What is a Fly Fishing Reel?

Fly fishing is a recreational fishing activity that employs specialized equipment, such as the fishing reel. So we’ll teach you how fly fishing reels work, how to set them up, and basically everything you need to know about them. 

What is a Fly Fishing Reel?

A fly reel is one of the few pieces of equipment that is absolutely required to begin fly fishing. It holds the fly line and backing. Its braking system creates drag on the line, allowing you to better manage and catch your fish. Fly fishing is a “one of its own” angling method used to catch fish with fake flies. Anglers need a special casting technique to assist them to catch fish since artificial flies are too light to help cast the line. Aside from the skills, you’ll need some special equipment to assist you to throw the line, and one of the most important fishing items that many anglers overlook is the fly reel. After all, many anglers who are unfamiliar with the operation of fly-fishing reels claim that their principal job is to hold the fishing line.

The simplicity of fly fishing is what makes it so appealing: Fly fishing with a fly rod, reel, line, and flies may be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. We are here to help you whether you’re looking for your first reel or want to add a large-arbor reel to your collection before your next fly-fishing vacation. When your fish decides to run, there is no better sound than the scream of a reel.

Fly n Guide stock a wide range of fly fishing reels, visit now!

How do Fly Fishing Reels work?

Fly reels are rather basic in comparison to other spin and bait casting reels. Although there are always exceptions, most fly reels use a single direct drive. One spin of the reel is equal to one rotation of your hand. Multipliers and automatic reels have been used in the past. However, all of the additional gear required for them adds a large amount of weight to a task that is rarely required. 

A fly reel’s drag is also quite basic. Drag on reels simply refers to the amount of pressure the reel applies to the spool as it turns. As you’re reeling in a fish, the reel will apply a programmed amount of pressure when he runs. Your drag preference determines this. A disc drag or a spring and pawl drag will be found on almost all fly reels.

Fly Reel Drag System

There are four main drag methods available on reels:

  • The caliper drag: pushes the caliper against the spool spins
  • The ratchet-and-pawl drag: when the spool spins this system clicks automatically. 
  • The center-line drag: as it delivers pressure near the spool’s axis of rotation, the center-line drag is the most well-known drag mechanism among fly anglers, as it can instantly stop a spinning spool. It’s as simple as pressing the drag adjustment knob.
  • The disc drag: exerts strain on the reel plates, which in turn exerts pressure on the spool.

As a result, make sure you get a fly reel with a drag system that suits your fishing style. If you’re new to fly fishing and want to learn more about how fly fishing reels function, we recommend using a reel with a center-line drag arrangement. After all, it’s the most simple to utilize and can assist you in catching a trout that’s trying to flee after eating your bait.

Balancing the Line, Rod, and Fly Reel

You must comprehend the necessity of matching the proper fly reel with the right rod line in addition to understanding how fly fishing reels work. Fortunately, putting together a balanced fly fishing setup is simple: just match the numbers on the fly reel, rod, and line. You can check a 5WT line with a 4 WT line with a 4WT or 5WT line and spool it with a number 4, 5, or 6 reels, for example.

What do the Numbers on the Fly Reel Mean?

The weight size of a fly rod is designed to accommodate a specified range of fly line weights (WT). Several companies indicate different weights to reel sizes, but they all boil down to the line weight they’re designed to support. Some reels have roman numerals that correspond to the following:

Choose 1-3 WT fly lines for a fly reel size I

Choose 3-5 WT fly lines for a fly reel size II

Choose 5-7 WT fly lines for a fly reel size III

Choose 7-9 WT fly lines for a fly reel size IV

Choose 9-11 WT fly lines for a fly reel size V

What Type of Reel Do You Need For Fly Fishing?

When looking for a fly reel, think about what kind of fishing you’ll be doing the most (target species, water type, and average weather). You can later choose a suitable line weight and a reel size to match it.


Trout and freshwater bass: these are two species of fish that can be found in the same body of water. Matching the line weight to your rod and reel is the most crucial component of selecting a trout and bass fly reel. A 5WT rod with a size II or III fly reel is the most versatile freshwater rod. It is designed to cast a 5WT fly line (both designed to hold a 5WT line). If you’re fishing streamers with a streamer-specific line or adding longer sink tips, go with a size larger. As you reel in the line, this makes gathering it easier.

Saltwater species: a powerful drag and a large reel are required to catch saltwater species. Saltwater fish pull much harder than freshwater fish. Match the line weight to the reel size and rod WT once more, but if your intended line weight is on the border of sizing try oversizing it a little. On saltwater reels, larger handles are preferable. When compared to freshwater fly fishing, you’ll spend more time reeling in.

Difference Between Saltwater and Freshwater Fly Reels

Because saltwater and freshwater settings are so different, you’ll need distinct fishing gear for each. Freshwater reels can also corrode more quickly in oceans because of the high salt concentration. However, you can use saltwater fishing gear to fish in freshwater lakes, although this is not recommended because the ocean has big and forceful waves that demand powerful gear. Ocean fish are larger than those found in freshwater lakes. As large fish species live in the sea and ocean conditions, saltwater fly reels feature a larger arbor design than freshwater fly reels.