Fly fishing requires skill, patience, and also a little bit of luck.

The skill piece of this does not just start when you are on the water. An angler’s “skill set” also involves knowing the right equipment for their needs because not all rods and reels are alike.

Getting the equipment and gear right can ultimately mean getting the big fish; you do not want to find yourself discovering you have the wrong equipment at the exact moment you have hooked “the big one.”

Whether you are angling for saltwater fish or exploring freshwaters in search of the perfect fly fishing adventure, you will need the reel that best suits your fishing style, your skillset, and of course, your budget.

We have rounded up the very best fly fishing reels to guide you in your decision making, but first, we will take a quick look at things you should consider while shopping for one.

Best Fly Fishing Reels

The Best Fly Fishing Reels

These reels made our list for the best choices right now, with something for every type of angler and every budget.

Galvan Rush Light

The competition is stiff among 5-weight reels as there are so many of them available to anglers. But the Galvan is a tried and true leader among the pack, and this reel can be relied upon to perform beautifully while withstanding years of wear and tear.

The Galvan Rush Light boasts a large arbor and comes in different colors (black, clear, green, blue, and orange). Anglers love the microtune adjustment, which means your drag stays where you set it.

Galvan Torque T-5

Another high-end and high-performing reel from Galvan, the Torque T-5, also boasts a large arbor and an outstanding drag system. The visually pleasing Torque T-5 is not just a stunner to look at—it really shines in action. This reel is saltwater safe, has an EZ grip handle, and like the Rush Light, it has the popular microtune adjustment feature.

Lamson Guru

Made of machined aluminum and stainless steel, the Guru is a fantastic reel from a company that originally started making bicycle parts. Odd as it may sound, they simply took the same attention to detail and quality that benefitted cyclists and turned that into the manufacturing of products that benefit anglers. And they have more than succeeded!

The Guru is a top-performing reel and is one of the best out there in terms of value for the price.

Orvis Battenkill

This is a simple yet hardworking reel at a price that cannot be beaten. Orvis is a trusted name in fishing and outdoor gear, and the Battenkill is a reel you will undoubtedly use for years.

Made from bar-stock aluminum, the Battenkill operates with a click-and-pawl drag system and performs well for all anglers in freshwater fishing. As a manufacturer, Orvis prides itself in finding ways to tweak its gear to shave off weight without affecting performance: the Battenkill, like many other Orvis products, is an ultra-lightweight reel that is still reliable and rugged.

Orvis Mirage

One of the great things about Orvis is their range of products, including everything from entry-level products for beginners right up to high-end products aimed at experienced anglers. The Mirage is certainly an example of the latter.

Trout anglers love this reel’s lightweight design and smooth drag system. As a bonus, its sealed design means less damage over time from debris.

We wholeheartedly recommend this one for serious and experienced anglers who spend more time in waders than regular pants. The price on this one is not a fit for those who are just toying with the idea of fly fishing: this one is truly an investment.

Piscifun Platte

Made out of machined aluminum and backed by a manufacturer warranty, the Piscifun is fully sealed for saltwater use and is one of the best mid-range reels available. For those who do not want to break the bank on a new reel but also do not want a cheap reel that falls apart, the Piscifun is a great option.

This reel is lightweight yet strong, and it provides accurate and repeatable drag settings. Because the sealed surface is impervious to saltwater and other debris, this reel should perform well for many years and have an easy conversion from left to right-hand retrieve.

And for those who like to add a little pizzazz to their gear, the ice blue color choice is a favorite!

Redington Behemoth

It takes a certain kind of chutzpah to name your reel a “Behemoth,” and Redington is justified in their choice as this reel delivers on power.

Offered at an affordable price, the Behemoth goes toe to toe with higher-end reels in terms of performance and is an exception to the rule that you should typically bypass a die-cast construction. This one boasts a super large arbor and is backed by a lifetime warranty, making it one of the best values for any angler.

Whether you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned pro, you will appreciate the quality and performance you get from the Behemoth.

Ross Reels Evolution LTX

The Evolution is truly a work of art and a masterpiece among reels. However, its visual appeal has nothing on its performance, which is simply leaps and bounds above the rest of the pack. This is the “dream reel” you want to put on a holiday wish list or a wedding registry (if your soon-to-be spouse allows that sort of thing).

Proudly assembled in Colorado out of aluminum and stainless steel, the Evolution is built to last and comes with a manufacturer warranty to prove it.  Plus, the company has contributed $7,520,000 to conservation initiatives, making it a business that anglers are even prouder to support with their shopping dollars.

