Ultimate 2024 Guide to the Best Fly Reel for Trout

Last updated on May 9th, 2024.

Leonard Schoenberger

Most fly fishermen and women will fish for trout at some point. We give you an overview of what reel to pick in our guide to the best fly reel for trout.

Chasing trout is very popular amongst fly fishermen around the globe. These fish populate streams and rivers from the US and Canada, to Europe, Australia and New Zealand and South America. There is hardly a place on earth where you can’t catch trout.

Disclaimer: All products in this guide are independently researched by our team. We only recommend products we believe in and never get paid for the reviews. Learn more about our review process here.

Nam Fly Rod on Wood
A vintage Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel – One of the best 5wt fly reels

Table of Contents Best Trout Fly Reels:

What to Look for in the Best Trout Fly Reel

Types of Fly Reels for Trout

Best Fly Reels for Trout: Quick Answer List

Best Trout Fly Reels Reviewed

Taking Care of your Trout Reel

Choosing the Right Trout Line

Best Fly Reel for Trout: FAQs

What to Look for in a 5 Wt Fly Reel

There are also species of trout that migrate between freshwater and saltwater (Read our Saltwater Reels Guide). These fish can be caught on the coastlines in places such as Scandinavia and the UK where they are known as sea trout. Cutthroat trout also migrate into the ocean and can be caught in the Pacific Northwest for example.

If you are considering this kind of fishing you should choose a trout reel made for saltwater fishing. We’ll suggest some great reels for this purpose in our guide.

A classic trout fly reel most often comes as a #5. This indicates the line class. As a rule of thumb you can remember that the smaller the number, the smaller the fish you target with it. A #3 fly reel is a good choice for small stream fishing for example. A #5 or #6 is the right reel for most trout fishing situations. If you are into salmon fishing you will pick a reel between #8 and #12 and if you are hunting big saltwater species you can go all the way up to a #14.

Types of Fly Reels for Trout

The amount of trout fly reels on the market is endless. In this guide to the best 5 wt fly reel we want to categorize trout reels into multiple categories to give you a better overview.

Traditionally most of the fly fishing for trout was done in smaller rivers where fish can’t run far once you hook them. Hence a disc drag is not as crucial as when fly fishing in the ocean for example. The same holds true for small arbor vs large arbor. A large arbor (a wider diameter of the spool) helps to pick up line quickly. Again this is important when fishing in saltwater for example.

As mentioned before, if you choose to fish for trout in saltwater, it is imperative to get a fly reel for these conditions. Lastly your style preferences and budget play a decisive role as well. That’s why we’ll offer you our recommendations in these three categories: entry-level trout reels, mid-range fly reels and high-end reels.

Best Fly Reel for Trout: Quick Answer List

1. Redington Crosswater

2. Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor

3. Guideline NOVA

4. Ross FS Evolution

5. Abel Rove Fly Reel

6. SAGE Click

7. Hardy Ultradisc

8. VR Trutta Perfetta

Sage Click Fly Reel Reviewed
The Sage Click – A Classic Fly Reel for Trout

Entry Level: Best Trout Fly Reel Under $150

Redington Crosswater

Redington Crosswater 5 Wt Fly Reel
Redington Crosswater

Key features:

– Comes pre-spooled

– Sealed drag systems

– Large arbor design

Why we picked it:

Here is a great trout fly reel at less than $100! The Redington Crosswater has many features of fly reels that cost a lot more. A large arbor spool design makes a quick line retrieve easy. No matter whether you’re left handed or right handed, the Redington Crosswater’s retrieve can easily be changed.

We like the fact that the Redington Crosswater comes with a drag system to handle strong fish in bigger rivers. Redington is known to build quality products at affordable prices. A one year warranty makes sure you can put your new reel to the test and exchange it in case something doesn’t work. Comes with a cloth reel bag.

Pros:

– Fantastic value for money

– Sealed drag systems is a plus in this price range

– Comes with protective case

Cons

– Guarantee is only one year

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

GET IT AT ED’s FLY SHOP

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor: Best Trout Fly Reel under 200
Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor

Key features:

– Powder-coat finish

– Orvis guarantee

– Aluminum design

Why we picked it:

The Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor is another great choice to fish for trout. At $89 it also comes in at less than $100. This reel has the same advantage as the Redington. Orvis produces some high end reels and their know how trickles down intro entry level products such as this one.

