Fly Fishing Reels: Buying Guide

Fly Fishing Reel

Considering buying a reel? You are in the right place.

We get a lot of questions from people when they are buying a reel. What size reel, what type of line, etc. Check out the info below to learn some of the answers to these questions! 


What size reel do I need? 

Fly reel sizes are classified in the same way that rods are, they are sized by "weight" . Sizes can run from 3 weight to 12 weight. The smaller the number, the lighter the setup. So a 3 weight rod and reel set-up would be for catching small trout on a creek. A 12 weight, on the other hand, would be used for catching large saltwater fish because it is a much heavier, stronger set-up. You will pair the same size rod with the same size reel. Sometimes the reels may cover a wider range of sizes also. For example, if you have a 5 wt rod, you may end up buying a 4-6 wt reel. 

Size recommendations based on type of fishing:

  • 3-4wt - Small creek trout, bream, and other small fish. 
  • 5 wt - This is your most common trout, all around fly fishing weight. If you have one rod/reel for trout fishing it needs to be a 5 wt. 
  • 6-7 wt - These two sizes are perfect for streamer fishing. Get a good full sink streamer line and you will be ready to chase trophy trout. 6-7 wt set-ups are also great for bass fishing. 
  • 8-9 wt - A good 8 or 9 weight rig is perfect for the angler who wants to chase fresh water predators and inlet saltwater fish.  Big bass, pike, redfish, sea trout, etc. are ideal for this weight. Remember for salt water you will need a sealed drag system. 
  • 10-12 wt - Tarpon fishing. If you want to chase tarpon or other large saltwater fish, make sure that you have a strong set-up. Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure your reel has fully sealed drag system. This will keep salt from eroding and jamming up your reel. 


What type of line do I need to put on my reel?

Fly line, just like rod and reel, are classified in size by their weight. Most line vendors will display their lines by size (5wt, 6wt). You want to pair up your line to match the size of your rod/reel. If you have a line that is too heavy you may break your rod due to the heavy weight. The reverse is true for a line that is too light, you will not be able to get a good cast due to the rod not loading appropriately because your line is not heavy enough. 

We recommend using Airflo fly line. They have a wide variety of line types and have proven to be some of the most durable, high-quality lines on the market. 

  • Best all around line - The Super-Dri Elite is the best all around line that they have. If you only have 1-2 rods, make sure that you have this line on your 5 wt. The double taper design on this line gives you the option to either offer delicate, dry-fly presentations or to use the more weighted end for turning over big bugs and nymph rigs. 
  • Nymphing line - The Super-Dri Nymph/Indicator is one of our favorite lines. This nymphing line is built to throw heavy nymph rigs. We have found it is also really good for big bugs like salmonflies, and streamers. 
  • Streamer line - Hands down, the Streamer Max Long is our favorite streamer line. This line has 30' of full sink line that will get your flies down to where the big fish are. We use and abuse this line on the rivers of SW Montana. 

Blue Halo lines are another great option that are much more affordable than some other fly lines. This is a good quality line that will last. Blue Halo lines are known for their low friction surfaces that make casting easy. If you want a line that will perform at an affordable price, this is the line for you. 


With all of that said, take your time and make sure you have the right set up for your next fly rod. This is mostly focusing on setting up your reel to match a rod. If you need more info on what rod sizes/lengths are good for what, leave a comment below. We would be glad to help! 


Hudson Magee