20 Large Arbor Fly Reels less than $250

19 inch rainbow trout

19 inch Rainbow Trout

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Since then, some older models have been replaced by newer models and I have removed discontinued models many times.

The current tables show four large arbor reels that cost less than $75, five reels that cost between $75 – $100, five reels cost between $100 – $150 and six reels that cost between $150 – $250.

My Requirements for a 6 Weight Fly Fishing Reel

  • Functional drag
  • Large arbor (>3 inches)
  • 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

  1. Less line coil memory
  2. More constant drag tension
  3. Faster retrieve rate
21 inch brown trout

21 inch Brown Trout

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 leader straight before 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 one, simply pop one spool off and replace it with another and you are ready to fish. In reality, I rarely switch spools. But I do carry two rods most days on the river; one rigged to nymph and one for dry flies. So money may be better spent on 2nd rod and reel than on spare spools.

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 from now on, I want a fly reel with a life time warranty; even if I have to pay more for it.

Budget for Fly Reel

cutthroat trout

23 inch Cutthroat Trout

I also wanted a reel that wouldn’t break my bank so 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 all reels that had less than a 10 year warranty.

All reels in the tables below have lifetime warranties (except the Picsifun Sword reels which have a 3 year warranty).

With all the choices that offer lifetime warranties (for original owner), it may be foolish to spend money on a reel with a limited warranty.

At the time, I was looking at fly reels for 6 weight fly line, so all the data in the tables are for reels capable of handling fly line in the 6 weight range. 

Five Large Arbor Fly Reels Less than $75

Model Line Construction Drag Arbor Weight Warranty
Weight Dia. (in) (oz)
Piscifun Sword   5-6 CNC Alum. Disc   3.40   4.7  3 Year
Okuma SLV   7-8 Cast Alum. Disc   3.23   5.5  Lifetime
TFO Prism Cast   5-6 Cast Alum. Disc   3.0   5.5  Lifetime
Redington Zero   4-6 Cast Alum. Disc   3.55   5.7  Lifetime

*Note we also have a dozen Okuma SLV reels on fly rods for backups in our fly fishing guide business.

Three Large Arbor Fly Reels Between $76 – $100

Model Line Construction Drag Arbor Weight Warranty
Weight Dia. (in) (oz)
Lamson Liquid 2   5-6 Cast Alum. Conical   3.61   4.65  Lifetime
Orvis Clearwater   4-6 Cast Alum. Disc   3.38   5.5  Lifetime
TFO Prism Cast   5-6 Cast Alum. Disc   3.00   5.5  Lifetime
Cabela’s RLS+   5-6 Mach. Alum. Rulon®  3.46   5.27  90 day
Orvis Battenkill III*   5-7 Mach. Alum. Pawl   3.25   3.2  Lifetime

*Note – Orvis has come out with a new mid-arbor version of the Battenkill Disc Reels; all sizes are under $200

* I have a Redington Surge (3/4 wt.) loaded with 4 wt line on an Echo Fly rod that I use for dry flies and nymphing on small streams.

Five Large Arbor Fly Reels Between $101 – $150

Model Line Construction Drag Arbor Weight Warranty
Weight Dia. (in) (oz)
Orvis Clearwater Cassette   6-8 Cast Alum. Disc   3.88   6.9  Lifetime
Redington Behemoth   5-6 Cast Alum. Carbon   3.40   5.2  Lifetime
Ross Cimarron II   5-6 Mach. Alum Delrin   3.50   5.11  Lifetime
Piscifun Platte   5-6 CNC Alum. Disc   3.60   6.2  Lifetime
Sage Spectrum C   5-6 Cast Alum. Carbon   3.63   4.88  Lifetime

Four Large Arbor Fly Reels Between $151 – $250

Model Line Construction Drag Arbor Weight Warranty
Weight Dia. (in) (oz)
Lamson Guru II  5-6 Mach. Al/SS Conical  3.50  4.58  Lifetime
TFO BVK  5-6 Mach. Alum. Conical  3.75  4.9  Lifetime
Redington Rise  5-6 Mach. Alum. Carbon  3.60  4.60  Lifetime
Lamson Remix  5-6 Mach. & cast Conical  3.61  4.54  Lifetime
Cabela’s WLX II  5-6 Mach. Alum. Conical  3.30  4.70  Lifetime
Sage Spectrum  5-6 Mach. Alum. Carbon  3.63  4.38  Lifetime

The Lamson Konic II fly reel I bought in 2013, was replaced by the Lamson Guru (I also have a 4 wt Guru). The Guru model has now been replaced by the Guru II.

Note: As of Dec 4, 2018 I’ve fished with my original Lamson Konic II reel (on TFO fly rod) at least 241 times since I bought it in August 2013 and it has never disappointed me.


  1. Nice overview. I checked out the Lamson fly reels and they all cost much more than $200.

    • Thanks for the comment Phillip
      The two Lamson reels listed in the table in the $150 – $225 range are over still less than $225 if you’re looking at 6 wt reels or smaller. You can get a Lamson Liquid fly reel for less than $100.

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