In the #4-6 version, the Orvis Clearwater is a great all-around trout reel. Featuring an adjustable drag system this reel can handle bigger fish with ease. Just like the Redington Crosswater it is ambidextrous which means it can be fished by right handed and left handed people as the retrieve can easily be changed. The Orvis Clearwater also features a large arbor design for quick line retrieve. A reel that you will have fun with for years to come. Comes with the well known Orvis guarantee.

Pros:

– Very sturdy, yet affordable

– Large arbor for quick line pickup

– Lifetime guarantee

Cons

– Not suited for saltwater use

GET IT AT REEL FLY ROD

GET IT AT ORVIS

GET IT ON AMAZON

Guideline NOVA

Guideline Nova Fly Reel
Guideline Nova fly reel in black, size #46. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

Key features:

– Made from recycled materials

– Very sleek, modern look and feel

– Carbon drag system

Why we picked it:

Scandinavian manufacturer Guideline started a new era of fly reels by introducing the company’s first ever fly reel made from recycled materials. The NOVA reel (read our in-depth review here) comes in two colors (black and silver) and multiple sizes. The #46 version is certainly the way to go if you’re looking for an all-around trout reel. If you’re into nymphing, you could also consider the #79 version which will nicely balance a slightly longer rod.

Made from aluminum, the NOVA can also be used in the salt and features a carbon drag system that I found to be nicely adjustable and offering plenty of stopping power even for bigger fish. Personally, I like the black colorway better than the silver one.

Pros:

– Large arbor for quick line pickup

– Can be used in saltwater

– Drag system is very reliable

Cons

– Black and gold colorway is cooler than the silver black one in my eyes

GET IT AT GUIDELINE EUROPE

GET IT AT GUIDELINE CANADA

Ross Evolution FS Fly Reel

Ross Evolution FS Fly Reel
Ross Evolution FS Fly Reel

Key features:

– Available as 4/5 or 5/6 for trout fishing

– Saltwater proof

– Large arbor design allows for quick line pickup

Why we picked it:

Ross Evolution FS 2023 Fly Reel
The Ross Evolution FS during our testing as a sea trout setup

Colorado-based Ross Reels released their new Ross Evolution FS reel (read our in-depth review here) claiming its the toughest fly reel they ever built. What I really like about this trout reel is its versatility. Its name (FS) stands for fresh- and saltwater. We’ve put it to the test as a 5/6 version which makes it a great choice for smaller saltwater species such as sea trout or as a trout spey reel for species such as steelhead.

At least in the 5/6 version, the Ross Evolution FS is a rather heavy reel which means you need a slightly stronger and bigger rod to balance it well. We really like it on a #6 double handed setup pairing it with the Nam REN #6. It’s an excellent choice for steelhead fishing for example where you need a tough and sturdy fly reel. Also, we found its drag to be incredibly strong which is an important feature when you’re fighting strong predators.

Pros:

– Excellent drag system without any startup inertia

– Exceptional grip on the handle

– Large arbor design

Cons

– The Ross Evolution is a rather heavy reel

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT VAIL VALLEY ANGLERS

Abel Rove

Abel Rove: Best Fly Reel for Trout Review
Abel Rove

Key features:

– Infinite customisation options

– Cork drag

– Caged frame

Why we picked it:

The Abel Rove (read our full review here) is a fly reel unlike any other in terms of its looks. You can choose from endless options in terms of the color design for the main body and the drag knob. That’s why we love that reel – but don’t be fooled: it has a lot to offer on the inside as well. The cork drag system is state of the art and highly adjustable.

The caged from on the Abel Rove prevents your line from getting caught. The large arbor design and wide diameter makes it a good choice for single handed or double handed rods. No matter if you’re left or right handed, you can change the retrieve easily. This made in the USA fly reel is not for everybody. But if you want to stand out at the river, there is no way around the Abel Rove.

Pros:

– A one of a kind fly reel for the extroverted

– Endless customisation options

– Made in the USA

Cons

– Not for the traditionalist

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT TROUTS FLY FISHING

SAGE Click

SAGE Click Fly Reel in bronze
SAGE Click Fly Reel in bronze

Key features:

– Classic looks, modern technology

– Understated colors

– Large arbor design for speedy line pickup

Why we picked it:

Here’s a great allrounder fly reel that won’t break the bank, the Sage Click (read our full hands on review here). It features a large arbor design that offers a lot of versatility, for example as a good balance to a slightly longer nymph rod. What’s worth noting about the Sage Click is the fact that it doesn’t come with a disc drag system. That means you will have to stop a running fish with the palm of your hand – that might sound a little scary at first but I guarantee you, you will get used to it quickly. Once you know how to do it, I think you will actually enjoy it.

