Best Fly Fishing Reels in 2018 – Tested & Reviewed

If you’ve ever been fly fishing, you know that it can be a relaxing and satisfying pastime. However, even though the experience is rewarding regardless of your catches, it’s still imperative that you have the right equipment for your next fish.

When looking at fly fishing gear, most anglers pay the most attention to the rod, but the reel can be just as vital to your success. Today we’re going to look at some of the best reels on the market. Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, you will be sure to find one that fits your needs.

Never lose another catch because of a cheap or flimsy reel. See what these models have to offer.

10 Best Fly Fishing Reels comparisons

10 Best Fly Fishing Reels - Reviews

1. Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel

For many anglers, the brand of the fishing reel can be just as crucial as the features and benefits that they offer. In this case, Piscifun is one of the more reliable options out there, making it an ideal choice for many fishermen.

The Sword Fly Fishing Reel is excellent for a few different reasons. The first is that it’s made of machined aluminum. Since weight is essential for you to get the right balance while casting, having aluminum components can make your life a lot easier. The other benefit of aluminum is that it doesn’t wear down as quickly, and it’s less susceptible to rust. Thus, this reel can work well in both freshwater and saltwater conditions.

The second reason that we like the Sword is that it comes in a variety of sizes. Since it’s crucial to match the weight of your line with the reel, it’s nice to know that you have more options when picking out the best one for your needs. Whether you’re fishing small or large species, you can find a Sword to fit.

Along with the sizes, you can also pick out a color that you like. Some anglers don’t care too much for the style of their equipment, but it can help your gear stand out and make it look even better. If you fish with other people, having a noticeable reel can ensure that no one else uses it by accident.

What we liked

  • Durable aluminum alloy body
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Different color options
  • Multi-disk cork and steel drag system
  • One way clutch bearing for a smoother return
  • Accurate click drag 
  • Silent retrieve
  • Hollow design is lightweight
  • Corrosion-resistant materials
  • Mid-arbor design reduces line memory
  • Super fast pickup
  • Works in fresh or saltwater
  • Adjust the drag as needed

What we didn't like

  • Drag knob is really sensitive
  • Not ideal for smaller weight lines

2. Piscifun Aoka Aluminum Fly Fishing Reel

Much like the Sword, this next fly fishing reel from Piscifun is designed for the well-seasoned angler. It offers precision and comfort so that your next catch doesn’t get away. Since this reel is also made of aluminum, you know that it won’t add too much weight to your rod, nor will it rust or break down easily. The only thing you have to worry about is your fish denting the material since aluminum is softer than steel.

One element that is crucial to pay attention to with these kinds of reels is the drag system. Because you have to adjust this based on every fish you catch, it’s imperative that you can do so without getting snagged. In this case, the drag disc is made out of cork and Teflon, making it as smooth as butter. In fact, some fishermen report that it can be a little over sensitive at times, so make sure that you can maintain control.

Finding the right Aoka Reel for your needs is not a challenge, thanks to the fact that it comes in a variety of styles and sizes. Also, depending on your budget, you may be able to get several of them so that you’re always prepared for your next catch, no matter the species.

What we liked

  • Lightweight aluminum construction
  • Smooth cork and Teflon drag disc
  • Multiple sizes and styles available
  • Mid-Arbor design reduces line memory
  • Quick-line pickup
  • Click-drag for adjustment
  • Silent retrieve
  • Quick spool release
  • Oversize handle for comfort

What we didn't like

  • Some internal components may feel flimsy
  • In rare cases, the drag can be uneven

3. Lamson Waterworks Lamson Litespeed 3.5 Reel

If you’re looking for durability and reliability, then you will love this next model from Lamson. The Litespeed 3.5 Reel is incredible for a few different reasons, making it an ideal choice for anglers who value speed and precision to collect their next catch. This reel is made of heavy-duty aluminum and steel parts, which also ensures that it will last for years to come.

