Ever been stripped down to the backing by a monster trout? It’s rare, but it never stops me from trying.
A screaming reel is a sign that you are doing things right!
And to make sure that this magical moment isn’t brought to an abrupt stop, I’ve come up with a list of the best trout fly reels.
Today, I’ll go through some really great suggestions, give you a rundown on what I look for, and even answer a few commonly asked questions.
Let’s keep it ‘reel’!
Table of Contents
- How to Choose the Best Fly Reel – A Quick Guide
- Top 10 Best Fly Reels for Trout Fishing 2023
- What to Look For When Buying a Fly Reel for Trout Fishing
- Is fly fishing better than spinning for trout?
- What is the best fly reel for trout?
- Are expensive fly reels worth it?
- Are Piscifun fly reels any good?
- What size fly reel is best for trout?
- Does fly reel need to match rod?
- Does fly reel color matter?
- Do fly reels make a difference?
- Do you need drag on a fly reel?
- Does fly reel weight matter?
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
How to Choose the Best Fly Reel – A Quick Guide
When it comes to choosing the right reel, there are a few key factors to keep in mind.
- Weight – You’ll want to consider the weight of the reel. This will determine how well balanced your rod and reel combo is, as well as how easy it is to cast.
- Drag – Look at the drag system. This essentially determines the resistance level when you are reeling in fish. You’ll want to make sure that the drag is adjustable and that it’s strong enough to handle the type of fish you’re planning on catching.
- Size – Take into account the size of the reel. This will determine how much line you can fit on the reel and how much weight it can handle.
- Match to Rod – Make sure that the reel matches up well with your rod. This includes both the size and the power rating.
- Comfort Level – Pick the reel that is comfortable for you to use. It is important that you are not nervous about using it in live action conditions.
Top 10 Best Fly Reels for Trout Fishing 2023
What to Look For When Buying a Fly Reel for Trout Fishing
So you are in the market for a new fly reel but have been spoiled for choice?
It’s ok, I get it.
Let me show you what I look for when buying the best flyfishing reels…
You’d be amazed at the number of guys I see who’ve dropped fortunes on the best fly fishing rod around… Only to pair it with a really heavy reel.
Yeah, buddy, you’ve just wasted $200!
Fly fishing is all about movement.
Casting, walking, fishing. If there’s one thing that’s going to tire you out, it is fishing with a heavy reel. It might only be an oz here or there. Trust me, with 200 casts over a day (plus a lot of fish), it really makes the difference.
I’m going to make it super simple…
Get the lightest reel that you can afford. It might even be worth spending a few more dollars. That way, you are future-proofing your next rod too!
It goes without saying that you need something that is solidly constructed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dropped my rod.
It’s one reason why I rarely spend a massive amount. It hurts too much if I damage it!
I look for trout reels constructed of durable materials. As you’ll have seen above, I even consider plastic reels worthy of a look.
When it comes to construction, also consider corrosion. Fly reels tend to get the wettest at the end of the day when you wind in 40 yards of wet line before putting it in your tackle bag or sling pack before forgetting about it.
Rust is the fishing tackle’s worst enemy, so be sure to choose a reel made of rust-resistant alloy.
This one is big.
No, I mean it literally. A big arbor is what you want.
If you pick a reliable brand and have already checked the weight, go for the biggest arbor you can.
Let me tell you a really quick (true) story.
I once bought a small and compact fly fishing reel (it was expensive). Sure, it was made by a very reputable brand… But in the end, I hated it. Why? Because every time I wanted to fish, the line would get jammed up against the housing of the reel. I’d chosen a reel with a tiny arbor.
Want to know what happened to it?
It’s still in a box in my garage. After I snapped a line trying to clear a jam, I decided that I needed something else.
Big arbors prevent all this. They hold a lot of line with relatively few turns of the reel. This is great when casting, as you don’t need to pull as much off before you have all of your line out.
You’ll find that most fly reels nowadays have a big arbor. This is especially true in the best saltwater fly reels. They use really thick lines, so they tend to be super huge.
Big arbors cause less memory in your fly line. If you don’t know what ‘memory’ is, check out this article.
The above could have been avoided if I had just considered the reel capacity.
Here’s something that you need to know…
Fly reels don’t hold only fly line!
Yup, you also load them with backing. The backing is a fine braid designed to pad the reel out and give you a little more line if you hook a monster.
If you find your spool full, you can reduce the backing. This is a bit like saying if you find your glass too full, drink less beer. Yeah, right, bring me a bigger glass!
The same principle applies to reels. Don’t compromise on things that may help keep a big fish on. You want as much line as you can fit, so choose a nice high-capacity reel.