The Sage Click comes in three sizes with the 3/4/5 being the most common choice for the trout fisherman. You can also choose from various colors. The Click is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an allrounder trout reel that can handle a lot of fishing situations. At $330 it doesn’t come cheap but you get good value for your money.

Pros:

– Large arbor design

– Sage lifetime warranty

– Very sturdy build

Cons

– The click and pawl system is not for everyone

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

GET IT AT BACKCOUNTRY

Hardy Ultradisc Fly Reel

Hardy Ultradisc Fly Reel
Hardy Ultradisc Fly Reel

Key features:

– Highly adjustable drag

– Saltwater proof

– Lightweight and large arbor

Why we picked it:

There is hardly a brand in fly fishing that looks back on such a long tradition as Hardy Brothers. Their Ultradisc reel (read our in-depth review here) is worth a look if you’re looking for a large arbor reel (for quick line pickup) that is lightweight and even ready for saltwater use.

The Ultradisc comes in a wide range of options covering small creek gear and bigger versions for coastal cutthroat or sea trout fishing. This reel is also a good option if you’re considering using a trout spey setup and are looking for a slightly bigger reel to balance your double-handed setup.

Pros:

– Excellent value for money

– Wide range of size options

– Ready for saltwater use

– Lightweight and large arbor

Cons

– The only con that I can think of is the fact that I still got my line caught once or twice in the reel despite the fact that it’s advertised as a close cage design

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

GET IT AT BACKCOUNTRY

VR Trutta Perfetta

VR Trutta Perfetta Fly Reel
The VR Trutta Perfetta is a classic beauty

Key features:

– Click and pawl reel

– Available in different finishes

– Aluminum and titanium version

Why we picked it:

Are you an individualist when it comes to your fly fishing gear? Do you want something else than the big brands without compromising on performance and looks? Well, in this case the VR Trutta Perfetta (read our in-depth review here) might be for you. These little beauties that feature a classic look and come as a aluminum version and even a titanium version are handmade by Vlad Rachenko.

I immideately fell in love with their looks but they also convinced me with their performance. Similarly to the old Hardy reels, these Trutta Perfetta features a beatiful (quite noisy) outgoing and incoming sound letting you know which way the fish is going. The drag system is a classic click and pawl (which I am a fan of when it comes to trout fishing since you learn how to use your hands for breaking power). At around $350 I think this one is a reel that’s hard to beat if you’re a classy guy – plus, it comes in a handmade Italian leather case – what more can you ask for?

Pros:

– Excellent value for money

– Classic looks, modern performance

– Beautiful incoming and outgoing sound

Cons

– Click and pawl reel is something for traditionalist, not meant to stop the strongest fish

– This reel is not a large arbor, hence not ideal if you fancy an ultra fast line pickup

GET IT AT VR FLY REELS

GET IT AT SPINOZA

GET IT AT GRAYWOLFRODS

Taking Care of your Trout Reel

Taking care of your fly reel is imperative if you are fishing in saltwater. Rinse the reel with freshwater after every use. If you are fishing in freshwater this is not as crucial but a little care every now and then will prolong the lifetime of your fly reel.

As you can see from our guide there are different things to look out for. In case you are fishing in saltwater the most important thing is a sealed drag system. If you want to retrieve line quickly a large arbor design is beneficial. If you are looking to fish a fiberglass or bamboo rod, a classic trout reel is a beautiful option.

Choosing the Right Trout Line

Once you’ve made your choice in terms of a trout reel you are still confronted with the question of which line to choose. We have compiled an extensive “Guide to the Best Fly Lines for Trout“. In it you’ll learn everything you need to know about the different types of fly lines for trout on the market.

Frequently Asked Questions: Best Fly Reel for Trout 2024

How do you pick a fly reel for trout?

The most important factor is the size of the reel. It needs to be big enough to hold the fly line plus the backing. Most trout fly rods are #5 (5 weight) rods that work well with fly reels in the range of #4-6. If you are fishing for bigger trout it is advisable to pick a reel with an adjustable drag system (helps to slow the fish down when it makes a run).

What is the best fly line weight for trout?

What is the best fly line weight for trout?

Can you put a 5 weight reel on a 4 weight rod?

Yes, sizing up or down one weight class is generally not a problem.

Are expensive fly reels worth it?

Generally speaking yes. Most expensive fly reels feature high end components such as better drag systems, lighter material and better craftsmanship. However, you can certainly catch fish with less expensive reels. As a rule of thumb one can say that the stronger the fish, the better the reel needs to be.

The Wading List Survey Sept 2021 - Who Makes the Best Fly Reels?

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