Part Two – Choosing Your Fly Reels.
Do you actually need a fly reel to catch a small trout? Not really. You can catch trout up to 15” safely with a cane pole or Japanese-style Tenkara telescopic rod, a “string” the length of your pole and a fly. Fishing with a “pole” can be rewarding and a bunch of fun too. However, a “pole” won’t cover all of our bases here. Most of us will want to use a fly reel, fly line and fly rod combination outfit. Choosing a reel can seem like a daunting task. I’ll try to make it a simple choice for you.
What is a fly reel?
Fly reels are very different from spinning and casting reels. A fly reel, in most cases, is merely a line holding devise. You don’t cast the line from a fly reel like you do from the other types of reels. Rather, the fly reel holds the fly line until you strip-off the length of line that you want to cast. Then you bring the fish to hand using your fingers to draw the fly line and fish back to you. There is some technique involved, but basically you hand-line the fish. When you are done casting and catching fish, you simply store the line by winding it back onto the reel. Therefore, the fly reel is not as important as your fly rod in most cases; especially when you’re after smaller fish like stocked “planter” trout. Any simple, inexpensive fly reel will get that job done; as long as it is sized to hold the line and balances well on your fly rod.
If you are using a bigger fly rod, say a 6 or 7 weight, and are expecting to get into a larger fish, then stepping up to a more sophisticated reel makes sense. These upscale reels have a drag system which allows you to “play” the fish on the reel and use the reel’s drag to wear-down a feisty fish without breaking a light mono leader. We need, therefore, to match the gear to our budget and also to the type of fish we are angling for.
Fly Reel Sizes
For our purposes here in Central Nevada, reels of choice include a 3-4 weight, 5/6 weight and for Pyramid lake a 7/8 or even a 9/10 weight reel. Reel sizes match fly rod sizes. So if you have a 5 Weight fly rod, then get a 5/6 reel etc.
Fly Reel Drag Systems
Traditional fly reels have no drag systems. Instead, you control a running fish by putting pressure on the reel’s revolving spool with a finger or your palm. These are “click paw” reels. I use them on lightweight fly rods; such as 3 and 4 weight outfits for small trout and pan fish. That’s all you need in a fly reel to catch smaller fish.
Disk Drag Reels: Reel technology has progressed over the past few decades. You can now get a sophisticated machined aluminum disk drag reel for a fair price. However; keep in mind that the more you pay for a disk drag reel, the smoother the drag on it will be. A very smooth drag system allows you land fish using lightweight mono tippet (leaders)-such as using 2 LB. test for spooky trout in clear water. I don’t recommend buying cheap, off-brand disk drag reels. You get what you pay for. Invest in a decent disk drag reels for your 5 through 9 weight rods and you are all set. “Buy Once-Cry Once”, as they say. The last thing you’ll want is a malfunctioning, jerky, sticking disk drag on a fly reel when a good sized fish has been hooked. It could mean a broken leader and a lost fish. Good disk drag reels have infinite adjustability to accommodate various tippet strength.
The “Click” Sound
Most fly reels make a clicking noise as they rotate-both forwards and backwards. Some reels make more sound than others. There is nothing like the sound of a hot fish peeling line from a reel with a good clicker! It is a hearty ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ and sure gets your attention. It also lets everyone within hearing range know that you have a “Fish-On”. Both Click Paw and Disk Drag reels can emanate great sounds. It is a personal choice. Many anglers seek out reels with loud clicks. They even have “screaming reel” ring tones for cell phones! The sound does not affect a reel’s function. The click can be thought of as “ear candy”. I enjoy a good clicker.
You get what you pay for. Click paw reels go from $25 to $300.00. The difference is materials, brand and longevity. Disk drag reels go from $69.00 to $900.00 and higher. Again; brand, design, extra smooth drag systems, exotic materials, and custom finishes can demand a hefty price tag that some find hard to resist. I contend that there is no reason to spend over $250 MSRP to get a solid, serviceable disk drag reel for our needs. Deals abound on-line and through club group buys. Find a reel in a size and color you like and look for a smooth drag (if choosing a disk drag-type reel) in a top brand so that parts are available as well as customer support. Warranties vary. The best reels have spools that spin true without wobble, and have very small gaps between the reel frame and the spool. Pick up a spare spool and get essentially two reels for less cost. Oftentimes, fly anglers will fish both a floating and sinking fly line depending on conditions. The spare spools make sense in that regard. You simply keep the “other” type line on the spare spool and carry it with you in a vest pocket . You then simply pop off the main spool and swap it with the spare. This change-out only takes a moment. Save the funds you’d spend on a second reel for other essential gear.
Materials for fly reels vary widely. Fly Reel materials from the cheapest to the most expensive materials are:
Injected Plastic, Carbon Fiber, or nylon- filled plastics, cast metals, and machined aluminum (bar stock).
Right or Left hand wind?
Reels can be purchased in both left and right hand wind configurations. If you are right handed and cast the rod with your right hand, then usually you’ll want your reel to be left hand wind for convenience. This keeps you from having to switch the rod into your left hand when you need to reel in line. However; in the case of using larger rods and reels, it will make sense to have the reel configured in left-hand-wind. After hooking a large fish, you transfer the rod to you left hand and use your dominant hand to reel-in line tactfully. Some reels come with an internal bearing that is reversible to allow either right or left-hand set-up. Some reels have to be ordered in the configuration you want. Be advised! Which is best for you? I personally like to set up my reels as follows:
1) I cast right handed. For fly outfits 3 weight to 6 weight, I prefer left hand wind.
2) For bigger 7 weight outfits and up to 15 weight, I set them up for dominant hand wind (Right hand in my case). This way when you have to wind super-fast to take up slack-you have your best hand doing the work. During an hour long fight with a big fish, you’ll want to put your best “hand” forward for sure.
Lastly-consider fly reels to be knuckle busters. How’s that again? Almost all fly reels made today do not incorporate an “anti-reverse” design. There is a small handle on the side of the reel’s spool that allows you to crank the reel and wind on the line. If you happen to hook a sizable fish, you must let go of the handle and let the spool spin as line goes out. This prevents the leader (tippet) from breaking. This applies to both click paw and disk drag reels. This means that if you try to grab the handle while it spins, your knuckles and fingers will get impacted by the handle as it spins in a blur. A large hot fish can spin a reel at very high RPMs. Ouch! So there is a little bit of a learning curve in keeping your hands out of a rotating fly reel when a fish makes a long run. Timing is everything here. It’s all a part of our wonderful sport of fly fishing.
Part Three –“Choosing Your Fly lines, Leaders and Tippets”
Floating, Intermediate Sink & fast sinking lines give us even more choices and abilities……..