Thinking about a new fly reel? Confused? We thought so, because we were too. Over the last ten years there's literally been an explosion in fly reel brands, series, models and even options within the models...and all you want is a quality fly reel that will get the job done for your specific needs. For this exact reason, we've taken the time to test all the fly reels we once carried with the simple goal of filtering out the fly reels that really didn't make your life better. Below is what (in our humble opinion) is worth your consideration and hard-earned money.

Fly fishing takes you to wonderful places. Wonderfully savage places. Places where plans go awry, and the best security is having solid equipment. Fly reels are no exception.

The perfect laydown. A dragless, short drift under the bank. Suspended emotion as the water dimples and your fly disappears. You pause. Only the big browns take a dry without breaking the surface, so you make sure the fish has turned down before you tighten up. Half an instant longer, then, SET! There it is! Pulsing, constant, and alive at the other end! The stalled world is drawn into motion. Line peels off. You didn’t think the hole under the bank was that deep… but the reel’s still screaming. This fish could be big, very big. You take your eyes off the water long enough to see your backing appear, bright and startling. Still running. This could be one great fight . . .

Or it could be one great disappointment. What makes the difference? Your equipment, your connection to the fish, your reel! When you’re in a situation where all elements count, you want the best. But what is the best? How are you to know what to look for when there are so many choices out there?


The campsite was less than ideal. Your trusted friend and guide swore he’d been here before, that it was a “great spot.” That was before the wind, and the rain, and your good buddy’s all night snoring. At sunrise, the only thing keeping you going was the promise of strong fish on new equipment. You leave the tent, survey the site, and grimace. In the confusion to put up the tent fly, a reel had been dropped. The palming rim on the outside spool was bent into the frame and riddled with dirt and pine needles. “How on earth did this happen?” you ask, “This reel is totaled, and I never even got to fish with it!”


A fly reel is a thing of beauty. With so many different designs, you now have the opportunity to choose a reel that embodies the experience you’re seeking when you step into quiet waters. Is the style of the holes in the frame, called porting, agreeable? How is the finish? Does it balance with your fly rod? In short, is it a pleasure to fish with?


She’s still down there. You don’t know where. You don’t know for how long. But you do know one thing, she’s big. This is the third run she’s been on, and last time, you almost got her to the surface. It was just long enough to see the telltale shape and coloring, and to quicken your heart. Now she’s coming in again. In anticipation of another run, you tighten down the cork drag two clicks between rotations of the spool. You keep the rod tip high. Slowly. Slowly. She’s almost to the surface. You bring up her head. You’re sliding her towards the net . . . and . . . WHIZZZ! She turns and dives deep again, straining against the line. As the sound of the outgoing click blurs into a siren, you smile. This fish isn’t going anywhere.

Revived and strong, the fish eases away from your net and glides out of sight. No fight is certain, and that’s what makes this landing all the more rewarding. You’ve had your moment of simple perfection. In the days to come, the picture your buddy snapped and the stories you’ll tell will recall this experience. But for right now, the only proof that it happened is the glowing ache in your arm, and no fish tale can do justice to this hour on the water.