spool
  • Smooth cork/Teflon disk drag system
  • Oversized handle

5. Redington Rise

(Best High-Performance)

Redington Rise
  • High-speed line retrieval mechanism
  • Smooth & compact carbon fiber drag system
  • Ergonomic soft-touch, twin-molded handle

6. Fiblink Crazy

(Best for Saltwater)

Fiblink Crazy
  • Sealed disk drag system
  • Strong & durable aluminum alloy body
  • 3 ball bearings for smooth running

7. Croch Fly Fishing Reel

(Best Set)

Croch Fly Fishing Reel
  • Complete set
  • High-impact aluminum alloy body
  • Strong, high-capacity concave-ported arbor

8. Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel

(Smooth Running)

Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel
  • 3 ball bearings plus a roller bearing
  • Smooth release low-profile aluminum-alloy spool
  • Advanced fiber-composite disk drag system

9. Piscifun Sword II

(Corrosion-Resistant)

Piscifun Sword II
  • Corrosion & abrasion resistant
  • Hollow frame design to reduce weight
  • Smooth cork & stainless-steel drag system

10. Piscifun Sword

(CNC Hollow-Designed)

Piscifun Sword
  • Larger CNC hollow design for reduced weight
  • High-impact aluminum alloy construction
  • Audible click adjustments

1. Best Overall Fly Fishing Reel: Redington Behemoth

Redington Behemoth

Photo: Redington

  • Arbor Size: Large
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 5.2 – 11.4 oz.

Reliability, high-performance, and superior drag strength make this Redington Behemoth the best overall in our fly fishing reels review. The unit features an un-machinable, die-cast aluminum construction that is very reliable when tackling small or big game fish in fresh and saltwater.

This frame is mated to an interlocking large-arbor spool that has a high-speed retrieval, as well as a premium look & feel. The large diameter also helps to reduce line memory for easier casting.

Inside is a super heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system that will give you strong fighting power. The system is adjustable to control the line’s tension and this is done via an oversized aluminum knob for easy use.

A soft-touch, ergonomic, twin-molded handle is attached to the spool for easy turning and this makes it comfortable to use even pulling or fighting large fish species. After use, you can fit the whole piece into the included carry bag for easy transportation.

The only problem is that the reel is quite heavy but this is because it comes in large sizes that go up to 11/12wt. These large sizes are the best for fighting strong, heavy fish because they are solidly built.

Pros:

  • Un-machinable, die-cast aluminum construction
  • High-speed retrieval with reduced line memory
  • Heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system
  • Soft-touch, ergonomic twin-molded handle
  • Includes a carrier bag

Cons:

  • Quite heavy

2. Best Budget Fly Fishing Reel: Orvis Clearwater

Orvis Clearwater

Photo: Orvis

  • Arbor Size: Large
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 5.4 – 6.1 oz.

Orvis’ Clearwater gives you a very good bargain because you get powerful features at a good price. These include an inline drag system with stacked carbon-to-stainless disks that offer incredible line tensioning when fighting fish.

This drag system is adjustable via a positive-click knob, which produces audible clicks that make it easy to know as you change the settings. Also, it ensures you get consistent adjustments every time.

The unit has a tough machined aluminum construction with a stealthy matte-gray color and a powder-coat finish for corrosion resistance. You also get an ambidextrous retrieval system that can be easily converted for left- or right-hand use.

However, this reel is not ideal for saltwater use because the drag system is not sealed.

Pros:

  • Economical
  • Powerful inline carbon-to stainless disk drag system
  • Audible positive-click drag adjustment knob
  • Tough machined aluminum construction
  • Corrosion-resistant finish

Cons:

  • Not ideal for saltwater use

3. Best Lightweight Fly Reel: Redington Zero

Redington Zero

Photo: Redington

  • Arbor Size: Large
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 2.7 – 3 oz.

Coming in at 3 oz. or less, Redington’s Zero is the most lightweight fly reel in our review. This has one major benefit, which is reduced fatigue when you have to fish for a long period.

Despite that, the piece is very sturdy because it has an un-machinable die-cast construction. It has a large arbor design that reduces line memory while also giving a quick line retrieval to shorten the time between casting.

