Anyone starting to learn fly fishing must understand how reels work and what purpose they serves. Understanding construction of the reel is very important. Reels are made out of graphite, titanium or metal, usually lighter reels are made out of aluminum or aluminum alloy. Machined aluminum reels are much higher quality and more expensive than mold poured cast reels. Machined aluminum reels mostly are mid to large arbor reels with sophisticated drag systems .
Reel is constructed with a base part called frame and a spool. Reel frame consists of reel foot and arbor. Reel foot is designed to affix reel to the fly rod seat. Spool is removable and holds the backing and a fly line.
Drag is located usually in the back side of the reel, but sometimes on some brands its located at the font. This allows to change tension on the line going out and prevents spool to overrun. Drag is designed also to help pressure fish during their takeoff and aids for easier retrieve.
When it comes to the reel selection you should ask yourself these four questions to determine which reel size is the right one. Will i be fishing Freshwater or Saltwater?
When it comes to Freshwater vs. Saltwater size matters a lot. For freshwater up to 6 wt rod you won’t need sophisticated drag system reel. All you should be spending is $90 at the most. Freshwater up to 6 wt you will be applying your hand under the reel spool to control the drag. In my opinion, there is no need to have an expensive reel when fishing for a small trout . When it comes to fishing Large Freshwater Species such as salmon, above 8 wt rod with large arbor with the drag system reel is a must. Larger arbor will hold enough backing and fly line to fight the fish.
Saltwater unfortunately is a bit more complex. When you’re fighting 120lb Tarpon in Keys or Sanibel Florida your tackle will be tested to the maximum. First and most important is how well sealed the drag system is. This is very important as salt water is very corrosive and if not cleaned or handled properly it will rust. Keep in mind not all large arbore reels are made with completely sealed drag system.
What species i’ll be targeting? Will i be fishing Freshwater or Saltwater? What size rod will i be using?
When fishing on a freshwater river and using rods less than 6 wt you won’t need expensive reels with sophisticated drag systems. Most basic requirement of a fly reel is to hold backing and fly line. Reel doesn’t effect nor help you to cast fly line. When it comes to the salt water its a different story. Its important to have very good drag system and big enough size arbor to hold enough backing dependent on a species you’re after. Mostly drag system reels are used in saltwater where salt is a problem causing corrosion. When fishing salt water make sure you rinse your reel and rod after each use.
When selecting reel size it has to match the rod weight and fly line weight.
Example: 5wt rod, 5wt reel, 5 wt fly line.
When it comes to the drag system you will need to know what species you’ll be targeting. Freshwater is a bit different than saltwater fishing. Saltwater species are much larger and with that said you will need a bigger reel with a best drag system you can find. Also Saltwater is a bit problem with some of the lower end reels as they are not sealed drag systems and are corrosive prone. Drag systems primary job is to prevent the fly line to overrun the spool and prevent from tangling up and also tire fish out when fighting it.
Everyone is different. Me personally i retrieve with my left hand. Rule is if you cast left handed you retrieve right handed. Very important to know this when buying the reel and someone puts backing on the right direction. All reels are universal and they retrieve for both left-handed and right handed casters.