Fly Fishing Reel Basics
August 9th, 2011
Fly fishing reels are simple devices, much simpler than spinning reels for example, but
fly fishing is so shrouded in tradition and mystery that nothing seems simple to the
Most fly reels serve only one purpose, to hold the fly line and any extra line called
“backing.” That’s it, just holding the line. You can fly fish for many species without a fly
reel at all, although it would be inconvenient and your line would tangle more easily.
Also you do not cast with a fly reel, something which confuses beginners. You pull line
off the reel, called “stripping” the line, before you cast. When you retrieve to make the
fly seem alive and hopefully get a fish to bite it, you manually pull it in with your hands.
Some fly reels, especially for saltwater use and larger freshwater fish, also have a
breaking device called a “drag.” If a fish pulls hard, hard enough to maybe break off, it
instead swims away pulling out line from the reel under pressure from the drag.
This tires out the fish so you hopefully can eventually land it. Non fly reels also have
Traditional fishing reels have all kinds of gears and complexity. Most fly reels do not.
One turn of the handle equals one revolution of the reel. And when line is stripped off the
reel or pulled out by a fish, the handle rotates in reverse.
Fly fishing reels are very simple devices, much simpler than other types of fishing reels.
Don’t let the seeming complexity of fly fishing deter you from trying it, it’s actually