A soft-touch, twin-molded ergonomic handle is built-in for comfortable use when fighting the fish of retrieving the line. This handle can be easily converted to left- or right-hand retrieval so that you can use your dominant hand with ease.

On the downside, the reel has a spring-loaded clicker drag system, which is not as powerful and adjustable as a disk drag system.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Sturdy un-machinable die-cast construction
  • Large arbor for quick retrieval
  • Soft-touch, twin-molded ergonomic handle

Cons:

  • Inferior clicker drag system

4. Best Mid-Arbor Fly Reel: Piscifun Aoka

Piscifun Aoka

Photo: Piscifun

  • Arbor Size: Mid
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Left
  • Weight: 4.2 – 6.1 oz.

Fly reels with mid-size arbors are known to have a large spool capacity and Piscifun’s Aoka does not disappoint. Out of all the mid-size units in this review, it has the largest capacity, in which it can hold a 90, 100 & 125-yard (20-lb) line for the 3/4, 5/6 & 7/8wt reels respectively.

All these options are fitted with a smooth drag system that consists of cork/Teflon disks and a one-way clutch bearing. This system can be adjusted using a click knob, which ensures you get consistent settings every time.

An oversized handle is attached to the spool for firm gripping as you fight the fish or retrieve the line. You also get a drawstring protective bag for safe storage and transportation after use.

On the downside, the unit is set for left-hand retrieval from the factory. You can convert it to right-hand use but the manufacturer recommends that you contact them for guidance.

Pros:

  • High-capacity mid-size arbor
  • Smooth cork/Teflon disk drag system
  • Oversized handle
  • Drawstring protective bag

Cons:

  • Not easy to convert the retrieval side

5. Best High-Performance Fly Reel: Redington Rise

Redington Rise

Photo: Redington

  • Arbor Size: Ultra Large
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 4 – 6.3 oz.

The Redington Rise is characterized by an ultra-large arbor design that gives very high performance in terms of high-speed line retrieval. This reduces the time between casting while also improving the chances of getting a bite due to the fast action.

Once you get a bite, the product is equipped with a smooth & compact carbon fiber drag system that ensures you get powerful line tensioning to fight the fish.

All this time, you will be using an ergonomic soft-touch, twin-molded handle to turn the reel when retrieving or fighting the fish. The drag system has its own oversized handle that makes it easy to adjust the line’s tension.

These mechanisms are held in place by a sturdy CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum frame that is anodized for corrosion resistance. A nylon case is included for safe storage and transportation after use. The only problem is that the reel is very expensive.

Pros:

  • High-speed line retrieval mechanism
  • Smooth & compact carbon fiber drag system
  • Ergonomic soft-touch, twin-molded handle
  • Oversized drag handle
  • Sturdy & corrosion-resistant aluminum frame

Cons:

  • Expensive

6. Best Saltwater Fly Reel: Fiblink Crazy

Fiblink Crazy

Photo: Fiblink

  • Arbor Size: Large
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 4.2 – 6.1 oz.

Fiblink’s Crazy is the ideal fly reel to use when fishing at sea because it has a sealed drag stack. This design prevents saltwater from getting to the fiber-composite disks, which would cause corrosion. That said, this drag system is easily adjustable using an oversized handle.

The piece features a CNC-machined cold-forged high-grade aluminum alloy construction for strength & durability. This body is also resistant to corrosion from saltwater.

Inside, a set of 3 ball bearings ensure you get a smooth and easy time when casting or retrieving while the large arbor enables you to retrieve the line very fast. One of these bearings is specific for the retrieval system and it spins one way to make it easy to switch between left- and right-hand use.

On the downside, you don’t get a clicking sound when adjusting the drag system, which would make it easier for consistency in adjustments.

Pros:

  • Sealed disk drag system
  • Strong and durable aluminum alloy body
  • 3 ball bearings for smooth running
  • Easy to switch from left to right-hand retrieval

Cons:

  • No clicks for drag adjustment

7. Best Fly Reel Set: Croch Fly Fishing Reel

Croch Fly Fishing Reel

Photo: Croch

  • Arbor Size: Mid
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 4.96 – 6.4 oz.

