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Which Fly Fishing Reels Are Best For Trout? Beginners Guide

When starting out in fly fishing finding good quality fly fishing tackle can be difficult. However, it really is all down to how much you want to spend on the tackle as your hobby can grow into a monster if you are not careful. That’s not a problem if you have the financial backing to cover this but if you are working on a basic living then stretching your self too much can be silly. So with this in mind let’s explore which fly fishing reels are best for trout.


What is the most important piece of equipment?

Of all of the items used for fly fishing, I would generally spend the most on the rod and line as the fly fishing reel is really a container and hence not that important, or is it? However with all things in life if you spend a bit more you will get extra features and be able to fish a little bit more comfortably than with a basic setup.

What do I mean then?  Well as you go up the price brackets the materials to make the reels can become very expensive as all sorts of alloys are being used. These are stronger and usually lighter than the basic reels. When fishing all day it can become very tiring with a heavy rod and reel and will end your day sooner. So buying a reel made from lite materials will let you fish for longer and increase your chances of getting more fish.  

So it all comes down to this really…… spend as much as you can possibly afford without overstretching. That way you will get the best you possibly can. As a newbie fly fishing angler, you will probably want to aim for something between $100-$150, this should get a reasonable reel for your hard-earned cash. There are lots of cheaper ones under $100 but they are not really built to last and as mentioned can be fairly heavy. However if just testing the water as to speak to see if fly fishing for you then these can do the trick. Alternatively, a fly fishing combo that has all the items in an outfit put together by the manufacturer in a neat package can be a better investment than buying the items individually. 

What to look out for in features!

Let us discuss some of the features you may want to consider for trout fly fishing. With trout, you will probably be fishing with anything from a 4-5 weight 7ft rod to a 7-8 weight 10ft fly fishing rod depending on the size of the trout you are after and the size of the waterway.

If fishing small streams and rivers that you can cast across without too much of a problem then the smaller rod is good. However, on a larger still water or river, you may need the larger rod. This will help you get a little bit extra distance on the cast and as larger waterways have larger trout you may need extra rod rating to land these safely. It is also quicker especially if wanting to fish catch and release so not to tire the trout out and help it fight another day.

Always match up the rod with the reel by their size rating as a large 7-8 reel on a small 7 ft rod will overbalance it and make the tip rise in the air causing problems in the forward cast. Again a small reel on a larger rod may cause the tip to drop causing problems in the backward cast and lifting the line. Both of these scenarios will fatigue you a lot quicker when trying to fight the natural inertia of the rod.

What capacity should you think about?

Now that we have the size worked out next is capacity. Most reels come with a large arbor nowadays which means the middle spindle of the reel is wider and thicker than vintage reels which allow for faster winding and playing of fish.

It also means the line doesn’t get as caught up in line memory which can become coiled when casting out and will sit like a wiggly worm on the water surface. This causes wind and water drag and affects the fishing dramatically. If this does occur and it can with old lines, stretching it out before starting to fish can help. This can be done by tying the fly line to a post and walking backward or dragging it through your hand wrapped in a cloth. Always be careful not to overdo it or you can break the line.

Having a large arbor can help reduce this effect and help play trout. The other benefit is to have a good length of backing line on the spool before the fly line so when that really large trout wants to take off you will have the capacity to let him go. I would aim for about 100 yards at least, the more the better especially when fishing large trout and other large predatory species like a pike in freshwater or tarpon and GT’s in the saltwater.

So what about tension control?

Tension control on cheaper reels will come usually with a ratchet type tension control. It will probably have two ratchets which you can turn to add more noise and tension when the line is being pulled.  These are OK for smaller trout but I would opt for a turning button tension control mechanism on larger trout.

You then can turn the button to add tension or release as you play trout and so make the job of landing them a bit easier. Tension is required to stop the trout making a quick dash and over spinning the reel which can cause the line to become tangled like a birds nest. This will result in a lock-up which will no doubt end with you losing the fish.

So having a decent amount of tension were you need to pull with reasonable force to remove line from the reel by hand is ideal to start out.  For example, if too tight and a large trout wants to run you can snap your rod so being able to turn the button as you play can help land those large trout. You can then adjust as you play the trout releasing or tightening as required. I have seen trout come to the boat or bank-side only to see the net and go completely crazy, taking off at a fast pace, therefore, its always good to be prepared.

Conclusions on the best trout fly reel

  • Make sure you match the reel to the rod rating
  • Go for a large arbor with good line capacity
  • Variable tension control button to play trout
  • Price range $100-$150 medium-range, less than $100 budget range

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