Part of the reason that this is considered a high-speed reel is that it uses a larger arbor size. The arbor is the part of the reel that holds the line, so the bigger it is, the faster you can retrieve and pull the line out. Overall, the size of this arbor makes pickup so much more efficient than other models.

The other benefit of having a larger arbor is that it won’t affect line memory as much. If you’re tired of working with twisted and tangled lines, then you will love the fact that this won’t influence your materials as much as other reels. Also, since less of the line is on the reel, it ensures that you don’t experience snags or wear and tear as frequently.

Finally, the other reason that this is a high-speed reel is that it has a narrow geometry. This allows you to retrieve with almost no knuckle dragging, which will enable you to control your catch more easily. Also, it works for both left and right-handed anglers, making it even more versatile.

What we liked

  • Durable machined aluminum and steel
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Works for right or left-handed retrieve
  • Ultra-large arbor reel for faster pickup
  • Almost no line memory
  • Narrow geometry for less knuckle dragging
  • Fewer snags and less wear on your line
  • Lightweight material

What we didn't like

  • Not designed for saltwater use
  • Drag can be finicky 

4. Sage 4200 Series Fly Reel

Sage 4200 Series Fly Reel

When it comes to picking the best fly fishing reel, size is one of the most crucial elements. Depending on the species you’re after, as well as the weight of your line, you have to be sure that you’re getting a reel that won’t buckle under pressure. For example, using a six-pound line on a model that’s only rated for four will give you a bad day on the water.

With that in mind, the 4200 Series fly reel is limited in its size options. The most common version is the 3/4, which can be utilized in a variety of situations. Overall, as long as you’re not hunting for some massive salmon or steelhead, you should be good to go with this reel.

The primary selling point of the 4200 Series is the smooth drag system. It utilizes a proprietary floating tripod design, which optimizes the balance of the reel and provides some of the best drag you can find. The disc is made of high-quality carbon steel, and the three smaller discs ensure that you can rely on the drag with every cast.

The machining of this reel is also incredible, leading to a slimmer profile and lighter weight. Nonetheless, you don’t experience much (if any) wobble, and the reel will resist rust and corrosion. However, it’s not rated for saltwater, so be careful with that.

What we liked

  • Smaller design, less weight
  • Single rotation drag for convenience
  • Precision drag adjustment
  • Corrosion-resistant materials
  • Sealed carbon disc drag system
  • Ergonomic handles for comfort
  • Made for 3/4 and 6/7 weight lines
  • High-performance fishing reel

What we didn't like

  • In some cases, the knob can stick
  • Only one line weight option

5. Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel

Although technical specs for a fishing reel are crucial to ensure that you get a better experience, there’s a lot to be said for having a comfortable model as well. When retrieving your next catch, you don’t want to be using a reel that will create sore hands or scraped knuckles.

With that in mind, the RISE model from Redington is perfect for any angler, thanks to the oversized knob. No longer will you bump into the reel when fighting a fish, and it’s shaped to conform to your hand better. Compared to other fly fishing reels, this one is much easier to handle.

The drag system on the RISE is also incredible. It utilizes a carbon fiber disc to make the retrieve as smooth as possible. Startup inertia is also excellent, although it can be a little jerky at times. As long as your catch isn’t too wily, you shouldn’t have any problems with it though.

The arbor on this reel is large, which expedites the pickup process and reduces overall line memory. You can also release the spool with the quick-change system, making it much more efficient to switch lines as needed. 

What we liked

  • Multiple colors available
  • Different size options
  • Durable anodized aluminum construction
  • Quick-release spool for convenience
  • Large arbor for faster pickup
  • Reduced line memory
  • Compact, carbon fiber drag system
  • Soft-touch ergonomic handles
  • Oversized knob for easier adjustment
  • Sturdy carrying case provided

What we didn't like

  • Drag settings can be oversensitive at times

6. Orvis Hydros Sl Fly Reels

Orvis Hydros Sl Fly Reels

One element of fly fishing reels that we haven’t discussed yet is the startup inertia. If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to how well the reel lets your line out when you get a bite. In many cases, the spool will lock into place, thanks to its one-way mechanism. However, if you’re fighting against a feisty fish, this can cause the hook to come loose and stop the fight before it even begins.