This product gives you the best combo to help you get started straight out of the box. Apart from the reel, you get a 100-ft floating flying line, a 9-ft fly fishing leader, a drawstring carrying bag, and left-to-right hand retrieval switch instructions.

The reel has a high-impact aluminum alloy body with a hard-anodized surface for corrosion resistance. It also has a mid-arbor design that is concave-ported for maximum strength and increased capacity.

A rugged stainless-steel disk drag system is included and this has a one-way clutch bearing for smooth & instant fighting power. You also get an oversized drag handle for easy adjustment but this does not have a positive click mechanism.

Pros:

  • Complete set
  • High-impact aluminum alloy body
  • Corrosion-resistant hard-anodized surface
  • Strong, high-capacity concave-ported arbor
  • Rugged stainless-steel disk drag system

Cons:

  • No positive click mechanism

8. Smooth-Running Fly Reel: Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel

Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel

Photo: Sougayilang

  • Arbor Size: Large
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 5.6 – 5.9 oz.

With its 3 ball bearings (2 + 1) and a roller bearing, Sougayilang’s fly reel is designed to run very smoothly when casting or retrieving. The unit also has a low-profile aluminum-alloy spool that gives you a smooth line release. This spool is part of a large arbor, which enables you to retrieve the line quickly.

That said, the roller bearing is for the drag system and it engages in one direction to tension the line in one way. This system consists of advanced fiber-composite disks that give you enough fighting power to the sporting limit.

The reel is built using 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, which is CNC machined with a hollow design to minimize weight. This frame is coated in a hard-anodized finish for weather-fastness and abrasion resistance.

A finely machined, knurled metal screw cap makes it very easy to loosen the spool for easy conversion to left- or right-hand retrieval. On the downside, the piece is only designed for freshwater use. Saltwater can corrode the drag system.

Pros:

  • 3 ball bearings plus a roller bearing
  • Smooth release low-profile aluminum-alloy spool
  • Advanced fiber-composite disk drag system
  • Aluminum alloy frame with a hard-anodized finish
  • Easy to convert to left- or right-hand retrieval

Cons:

  • Only for freshwater use

9. Corrosion-Resistant Fly Fishing Reel: Piscifun Sword II

Piscifun Sword II

Photo: Piscifun

  • Arbor Size: Mid
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 4 – 5.9 oz.

Piscifun’s Sword II features a hard-anodized finish that protects the body from corrosion, abrasion, and weather fastness. It is also cold forged and tempered for maximum strength & rigidity.

This is coupled with a high-impact CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum construction for enhanced durability. Despite this, the metal frame has a hollow design that helps to reduce weight for comfortable use.

A multi-disk cork & stainless-steel drag system is built-in and it has a one-way clutch bearing for smooth & instant fighting power. This mechanism is adjustable using a grippy knurled drag knob while the spool has its grippy, damage-proof handle for easy turning.

However, with its mid-arbor design, the unit does not have a very fast retrieval rate.

Pros:

  • Corrosion and abrasion-resistant
  • Hollow frame design to reduce weight
  • Smooth multi-disk cork & stainless-steel drag system
  • Grippy drag knob and spool handle

Cons:

  • Relatively slow retrieval speed

10. CNC Hollow-Designed Fly Reel: Piscifun Sword

Piscifun Sword

Photo: Piscifun

  • Arbor Size: Mid
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
  • Weight: 4.1 – 6.7 oz.

This fly reel has a larger CNC hollow design that helps to minimize its weight. It still maintains a strong frame though because it is built using high-impact aluminum alloy material that is CNC-machined to high precision.

The frame has a hard anodized coating that makes it corrosion and abrasion resistant with increased weather fastness.

Drag is provided by multiple cork & stainless-steel disks, which are fitted with a one-way clutch bearing for instant & smooth fighting power. This system has audible click adjustments for consistency every time and it is done via a grippy knurled metal knob.

You also get a sturdy stainless-steel spool handle but this has a smooth surface that might not be very grippy in wet conditions.

