The fly fishing reel is more or less a container for your fly line to keep it off the ground when playing a fish. Unlike conventional bait rods the line will have to be retrieved in by hand to entice the trout to take your fly and as this happens the line will be increasingly lying at your feet.
This is not so bad when you are on a sandy beach or clay bank side but if there is a lot of under growth then the line will get caught up on the vegetation and when that trout of a lifetime decides to take your fly you don’t want to be trying to pull the line free to play it in. Many a prize trout was lost this way believe me.
The reel is therefore to reel up the line before you try to play the trout. This can be done with ease with a bit of practice as you hold the line tight to keep tension on the trout as you reel up the line with your other hand. This may sound difficult but it is not.
You can play a trout without reeling in first but this is only advisable when on a snag free environment, even sitting in a boat is not the place as oars, bags your partner can all get tangled up with your fly line very easily.
Once you have the line on the reel you can let the trout fight and take line and reel it back on with the knowledge that you are free to move in any direction it decides to go.
So what type of fly fishing reel are you after?
To begin with you will have decided on which fly rod you need and on the handle of the rod will have a line rating usually 5, 6 or 7 for trout rods. Here we will match the reel to the same line rating.
Manufacturers of fly fishing reels have come up with a system of covering a few sizes so your reel can be used over various rod sizes. For instance there are 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, or 7-8 and sometimes 6-8, 5-7 covering three sizes of line.
These are only recommendations by the manufacturers as the overall size of the reel will depend on;
1 The size of line
2 How much backing line you wish to put on.
For example the Vision Koma 7-8 is designed for a weight forward 8 line plus 200yds of backing.
Don’t worry too much about this for now just look at the line rating on your rod let’s say it’s a 7 then we want to get a 6-7 or a 7-8 . These will be fairly similar in size one just slightly bigger than the other and hence slightly heavier.
The difference may be hard to notice in the hand but when fishing for an eight hour day we want our line, fly fishing rod and reel to be as light as we possibly can.
Like all things in this world when they make it better they put the price up and usually anything that is very light will have a large price tag so bear this in mind when deciding.
As you are a beginner I would try to get a setup as cheaply as possible and you can always get upgraded as your skills improve. Consider this if you go out and pay £500 on a new set up try for a few weeks then decide fly fishing is not for you it will be an expensive trial.
You could sell it off second hand but you will be lucky to get half of what it’s worth. Also as a beginner your skills will not be as sharp as required and you will most likely bang it against something or have some sort of accident leaving you with a four piece rod when it came to you as three.
The other thing to mention is some fly fishing reels come with spare spools while others don’t. As a beginner you will want a full floating fly line which we will cover in the next post but as you progress you will want various density lines to cover different situations and fly fishing types.
It is therefore cost effective to purchase a reel with spare spools. There are in some cases cartridge reels that allow for the inner section to be removed before placing in another in some cases these cartridge setups may have 4 or 5 spools.
For more information check out this other post on trout fly fishing reels.