Waterworks Lamson Liquid

We will end our selection with good news for those who have experienced heart palpitations when looking at some of the prices: the Lamson Liquid will go easy on your wallet with a price tag under $100.

This die-cast reel is manufactured in the USA alongside Lamson’s other high-quality products and boasts the same attention to detail as higher-end reels from the company. This large arbor reel is a great choice for any angler.

How to Shop for the Perfect Fly Fishing Reel

If you want the best reel for all your fishing needs, you must consider a number of factors before purchasing one. Many an angler has experienced buyer’s remorse out on the water, discovering the gear purchased simply did not work for the type of fishing involved.

It is always a good idea for beginners to seek advice at their local fishing or tackle store. If you live near water, you also live near people who are experts when it comes to fishing in the area. Find them! These local experts may be able to save you time and frustration by steering you away from the wrong fishing equipment for your local waterways.

When it comes to fly fishing reels, you will find anglers have no lack of strong opinions. This is justifiable in that the reel plays an incredibly important role in your fly fishing success. Here are some of the things you need to consider when shopping for fly fishing reels:

The Weight

For beginners, we should clarify one common point of confusion here. The weight does not refer to the number that pops up if the reel itself were placed on a scale; rather, it refers to the tackle the reel (and rod) are meant to handle.

The key to this part of the decision is a match between rod and reel: you would never want to pair a seven-weight rod and a five-weight reel. You will also want to match the weight of the line you use once you have chosen your fly fishing rod and reel.

Closeup of Reel

The Material

The fly fishing reels you are shopping for will all be made of aluminum; however, there are two important subsets to consider within that body.

Machined bar-stock aluminum reels are created from a single piece of aluminum; die-cast aluminum reels, on the other hand, are created by pouring molten metal into molds.

While it probably seems like there would not be much of a difference between the two, the machined bar-stock aluminum reels have a competitive edge when it comes to quality. Anglers should go for the bar-stock aluminum reels whenever possible.

The Price

Like Goldilocks trying to find the porridge that was “just right,” hitting the sweet spot on price is important when it comes to reel shopping. Not every angler needs the most expensive reel on the market, and frankly, not every expensive reel outperforms every budget version.

Deciding how much you can spend on a fly fishing reel is personal to each angler’s budget, but we would just caution you should consider the time you spend fly fishing before you spend a great deal of money. A less expensive reel may suit your needs just fine if you are only occasionally out on the water.

On the flip side, if you fish several times a week, twelve months a year, it may be worth investing more in high-quality, long-lasting fishing gear.

Pro Tip on Reel Prices: Avoid fly fishing reels priced at $30 or less—they will likely fall apart quickly and be susceptible to rust and other damage.

The Size of the Arbor

As you shop for fly fishing reels, you may see them designated as “mid arbor” and “large arbor.” These designations describe the speed of the reels when taking in line: a large arbor reel is built to take in line up to three times faster than a traditional one.

The Direction (Right Handed vs Left Handed)

The reel itself is built to work for both right-handers and left-handers. You do not need to worry about specifying this when you purchase a reel. However, it does come into play with the fly fishing rod and reel setup. If you cast with your right hand, the reel will need to be facing the left. If you cast with your left hand, the reel must be positioned to face the right.

How Does the Drag System Work?

Another thing many fly fishing beginners will quickly learn when it comes to reels is the ins and outs of the drag system.

The drag system is located within the reel itself; this describes a mechanism used to slow the fish down. (And we should mention here, we say “fighting” a fish for a reason: it is hard work indeed! Watch this to learn more about fighting a big fish on a fly rod.)

The reel’s drag system will be one of three different varieties: a click-drag system, a disc-drag system, or a spring-and-pawl system.

The disc-drag reels are better for larger fish, and the click-drag mechanisms work well for smaller fish. The spring-and-pawl reel is becoming somewhat of a relic, as these are less common among newer reels.

Should I Buy a Kit Instead of an Individual Reel?

Some anglers, especially those new to fly fishing, opt to purchase an entire kit instead of an individual reel.

There are a number of good reasons to consider this:

  • It will typically cost less to buy everything together versus the individual components (reel, rod, line, backing, and leader)
  • You will eliminate the possibility of mismatched components that do not work together (i.e., you will not end up with the wrong rod and reel combo)
  • It saves time for those overwhelmed by the need to choose all of these items separately

While this is a good option for beginners, more experienced anglers are likely to purchase reels independently. For example, they may need different reels for different types of fly fishing (saltwater versus freshwater) or match the different rods they own.