Pros:

  • Larger CNC hollow design for reduced weight
  • High-impact aluminum alloy construction
  • Smooth cork and stainless-steel disk drag system
  • Audible click adjustments

Cons:

  • Slippery stainless-steel handle

How to Buy the Best Fly Fishing Reels

How to Buy the Best Fly Fishing Reels

1. Reel Drag Mechanism

Click and Pawl

This is the traditional drag mechanism and it incorporates the use of a pawl that ticks & clicks against the teeth of a gear. It is not as adjustable and powerful as the disk drag type, which makes it ideal for fighting small fish like bass, panfish, trout, etc.

Disk Drag

Disk drag systems are phasing out click & pawl systems because they are more effective. They function like a car’s disk brakes, whereby tension (drag) is achieved by pushing the stationary disk to the moving one. We recommend this type, especially when you are targeting large fish.

2. Retrieval System

Single Action

Single action retrieval systems have a gear ratio of 1:1, which means 1 full handle crank turns the spool once.

Multiplying

This system incorporates the use of gears to multiply the spool’s number of turns per full handle crank. It gives you a faster retrieval speed but the gears add on some weight to the reel.

Automatic Retrieval

These systems store tension as you cast the line so that it is pulled back automatically when you press the trigger.

Buying Guide: A single action retrieval system is enough for fly fishing reels because you won’t be casting very far out. The other two are ideal for other reel types because you have to cast far then pull the line back quickly (to minimize the time between casting).

3. Arbor Size

An arbor is where the line is wrapped around. It comes in 3 diameter sizes: small, medium, and large.

Small arbors are not commonly used because they have a slow retrieval rate due to the small spool diameter. They also increase the line’s memory because of the tightly wound line and have an inconsistent drag pressure.

Large arbors rectify all the disadvantages of the small type. Their wide diameter results in a very fast line pickup while the large spool size minimizes line memory. Also, they give a consistent drag pressure because the overall diameter does not change as much as you pull the line out. However, this size minimizes the spool’s capacity.

Mid-arbors fall between the small and large types. They have a bigger line capacity as compared to large arbors but are slower in terms of retrieval speed. Their performance is okay for fly fishing.

However, the larger the arbor, the better. Some units have ultra-large arbors and this gives them an edge performance-wise. For this, be sure to check out the Redington Rise.

4. Hand Orientation

Each fly fishing reel comes with the handle positioned on one side. However, most of them have an ambidextrous design, in which the spool can be switched to have the handle on either the left or right side.

The issue is on how easy it is to make the switch and you should ensure the one you buy has a straightforward exchange process. Some, like Croch’s Fly Fishing Reel, come with switching instructions to make the process much easier.

5. Material and Build Quality

It is important to check how the reel is built for durability purposes. We recommend a die-cast or CNC-machined aluminum construction because it forms a very sturdy structure. On top of this, it should have a corrosion-resistant finish for long-lasting use.

If you want to try out fly fishing at sea, ensure you get a reel with a sealed drag system, which prevents the corrosive saltwater from getting to the disks. This can be found in the Fiblink Crazy.

6. Weight

A heavy reel will wear you down quickly because it increases the overall weight of the rod that you will be using. As such, we recommend you get a lightweight piece.

That said, because these products come in different sizes, you should compare weights for the same reel size. This size is also measured in weight (wt.) and as an example, if you want a 7/8wt reel, compare the actual weight of different models, then pick the lightest one.

FAQs

1. How Do You Cast a Fly Reel?

Make sure the drag is off so that the line flows out of the spool quickly. Use your elbow as a pivot then swing the rod to throw the line. Once you have enough string out of the tip, swing the rod several times until the line is straightened out, then drop it in the water.

2. Can Fly Reels Get Wet?

Yes, they can. But this is rare because most of the time fly fishing is done on calm waters on lakes, ponds, etc. However, if you happen to be on rough seawater or whitewater on a river, the reel can get wet.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we recommend Redington’s Behemoth as the best of the best because it has the perfect blend of reliability, high performance, and drag. This is due to its durable aluminum construction, large arbor, and super heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system.

However, if you want an extreme high-performance fly reel, you should check out the Redington Rise. It has an ultra-large arbor that gives very fast retrieval speeds and a smooth carbon fiber drag system.

For saltwater use though, Fiblink’s Crazy is the best fly fishing reel because it has a sealed drag system and a corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy body.

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