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Home Fly Fishing Articles How to Select a Small-Stream Fly Reel

How to Select a Small-Stream Fly Reel


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How to Select a Small Stream Fly Reel


     For the fly fisherman, a fly reel serves two purposes. The first purpose is to serve as a line management and storage device. The second purpose is for use as a fish fighting tool via the drag system. So, if you are fly fishing a small, Brook Trout stream where a mature adult is eight inches and a real trophy is twelve inches, you really don't need a lot of fish fighting capacity. If, on the other hand, you are wading or floating on one the larger streams or rivers here in western North Carolina, you would very likely need quite a bit more fish fighting capacity since the fish tend to be larger in larger bodies of water and, they also have more room to run in. Thus, when choosing a fly reel for use on a small, backcountry, stream the main criteria are that the reel balance with the rod and that it be aesthetically pleasing to the eye with backing capacity and the drag type being of secondary concern. Thus, for small stream use, the most commonly chosen type of reel is one with lightweight design and a standard arbor with an adjustable spring-and-pawl or disc drag system. However, physically small, large-arbor reels are fast gaining in popularity.


    In addition, as you view fly reels in a magazine, on a web site, or at a brick & mortar fly shop, you will see that they are made from different materials such as graphite composite, cast aluminum, and machined aluminum and have an accompanying range in price. In addition, fly reels are available in several different sizes in order to accommodate different line weights and are often available in three different diameters of arbor (the post or space in the center of the spool) which are either: small, medium, or large. Consequently, fly reels with standard arbors have the slowest rate of retrieve but also tend to be the lightest of the three types while reels with mid-arbors have a somewhat higher rate of retrieve and yet, are often lighter than fly reels with a large arbor. However, while fly reels with a large arbor have the fastest rate of retrieve, they also often have oversized spools in order to be able to hold both large quantities of backing and the fly line and thus they tend to be the heaviest of the three types of fly reels. Thus, when choosing a new fly reel, make certain that it is designed to hold both the fly line weight you intend to use along with enough backing to suit your purpose.


     But, regardless of which material, reel size, or arbor size you choose, it is important to find a reel that is neither too heavy nor too light for your particular fly rod. The reason that I mention this is that there are s couple of fly reel manufacturers who make very nice reels but, they are rather heavy. Thus, when you mount a heavy reel on your nice, light, graphite fly rod, the resulting lack of balance can be annoying at best and can adversely affect your cast at worst. Therefore, before purchasing any reel, try mounting the reel on your assembled fly rod and then hold the rod horizontally, grasp the grip as if you were going to make a cast, then remove your all of your fingers from the grip except your middle finger and see how the rod balances with the reel in place in the reel seat. If the balance point is forward of you middle finger, then the outfit it tip heavy. Yet, if the balance point is behind your middle finger, then the outfit is butt heavy. Thus, the ideal balance point is directly under the middle finger and by balancing the rod and reel outfit, you will enjoy greater accuracy and much less fatigue in your casting arm.





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Harper Creek Fly Fishing Company