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Fly Reels | Fly Fishing

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Fly Reel Beginnings

Many anglers regard Fly Reels, as a particular sub-category, to date back to around the introduction of the Hardy Perfect in 1891.  Truth be told, an awful lot more anglers, inventors and engineers pioneered and evolved the ‘fishing reel’ from its earliest times up to then.
It could reasonably be argued that fishing reels invite and contain more variants in design, concept and engineering than just about any other piece of kit in any other sport.
To get from essentially a spinning piece of wood to a highly specialized piece of precision engineering took at least a millennium and yet ‘new’ fly reels still appear every year..!

The difference between Fly reels and their Coarse reel cousins is that they need to deal with a ‘thick’ fly line which when wound tightly around a small diameter reel spindle tends to retain what fly fishermen refer to as ‘Line Memory’.  So when it is spooled off, a fly line may tend to hang onto those ‘coils’ which affect casting and retrieval.   The obvious answer was to wind the fly line around a larger diameter and for years, the answer was to install loads of backing line first.

Oddly, it is only in the last few years that the manufacturers of fly reels have actually ‘cottoned on’ as it were and for the first time in this whole millennium of reels, most fly reels can at last be identified as such by their characteristic larger spool diameter, now referred to as either
Mid-Arbour or Large Arbour fly reels.

Choosing Fly Reels

Modern fly reels still come in plenty of types, materials, sizes and colours to choose from.
In approximate order of simplicity, features and price they can be simplified into:



Standard Single Spool Fly Reel 

Size range from say #5/6 to around AFTM 7/8, with just a single spool and integral handle, a simple adjustable Click-check Drag just for over-run or perhaps a slightly better Disc-drag for controlling bigger fish ‘off the reel’.  Probably standard spindle reels or mid-arbour.  Such reels can be cheaper Carbon/Graphite, better Die-Cast Alloy or even CNC Machined fly reels.

These relatively simple fly reels are ideal for Lake, Stillwater and stream/river trout fishing in fairly open water situations where most of the time you are ‘hand-lining’ ie:  not playing fish with the reel.

Price Range - £10 - £60.



Mid-Large Arbour Alloy Fly Reel 

Size range from #2/3 up to around AFTM 7/8, similar to the above Standard fly reels but probably a Die-cast, open-cage lighter design with non-ferrous components & materials.    Also with a specific easily adjusted, rear Disc Drag, with dial-in adjustment allowing more accurate control of fish in more difficult situations and terrain.
The more expensive CNC Alloy versions are popular with experienced river fly fishermen and the larger sizes are a good choice of fly reel for pike and saltwater fly fishing if suitably described.


Price Range - £50 - £150.

Large Arbour Alloy Fly Reel 

Size range from #7/8 up to #11/12.
Made in a wider upper size range, the larger the reels, the heavier they tend to get so these reels are  often made from the lighter but more expensive aero-grade CNC alloys which keep the weight down but push the price up..  They do however usually come with excellent build-quality and design and some are true works of art!  Their Disc-drags are often totally sealed to exclude all salt, dirt and grit which makes them very reliable and hence practically indispensable, if you are tackling 20 kilo Atlantic Salmon or 30 kilo Tarpon!


Price Range - £100 - £1000.

 Reel Size 

This is actually an easier one which practically chooses itself.
You are already helped here because in choosing your fly rod(which of course you should have done first.. see Fly Rods),  you simply need to choose a fly reel of the same AFTM# No. as your rod..
eg  for a 9ft : AFTM #5/6 Fly Rod…  a #5/6 Size Fly Reel should be ideal and so on.
However, if you really are going to try for a Marlin on a fly rod.. you should maybe size-up a bit and make sure you buy a fly reel with PLENTY of backing..!

Cassette Fly Reels 

  Largely as a result of the boom in Stillwater Fly Fishing on the large UK Reservoirs in the 60’s and 70’s, Competition Fly Fishing required a means to rapidly and efficiently change tactics from floating, to intermediate to sinking lines within the confines of a drifting boat.

Thus, the next evolutionary and revolutionary step in the history of fly reels was born in the guise of the Leeda LC.. the First Cassette Fly Reel.  
Simply, the original Spool/Handle component was separated into 2 separate items. 
The now simpler ‘Spool’ is much cheaper than the earlier alternatives and  allows the angler to invest in a wider range of Floating, Intermediate and Sinking fly lines installed on cheap Cassette Spools that take up little room.

Practically all the above types, sizes and prices of modern fly reels can now be obtained in "Cassette"  versions which are supplied with multiple spool packages..  If your particular style of fly fishing does call for a wide range of lines, you could do a lot worse than investing that little bit extra in one of the many high quality Cassette fly reels.

In fact we specialise in Line-Loaded Cassette Fly Reel Packages where we have saved you the additional time and expense of buying and installing backing, etc., and we have installed a variety of fly lines on each of the spools.. So you are All Ready to Fish..!!

 Fishing Republic, stores a wide range of fly reels, fly fishing reels clearance, fly fishing reels for trout,  fly fishing reel and line deals, fly fishing reels for beginners, fly reels with spare spools and many more, from renowned manufacturers such as, Airflo, Rovex, Snowbee, Lureflash, Greys.

We hope that this guide will help you get the best fly fishing reel for the money.

Don’t hesitate to write us a line on anything from the best salmon fly reel for the money to a best fly reel review.