The Hydros SI corrects this problem by having one of the smoothest startup inertias we’ve seen. It will gently let the fish get some slack before you can start reeling it back in. No matter what species or size you’re after, this drag will make it so much easier to get it into your net.

Another element that we like about the Hydros SI is the extra large arbor. According to Orvis, this component allows you to reel in at a rate of eight inches per second, which is one of the faster retrieves we’ve experienced. Also, because the arbor is so full, it won’t cause your line to curl up when you’re finished with it. Line memory is minimal at best, making this is a worthwhile addition to any tackle box.

The materials that comprise the Hydros SI are also incredible. It uses machined bar stock aluminum, which makes it lighter and more agile. Also, the aluminum is protected from corrosion and rust, so you can use this reel on any kind of water. Just be sure to rinse it out afterward to be safe. 

What we liked

  • Machined bar stock aluminum
  • Smooth drag from start to finish
  • Extra large arbor for fast pickup
  • Reels in eight inches per second
  • V-cut spool resists line stacking
  • Ergonomic drag handle
  • Multiples sizes available 

What we didn't like

  • Not great at reverse spin

7. Piscifun Blaze Fly Fishing Reel

As we’ve already seen, Piscifun is a company that makes high-quality reels. On top of that, they make some of the best looking reels you can find. Whether you want something muted and traditional (i.e., black), or you prefer to add a splash of vibrant color to the fishing experience, the Blaze has you covered.

One thing that’s so great about Piscifun is that they provide you with a lot of different size option. Although the price is not exactly low, you can buy one in every size you need, from 3/4 up to 7/8. Unfortunately, you can’t fish the big catches with this reel, but it will work perfectly for everything else.

As with the other models, the drag system is both precise and smooth. The Blaze comes with a multi-disc operation, which ensures that you get incredible startup inertia and retrieve. The materials are cork and stainless steel, making this drag last longer and avoid rusting.

The overall construction of the Blaze is also top-notch. The machined aluminum alloy is both lightweight and rugged, offering impact resistance and protection from any and all corrosion. All Piscifun reels are rated for both fresh and saltwater, making them more versatile than most others. The Blaze, in particular, is coated to provide even better protection from the elements.

In this case, you get a mid-arbor design. We like it because it doesn’t wobble and it offers a fast pickup. Also, it won’t snag easily, ensuring that you get better retrieves every time without getting into trouble. 

What we liked

  • Multiple color options available
  • Sizes from 3/4 to 7/8 
  • Machined aluminum alloy 
  • Impact resistant and lightweight
  • No wobble while reeling
  • Multi-disc cork and steel drag system
  •  One-way clutch bearing for smooth engagement 
  • Mid-arbor design reduces line memory
  • Fast pickup with fewer snags
  • Coated to prevent rust and corrosion
  • Concave ported arbor for more strength
  • Works in fresh or saltwater

What we didn't like

  • Drag can be inconsistent at times
  • Can be tricky to change from left to right-hand retrieve

8. KastKing Katmai/Kobuk Fly Fishing Reel

KastKing KatmaiKobuk Fly Fishing Reel

For most fly fisherman, freshwater sites are where you can find the best species. However, there are plenty of catches out in saltwater environments, which means that you need a reel that can handle it.

The Katmai/Kobuk Reel from KastKing is built for salty conditions. In fact, it was designed with saltwater in mind. That being said, you can always bring it to the river or other freshwater source, as it’s already shielded from the most corrosive elements.

What makes this reel perfect for saltwater is the sealed drag system. It uses O-rings to keep the water out, ensuring that you can get a smooth cast and retrieve for years without worrying about rust gumming up the works. Also, the ball bearings inside are coated to keep rust and corrosion out.

The Katmai/Kobux reel looks incredible, thanks to its matte black finish. It’s built of stainless steel and high-quality aluminum, which makes it a little heavier than most, but it can take a beating. Also, the harder frame reduces overall wobble and gives you more control over your next catch.

