Guide to the Best Fly Reel for Trout

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.

Nam Fly Rod Delgado Closeup
A vintage Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel

What to Look for in a Trout 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 fly reel for trout 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.

Nam Fly Rod Reel Seat
Hardy Duchess – A Classic Fly Reel for Trout

The Best Fly Reels for Trout

Entry Level: Under $150

Redington Crosswater

Here is a great trout fly reel at less than $50! The Redington Crosswater Fly Reel 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 Fly Reel‘s retrieve can easily be changed.

The Redington Crosswater Fly Reel comes with a drag system to handle strong trout 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.


Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor

The Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor fly reel 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 Large Arbor is a great all-around trout reel. Featuring an adjustable drag system this reel can handle bigger trout 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.


Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel

The Pflueger Medalist is our favorite classic trout reel in the entry-level section. It has the looks of a classic trout reel but is made from modern machined aluminum making it a sturdy reel.

The Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel comes with a standard arbor meaning your line retrieve will not be as quick as with the Redington or Orvis. The polymer handle has a wooden look and contributes to the classic feel of the Pflueger.

As most classic trout reels, the Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel does not feature an adjustable drag system. This means you have to stop the runs of bigger fish by applying pressure with the palm of your hand directly to the reel. It takes some getting used to. Once you know how to do it it gives extra pleasure as the connection to the fish is more direct.


Mid-Range Trout Reels: $150 – $250

Orvis Hydros Reel

A big name in fly fishing, Orvis has proven its product quality for decades. The Hydros Reel is no exception to this rule and a great choice if you want to do saltwater trout fishing.

Featuring a very large arbor, the Hydros Reel allows you to pick up line quickly. That’s an important feature when saltwater fishing because you often have to strip and retrieve line quickly due to the speed of the fish.

The Orvis Hydros Reel comes with a carbon & stainless drag system. Over the years this reel has become incredibly lightweight. So if you are looking to fish all day that can be a great asset. Comes in various sizes and colors.


Leland Reel Co. Vintage Golden Trout Fly Reel

The Leland Reel Co. Vintage Golden Trout Fly Reel is a beautiful choice if you are looking for a classic setup. This reel has the looks to combine it with a fiberglass or bamboo fly rod.

Just like the Pflueger Medalist reel is does not feature an adjustable drag system. The Leland Reel Co. Vintage Golden Trout Fly Reel also easily converts from left to right hand or vice versa.

The Leland Reel Co. Vintage Golden Trout Fly Reel comes with a leather reel pouch. This reel also makes for a great gift to any fly fisherman or woman. Beautiful sound when a fish is running. A classic fly reel for the purist.


Colorado Fly Fishing Reel

At $150 the Colorado Fly Fishing Reel is a great budget option if you want to use your trout reel in saltwater as well. A fully sealed drag system makes sure all the elements stay out of the sensitive parts of this reel.

The Colorado Fly Fishing Reel also comes with a large arbor. Beautiful, very subtle olive green. Made from CNC-machined aluminum.

The Colorado is a great fly reel to chase sea trout or sea-run cutthroat trout as the sizing (#5/6/7) makes sure you can handle bigger fish that make longer runs as well.


High-End Fly Reels for Trout: $250 – $500

SAGE Trout Reel

The SAGE Trout Reel is a modern fly reel with beautiful, classic looks. The full frame design and classic, slightly slimmer silhouette contribute to the traditional appeal.

If you are looking for a trout allrounder, the 4/5/6 option of the SAGE Trout Reel is the right choice for you. If you want to go ultra light you should opt for the 2/3/4.

The SAGE Trout Reel features a very nice and sensitive drag system and a large arbor design for quick line retrieve. Ambidextrous and available in bronze and silver.


Hardy Duchess 3″ Fly Reel

There is hardly a brand in fly fishing that looks back on such a long traditon as Hardy Brothers. Their Hardy Duchess 3″ Fly Reel is our favorite choice when it comes to classic trout reels that will be passed on to your children and grand children.

The Hardy Duchess 3″ Fly Reel is the epitome of a classic fly reel. This reel does without the bells and whistles and focuses on the essentials. Made from stainless steel and aluminum it does not feature a drag system.

The Hardy Duchess 3″ Fly Reel is the right choice if you are looking for a special reel for a vintage bamboo or fiberglass rod. You won’t forget the sound it makes when a fish is on.


Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 4 Plus

California-based Hatch Outdoors is another American manufacturer known to produce some of the finest fly reels out there. Their finatic collection is hugely popular amongst fly fishermen and women around the globe – rightly so. The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 4 Plus is an excellent trout reel that you can safely use in saltwater as well.

The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 4 Plus features a smooth, fully-sealed drag system. CNC-machined from type 2 anodized aluminum the Hatch design with the cross braces has become iconic over the years.

The Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 4 Plus comes in a variety of standard and custom colors.


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.

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.

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Read more of our Gear Guides here:

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Buyer’s Guide Best Wading Boots

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Top 6 Best Fly Fishing Nets

A Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Starter Kits

Building your own Fly Rod