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Flyfishing Reels

Updated on April 8, 2021

Fly Fishing Reels

By Terri Mackinnon

To catch a fish is one thing, to land a fish is completely another. First the sound of the catch… the beautiful sound of line ripping away off of your reel to let you know that the fish is going to give you the fight that you have been waiting for.

I call it … FISH ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Whatever you call it the most important factor is your reel needs to live up to making sure it does what it is supposed to do and that is help you land that fish. Being able to spend the time to play the fish is part of the fun but taking the time to skilfully land the fish will depend on your knowledge and patience along with the choice of equipment that you have.

Most anglers have a sound that they absolutely do not want to hear and that sounds like “Ping” a spring breaking. This is definitely not a happy sound because right after this sound happens it usually is followed by some unhappy angler stating that the fish has somehow beaten him. Yes, your fish broke off! Not only have you lost your fish, you are now probably dressed up with your fishing line hanging around you, possibly no hook… missing leader... and of course, fly gone. Oh well, you still hear the Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!! Experienced anglers have this happen to the best of them so beginners have to understand that this is not just part of the learning curve… it’s part of fishing.

But there may be some ways of reducing how many times this does happen very simply and that is by the choice of the fly reel that you have purchased. Reels were made to actually be a place to wind the fishing line and backing onto it. The backing serves two purposes. 1) It fills the spool which allows the line to be retrieved faster 2) the backing provides back up for the line if a fish was to run with your line so that you have excess allowing them to be able to do so.

The price range for reels are extreme from some being $20.00 to some of the high end the 1000’s with them being made in materials from plastic, aluminum and high end titanium. The actual body of the reels are made up of a variety of metals and graphite and some are coated with materials so that they are protected from saltwater on the more expensive reels (however do not assume just because you bought one of the more expensive reels that it is saltwater proof that is not always the case). If you are fishing saltwater make sure you have the protection otherwise you have wasted your money and will require a new reel very quickly. Remember to always wash and rinse off these reels and care for them before they are put away so that you have them for a long period of time.

Unlike spinning and casting reels with drag systems fly fishing reels come with a couple types. The most common type of reel has no drag and it is called a click and pawl reel. This system counts on the angler themselves to control the pressure and retrieval at the rim of the reel. These are the reels that you will find that fit into the fairly inexpensive category and are very popular with entry level fishing and preferred.

The fly fishing reels that contain drag systems are a little more expensive and give off the nice sound of the buzzzzzzzzzz when your line has that fish on the other end ready to run down the stream with your fly in its mouth. Always remember to set yourdrag BEFORE you actually start to fish and don’t play with it or adjust it once you have that fish on. There is no time to lose it now as you will be using your fly fishing techniques to strip back the line to retrieve the fish and you will really have control of the line at this point anyway.

Does price matter? YES! But do you need to spend the $1000. to catch a fish. Everything is relevant but the fish at the end of the line... they really don’t care. The weekend fisherman, well I guess it’s going to be up to you to decide how important that fish truly is. Easily a good fly fishing reel can still be purchased under $100.00 a perfect price point for a great investment. You will learn that the more you fish the more you may want better equipment, but it takes mastering equipment before you will ever understand the differences.


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