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Classic vs. Modern Fly Reels

Let’s face it, there  is no shortage of fly fishing gear out there today.  When it comes to fly reels, where do you even begin?

Click and Pawl, Sealed Disc Drag, Large Arbor, and other terms can make selecting a reel even more difficult.  To make things easier we’re breaking it down into two categories of fly reels, Classic and Modern.



As the term implies “classic” reels are just that.  These are the reels of yesteryear that are simple, durable, and stand the test of time.  They have a sprocket or gear on the inside of the spool.  A small triangular pawl/tooth is pressed up against this gear with spring tension and keeps the reel from overrunning or backlashing as you strip out line.  It also gives the reel that classic clicking sound that is music to any angler’s ears. The Diesel Fly Reel by the Red Truck Fly Fishing Co. is the perfect example of the classic reel style.

Some of these click and pawl systems have a dial located on the frame to increase the amount of tension put on the pawl, allowing a bit more drag or tension as you fight a larger fish.  You can also use your palm to apply pressure to an exposed rim style reel which provides additional drag when you hook into that fish of a lifetime.

Classic reels also tend to be narrower in width and have a deep arbor.  This allows you to store a sufficient amount of backing on your reel and makes for faster line pick up.  If you are a traditionalist when it comes to fly fishing than this is the reel style for you.



Technology has come a long way in the fly fishing industry and fly reels are no exception.  Today’s modern reels generally have a drag system of some kind.  This allows you to dial in the correct setting to increase or decrease resistance as line is pulled from the reel.  It also allows you to tier out a fish much more quickly and makes fighting larger fish much easier.  The types of drags used in these reels can vary, but the purpose of them is the same.  Many of todays top end companies like  Hatch Outdoors and LOOP, incorporate a fully sealed drag system which prevents debris from entering into the reel’s drag system.

Modern Reels are most always large arbor in design as well.  This pertains to the inner hub of the reel being much wider in diameter allowing you to pick up line more quickly, keep your line stored in a larger diameter to prevent coiling and preventing the reel from having to spin faster as you get towards the center of the reel causing a change in drag tension.

Rather than cast aluminum, most of the quality modern fly reels are machined out of bar stock aluminum.  In simple terms, these reels are sculpted out of a single piece of aluminum rather than the aluminum melted down and poured into a cast of some sort.  Machined reels are extremely durable and are anodized with a outer layer to prevent corrosion and scratches.