While all anglers agree that a casting reel must be properly designed if it is to work efficiently, many feel that the fly reel is a very unimportant tackle item. This may be because in fly fishing the reel has no influence on the cast, whereas in other modes of fishing the reel has a dominant effect on distance. But the fly reel is an item which warrants careful thought, because a fly reel often does more than a fixedspool when playing a fish.

There are several reasons for this, and one is the faster runs made by game fish when compared with most coarse and saltwater species. Fly lines are thicker than monofilament so a fly reel empties quickly and as the line pile gets smaller so the spool turns faster. Under these circumstances, if the spool is a poor fit within the reel frame it will jam and the fish will be be lost.

Three basic types of fly reel

Fly reels fall into three basic categories: the singleaction type where the drum moves one revolution for every turn of the handle (on a wellfilled trout reel this recovers approximately 8in of line); the multiplier type where the drum performs perhaps two revolutions (thereby recovering approximately 16in of line) for every turn of the handle, and the clockwork or automatic type where the spool is driven by a spring. This spring winds itself up when you take line from the reel.

The basic function of any reel is to hold a sufficient quantity of line for the type of fishing being practised. Once that condition has been satisfied, reels become increasingly sophisticated. There are different methods of fly fishing and reel requirements will be different for each.

A simple, singleaction model will do all that is needed, for the reel does little beyond serving as a convenient line store. The multiplier and the automatic would also be suitable but in the situation described their more sophisticated features would not be used to full advantage and may be altogether unnecessary in this setting.


There are so few moving parts in a fly reel that maintenance is hardly worth mentioning. An occasional spot of oil on the spool spindle takes care of the revolving parts and a liberal smear of grease on the check pawl is all that is needed. With the automatic reel, follow the maker’s instructions regarding oiling.

As with all reels, clean them after every outing to keep deterioration to the minimum.