Another great thing about this reel is the fast conversion from right to left-handed casting. In some cases (like Piscifun), you have to do a little work to get the knob on the correct side, but this one is a simple, two-step procedure.

What we liked

  • Multiple sizes from 3/4 to 7/8
  • Built for saltwater fishing
  • Stainless steel construction is tougher
  • Ball bearings are hardened against corrosion
  • Sleek black design
  • O-ring sealed to keep water out
  • Fast right or left-hand conversion

What we didn't like

  • Drag can be inconsistent
  • Startup inertia is jerky at times

9. Sougayilang Fly Fishing Reel

For many anglers, the price tag on their favorite fishing equipment can mean a lot. A $500 reel is going to outperform a $100 model, no matter how they are built or what features they have. However, that is not always the case. The Sougayilang Reel is a perfect example of this, as it’s a much more affordable option, but it doesn’t sacrifice quality to get there.

That being said, this reel does have some issues, although they are minor compared to what you may assume would be the case. In fact, if you measured the performance of this reel to a high-end model, you would probably guess that they were much closer in price than they really are.

What we like about this reel is the smooth retrieve. Although it does lock (meaning that startup inertia is limited), it uses 2+1 ball bearings to make the return that much more enjoyable. Also, it has a 1:1 gear ratio, which is ideal for fly fishing.

The machined aluminum alloy is durable and lightweight, and the appearance of this reel is incredible. It looks sleek and elegant, and it will add a sense of class to any rod it graces. On top of that, it doesn’t have much wobble, and it uses a large arbor to ensure fast pickup. Overall, this is a great reel, especially for the price.

What we liked

  • Machined aluminum alloy
  • Available in 5/6 or 7/8 sizes
  • Corrosion-resistant materials
  • 2+1 ball bearings for smoother retrieve
  • 1:1 gear ratio
  • One-way drag locks into place
  • Large arbor design for faster pickup
  • Accurate click drag
  • Silent retrieve
  • Quick and easy left to right-hand conversion
  • Elegant design
  • No wobble or side play
  • Affordable reel option

What we didn't like

  • Spool does not have a quick release
  • In rare cases, the metal may be rough and unsmoothed

10. Sage 2200 Series Fly Fishing Reel

Our final fly fishing reel is this winner from Sage. This is an all-purpose model that comes in a wide variety of sizes, from smaller species of trout all the way up to monster bass or salmon. You can put almost any kind of line you want into the 2200 series, provided that you have the corresponding size.

The construction of this reel is excellent, and it comes with a sleek matte black design that fits any rod. The die-cast materials are both rugged and lightweight, although we wouldn’t recommend it for saltwater.

The arbor is large to reduce line memory and provide faster pickup. It also uses a concave spool surface to prevent line snagging or stacking, making it easier to switch between lines as necessary. Finally, you can move the knob from right to left with ease. 

What we liked

  • Sleek matte black design
  • Multiple sizes from 3/4 to 9/10 
  • Carbon steel drag disc
  • Large handle for comfort 
  • Machined die-cast construction
  • Large arbor for fast pickup
  • Reduced line memory
  • Concave spool surface
  • Easy to switch from right to left

What we didn't like

  • Drag is not as sensitive as other models
  • May feel a bit wobbly at times

Final Verdict 

When it comes to quality fishing equipment, you already know that the price doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Some of the most expensive rods and reels can also have the most significant problems, so you can’t judge your choice based on the cost.

That being said, we have to say that either the Piscifun Aoka or the Orvis Hydros are the top models on this list. Although there are more affordable options listed, we feel that these have the best features. Also, they come with high-quality parts and precision machining, which allows them to work in optimal conditions time and time again.

Overall, we think that the Hydros is better suited for larger fish species, while the Aoka is excellent for all-around fly fishing. The durability and reliability found in both models are incredible, and we know that you will love bringing them on your next adventure.

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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