The ‘Reel’ Debate

Ben Tinnion – Pro Team Member

The biggest arguments I hear is whether a reel is simply something to hold the line, or is it much more important than that, possibly the most vital piece of kit standing between you and that fish of a lifetime?

Technology in fly fishing has undoubtably come on leaps and bounds in recent history. No department more so than fly reels. From click and pawl type reels which sing to let everybody know on the river that you’ve hooked up, to modern sealed disc drag steam train stopper. Whether aiming for half pound wild brown trout on a 6 foot wide stream right up to hundred pound plus saltwater beasts, an essential part of any set up is undoubtedly the reel.

There are so many different things to consider when buying a new fly reel. Drag, braking capability, arbor size are all key factors. I personally would say for 80-90% of my trout fishing I don’t use the drag system or even wind the reel. This is based on the fact that I can strip the line by hand quicker than I can wind by hand. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t use the drag at all! By adjusting the drag on a setting which allows you to pull line off without force, so you can cast without line being pulled off the reel is essential. Also when I do hook into that lump of trout I can change the drag slightly to allow me to fight the fish on the reel, using the palming method to slow the fish when I want. When talking about salmon or saltwater fishing, the drag becomes a much bigger aspect. You’ll find yourself relying on the drag much more, and when saltwater fishing the drag being sealed and protected from all that salty abuse is essential. A hard fighting Atlantic Salmon or Saltwater fish can make a meal of a cheap ineffective drag.

Is the weight of the reel a personal preference or essential science? Widely debated, some anglers prefer a lightweight reel over any other. This function can also go hand in hand with the retrieval speed of the reel, large or mid arbor? Again this depends on what species you are targeting, if relying on the wind to pull the fish in a larger arbor is an obvious bonus, less winds to haul that trophy fish in!

Tackle tarts all over will admit, myself totally included, that no matter how light a reel might be, how well it might perform, or how it could stop a jumbo jet going down the river away from you, nothing really matters if the reel looks awful.

Need to fish a range of lines, whether using floating, sinking or anything in between, then the availably and cost of spools will no doubt be a point to raise. Look in any competition anglers reel bag and you will find a combination of fly lines to fish from the surface through every inch of water to the bottom.

One thing that sums it all up for me, when deciding which reel to go for, I know personally that if I was hooked into the fish of a lifetime I’d never forgive myself if it was basic kit such as the reel that let me down.