I’ve left drag until last as it is important.
Now, you won’t be playing trout off the reel 99% of the time. But when you are, that normally means you are into something big.
You don’t want your drag to be tested when you have the fish of a lifetime.
Make sure your reel has a high-quality drag. I love carbon and cork systems, with a large selector on the side of the reel.
Being able to set the drag is super important and will lead to you losing less fish. If you don’t know how to set the drag on a fly reel, I’ve found a handy video made by my friends at Rio… Who also happens to make some of the best fly lines for trout.
Got questions? Of course, you have!
Let me run through one or two things that people always ask me.
Is fly fishing better than spinning for trout?
Want my honest opinion? The answer is yes, fly fishing is better than spinning for trout.
With spinners, you are limited to what you can do. You fish subsurface, and that’s it. Cast out, wind in… All-day. Boring right? Flyfishing gives you almost countless options.
Fish on top, fish subsurface, fish on the bottom. Go fast, slow, or even stop (that doesn’t work with a spinner). There is no better feeling than seeing a big old rainbow sip a fly off the surface before all hell breaks loose!
For me, fly fishing is the clear winner, hands down!
What is the best fly reel for trout?
The best? For the money, I think the Lamson Liquid fly reel is great value. It is a lesser-known brand, but it performs as well, if not better, than some industry leaders. I absolutely love the way that it looks. It is super lightweight, and it has one of the best drag systems out there.
A close second is the Orvis clearwater. It ticks pretty much every box in my buyer’s guide above.
Are expensive fly reels worth it?
Yes, they are. But ‘expensive’ is subjective. Do I think you should drop $500 on a fly reel?
No, absolutely not.
Do I think spending an extra $50-100 is worth it? Yes, absolutely. Think how much you are going to be using a reel and rod. If the reel breaks, then that’s game over for the day at least. Plus, you have to buy a new one. Which will mean you’ve paid the same as you would for something quality.
Moderately expensive fly reels are definitely worth it. Just keep in mind that as you go more toward the super-premium end of reels, you are going to see diminishing returns.
Are Piscifun fly reels any good?
When compiling my list above, I came across a lot of Piscifun reels. They are budget, but I’m not sure that they are the best budget fly reels for trout.
They will work, and I believe they will work quite well. But at that price, I’m not sure that they are constructed to quite the same tolerances as some of my suggestions.
You’ll know that I’m a believer in ‘buy cheap, but twice’. If you want to use one for infrequent use or are just starting out and aren’t sure, go for gold, as they work. If you are looking for something, long term to last, you might find an established brand is a far better choice.
What size fly reel is best for trout?
A lighter reel is generally best. A 3-5 weight reel will be able to handle the smaller line weights typically used for trout fishing.
Does fly reel need to match rod?
The weight of your fly rod needs to match the weight of both your reel and fly line.
This is so they all work together properly.
Does fly reel color matter?
Fishermen have long debated the importance of reel color, with many arguing that it makes a difference in the fish they catch.
However, the reel color is actually nowhere near as important as the backing color. So next time you’re debating what color to choose for your reel, remember that it’s the backing color that really matters.
Do fly reels make a difference?
A fly reel’s main jobs are to store the line and provide drag while fishing. Fly reels have a drag system that helps to control the line when a fish is fighting.
This is crucial when trying to reel in a big or feisty fish, as it prevents the line from breaking or being pulled out of the reel.
That’s when a fly reel can really make the difference between success and failure.
Do you need drag on a fly reel?
As any angler knows, the size and weight of the fish you’re trying to catch has a lot to do with the type of reel you need.
If you’re fishing for smaller trout, you don’t need a reel with drag. But as you move up the list to larger fish, drag becomes very important.
Drag is the resistance created by the reel when the fish tries to swim away with the bait. It’s what allows you to better manage the fish and ultimately land it.
Does fly reel weight matter?
When choosing a reel, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is the weight.
You can handle bigger fish with heavy reels. The trade off is they are a bit more uncomfortable and clunky in day to day use.
Lighter reels, on the other hand, are less bulky and easier to transport. They also tend to be cheaper than heavier models.
However, they are almost always slightly less durable and may not be able to handle the same size fish.
For me, the best trout fly reels are those that allow me to fish without really noticing them. I want to be able to store my line, pull it off, and bring it in easy.
I also like having enough pulling power to stop a big trout in its tracks if it manages to strip me down to the backing.
Stick to the buyers guide above, stay within your budget, and you’ll find something suitable. I guarantee it.
What reel do you use? How do you find it? Let me know, and I’ll see about adding it.