HOW TO USE A FLY REEL
I’ve been asked many times by new fly anglers how to use a fly reel which I guess is a common question to ask when you are first starting out in fly fishing. Like any new hobby or sport you take up, it will require asking questions, gathering information and then putting it into practice. As they say, practice makes perfect!
In this article, I’ll do my best to explain some of the types of fly reels available and how you set them up and use them.
MAIN FUNCTIONS OF A
The 3 main functions I would summarize as the use of a Fly Reel is as follows:
- Holding line such as the backing line, the fly line and your leader tippet.
- Retrieving line after you have hooked into a fish and need to reel in the fish and thus reel in the line.
- Usage of the drag system built into the reel again to serve when fighting a fish and to retrieve back line after a cast.
TYPES OF FLY REELS
There are several types of fly reels available on the market, each of the fly reels I will cover below have been designed with a certain type of fly fishing use in mind. Generally there are 3 designs of the fly reel:
STANDARD ARBOR FLY REELS
With a Standard Arbor Reel, the primary use for this reel is to use on smaller waters and rivers paired up with a smaller weight fly rod. It’s a very old school style reel and still today favoured by fly anglers who fish smaller waters, rivers and streams.
Whilst these reels do hold plenty of backing line and fly line, the way the lines are coiled around the narrower spool makes the line tightly packed and when trying to retrieve line after you have casted or caught a fish, you will pull less line back onto the reel per turn you make , also known as a revolution. The spools on these reels are usually on the narrower side which is one the factors as to why the line becomes very tight and coiled thus leading to coil memory.
In essence they are a good reel for smaller rods and smaller waters.
MID ARBOR FLY REELS
The mid arbor comparing these 3 reel designs is the middle range both in size and shape. For example the base of the reel has been positioned out more from the spindle in the middle & the reel has thus been widened to compensate. Mid Arbor Reels can hold a good amount of backing line & fly line.
Due to the larger size of the spool vs the Standard Arbor Reel, they keep the line coiled in larger loops which in turn helps to reduce the line memory. With a larger spool, the line retrieve rate is greater for backing and fly line which helps to reel in a fish faster or retrieve the fly line to make a new cast.
Generally the MID ARBOR REEL will have more metal machined out as this helps to reduce the overall weight of the reel.
LARGE ARBOR FLY REELS
Large Arbor Reels as the name states Larger in size and larger overall across spool diameter. They are a much more modern reel design than the previously 2 mentioned reels and hold a lot of backing and fly line.
Retrieval rates with a Large Arbor Reel are faster and generally are used on larger fly rods. I tend to use a Large Arbor fly reel when I’m Saltwater Fly Fishing from the boat targeting game fish due to the drag, line capacity and retrieval rates they offer.
Although larger in size than the standard and mid arbor reels, the large arbor is surprisingly light weight. This is due to the modern design of the reel, the materials used to construct them and the metal that has been removed from machining.
RIGHT HAND OR LEFT HAND REEL?
Its important when selecting a reel that it is available in both Left hand and Right hand handle reversible modes. I have met some right handed people that actually retrieve the line onto the reel with their left hand a vice versa which may seem odd but if you have the option to get a reversible handle reel then I’d advise doing so and then you can decide after trialing which is more comfortable for you to retreive the line with, a right handed reel handle or left handed.
WHAT IS THE DRAG ON A FLY REEL FOR?
The main purpose of a drag on a fly reel is to down slow a hooked fish in most cases. The drag when set tight will not be able to rotate in fast revolutions as it would if the drag was loose and hence when trying to fight a strong fish, tightening up the drag will assist you to fight it better.
It’s important to note that there is a fine balance between having to tight a drag and to loose a drag. If the drag is too tight and a fighting fish cannot pull slightly then there is a chance the fish can become unhooked. Too loose of a drag and the fish will swim and run the line, and the line retrieval will be less per revolution.
Most fly reels now come with a closed drag system which is extremely good at keeping out dirt, saltwater and grit which may enter into the reel and over time and destroy the mechanism.
WHAT IS A SPOOL ON A FLY REEL?
A spool on a fly fishing reel is when the backing line, fly line and leader line sit. First to be spooled is the backing line and then followed by the fly line and lastly the leader line.
Spools will hold different amounts of line depending on their size ie the larger the spool the greater the amount of line they can hold.
WHAT KNOT DO YOU USE TO TIE BACKING LINE TO THE SPOOL?
The main type of knot used for tying the backing line to a spool is the Arbor knot. It’s a pretty simple knot to tie and has been around and in use for many years.
This pictogram by John E Sherry of Net Knots explains how to tie the backing line using an Arbor Knot to a spool.
WHAT KNOT DO YOU USE TO TIE BACKING LINE TO THE FLY LINE?
The main type of knot used for tying the backing line to the fly line is the Albright knot. It’s another pretty simple knot to tie and will make a strong knot connection between the backing and the fly line.
This pictogram by 101 Knots explains how to tie the backing line using an Albright Knot to a fly line.
If you would like some further information on Fly Fishing Set Ups, you may like to read: