For catching small fish, almost any fly reel will work, but if you plan to hook and land big fish, then a quality reel becomes very important.
I was looking for a reel that could handle some of the big trout found in my local waters. While I was shopping for a fly reel, I made a list of fly reels that met my requirements and at the time, all were priced less than $200 (See tables below).
Since then, some older models have been replaced by newer models but the tables still show four large arbor reels that cost less than $75, eight that cost less than $100 and 13 reels less than $225.
My Requirements for a 6 Weight Fly Fishing Reel
- Functional drag
- Large arbor
- Quick changeable spare spools
- Lifetime warranty
- Budget less than $200
I wanted a sturdy reel with an excellent drag capable of handling fish up to 10 pounds. I also wanted a large arbor reel of at least 3 inch diameter because of the advantages over a small arbor.
Three Advantages of a Large Arbor Reel
- Less line coil memory
- More constant drag tension
- Faster retrieve rate
For example, a small reel with a 1 inch bare arbor retrieves only 3.1 inches per crank, my Lamson Reel with a 3.4 inch arbor retrieves 10.7 inches per crank which is 3.4 times faster. Also, the drag tension is more constant because each row of line that is pulled off a large arbor reel changes the diameter less than a small arbor. There is also more line to be pulled off each row. Larger coils creates less problems with line coil memory, so it’s easier to get the line to straighten out when you start fishing.
Fly Reel with Changeable Spools
I wanted a reel that could easily change spools so I could quickly change types of line without having to spool the old line up somewhere for temporary storage before loading the new line, simply pop one spool off and replace it with another and you are ready to fish.
Fly Reel with Lifetime Warranty
I’ve had a bad run of luck with fishing gear with one year warranties. I’m looking at two broken spinning reels sitting here on my desk that lasted only 13 or 14 months before failing and I can’t use them unless I spend more money to have them repaired. Not worth it.
One reel failed the second time my wife used it. The only warranty was a 90 day return, which doesn’t work well for us because it’s not worth making a special 60 mile trip to return a $30 item. That warranty has expired so the money was totally wasted. Sure, the reel can be repaired but she’s will spend at least $20 shipping plus repair costs. How long would you bet that repair lasts? I’m not betting another penny.
I don’t know if this is planned obsolescence or just bad luck, but this time, I wanted a reel with a life time warranty.
Budget for Fly Reel
I also wanted a reel that wouldn’t break the bank and my budget for a new fly fishing reel was maxed out at $200.
There are many more reels available than in the tables below, but I eliminated all reels that had arbors less than 3 inches and reels that had less than a 10 year warranty. All reels in the table below have lifetime warranties except Cabela’s reels which comes with a 10 year warranty. With all the choices that offer lifetime warranties (for original owner), it may be foolish to spend $100 on a reel with a limited warranty.
At the time, I was looking at 6 weight reels, so all the data in the tables are only for reels capable of handling fly line in the 6 weight range.
Large Arbor Fly Reels Less than $75
|Cabela’s Prestige+||5-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.38||5.2||10 Year|
|Ross Eddy||5-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.39||5.7||Lifetime|
|Redington Path||4-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.55||5.7||Lifetime|
|Ross Flystart||4-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.25||5.5||Lifetime|
Large Arbor Fly Reels Between $76 – $100
|Orvis Clearwater||4-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.38||5.5||Lifetime|
|Redington Surge||5-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.53||5.6||Lifetime|
|Orvis Battenkill III*||5-7||Mach. Alum.||Pawl||3.25||3.2||Lifetime|
|Ross Rapid||5-6||Cast Alum.||Conical||3.39||6.0||Lifetime|
*Note – Orvis has come out with a new mid-arbor version of the Battenkill Disc Reels; all sizes are under $200.
Large Arbor Fly Reels Between $101 – $225
|Lamson Guru II||5-6||Mach. Al/SS||Conical||3.5||4.6||Lifetime|
|Orvis Clearwater Cassette||6-8||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.88||6.9||Lifetime|
|Sage 2200 series (2250)||5-6||Cast Alum.||Disc||3.60||5.3||Lifetime|
|Cabela’s RLS+||5-6||Mach. Alum.||Disc||3.46||5.22||10 year|
|Redington Delta||5-6||Mach. Alum.||Clutch||3.46||6.2||Lifetime|
I bought the Lamson Konic II fly reel, which was replaced by the Lamson Guru, then by the Guru II. I’ve fished with my Lamson reel over 160 times since August 2013 and it has never disappointed me.