Ultimate 2023 Guide to the Best Fly Reel for Trout

Updated: Nov 20, 2022.
Leonard Schoenberger
Latest posts by Leonard Schoenberger (see all)

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. Pflueger Medalist

4. Orvis Hydros

5. Waterworks-Lamson Remix

6. Abel Rove Fly Reel

7. Galvan Torque

8. SAGE Trout

9. Hardy Marquis

10. Hatch Iconic 4 Plus

Nam Fly Rod as part of the Best Trout Fly Reels Guide
Hardy – A Classic Fly Reel for Trout

Entry Level: Best Trout Fly Reel Under $150

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

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

Pflueger Medalist

Key features:

– Classic look

– Made from aluminum

– Click drag

Why we picked it:

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 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 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.

Pros:

– Classic looks give it a vintage feel

– Beautiful sound when a fish is running

Cons

– Basic click drag system is not for the strongest species

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

Mid-Range Trout Reels: $150 – $250

Orvis Hydros

Key features:

– Fully sealed drag

– Lightweight material

– Adjustable drag

Why we picked it:

A big name in fly fishing, Orvis has proven its product quality for decades. The Hydros 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 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 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.

Pros:

– Drag works smoothly

– Sealed drag protects the break system effectively

– Multiple colors to choose from

Cons

– Design is a bit prone for light tippets to get tangled

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

Waterworks-Lamson Remix

Key features:

– Saltwater ready

– Large arbor

– Lifetime warranty

Why we picked it:

The Waterworks-Lamson Remix 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. Its low weight makes it a great option for a trout setup.

The Waterworks-Lamson Remix comes with an fully machined aluminum case resulting in low weight and ultimate durability. The sealed drag system is very sensitive and makes this reel a good choice for saltwater as well for example when chasing cutthroat trout in estuaries. The Waterworks-Lamson Remix features a large arbor which makes a quick line pickup a piece of cake. Comes in different sizes and colours and with the great Waterworks lifetime warranty for the original owner – a great value for money reel in the mid-range price range.

Pros:

– Large arbor for quick line pickup

– Can be used in saltwater

– Drag system is very reliable

Cons

– Breaking system wasn’t the strongest in the test

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

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

Abel Rove

Key features:

– Infinite customisation options

– Cork drag

– Caged frame

Why we picked it:

The Abel Rove 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

Galvan Torque

Key features:

– Anodised aluminum

– Multiple colors

– Lifetime warranty

Why we picked it:

The Galvan Torque is a fantastic, affordable trout fly reel that’s made in the USA. It’s got a beautiful classic silhouette and is available in a large variety of colors so you can make sure it fits your trout fly rod. Made from aluminium, featuring a powerful torque drag, the Galvan Torque is the right choice if you also plan on targeting smaller saltwater species such as sea trout.

The found the disc drag system of the Galvan Torque work well in any environment – it requires minimal maintenance. Its large arbor design facilitates a quick line pickup for example when a big fish is running. Comes with a lifetime warranty for the original owner.

Pros:

– Beautiful, lightweight trout reel

– Saltwater safe

– Smooth drag systems

Cons

– Line pickup not quite as fast as on the Orvis or Waterworks

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

SAGE Trout

Key features:

– Classic looks, modern technology

– Understated colors

– Sealed carbon drag system

Why we picked it:

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 is the right choice for you. If you want to go ultra light you should opt for the 2/3/4.

The SAGE features a very nice and sensitive drag system and a large arbor design for quick line retrieve. Ambidextrous and available in bronze and silver. We fished it on a trout spey setup where it worked really well in terms of balance.

Pros:

– Classic looks on the outside, state of the art technology on the inside

– Sage lifetime warranty

– Fully sealed drag system

Cons

– Called a large arbor reel but arbor is not that big in reality

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

Hardy Marquis

Key features:

– Beautiful, classic looks

– Click and pawl reel

– Traditional 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 Hardy Marquis is our favorite choice when it comes to classic trout reels that will be passed on to your children and grand children.

The Hardy Marquis 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 feature a traditional click and pawl drag system. The Hardy Marquis 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.

Pros:

– Classic trout fly reel with modern makeover

– Sound when a fish is running is a delight

Cons

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

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

Hatch Iconic 4 Plus

Key features:

– Great breaking system

– Large arbor design

– Machined reel seat

Why we picked it:

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 Iconic 4 Plus is an excellent trout reel that you can safely use in saltwater as well.

The Hatch Iconic 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 Iconic 4 Plus comes in a variety of standard and custom colors.

Pros:

– State of the art drag system

– Beautiful open cage design

– Multiple colors to choose from

Cons

– Style with, the Hatch doesn’t work as well on classic rods in our eyes

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT VAIL VALLEY ANGLERS

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.

Redington Reels...
Orvis Clearwater Large...
Sage 32-7300R45602 Fly...
Hatch Outdoors Finatic 4...
Redington Reels...
Orvis Clearwater Large...
Sage 32-7300R45602 Fly...
Hatch Outdoors Finatic 4...
$67.33
$98.00
$400.00
$450.00
Redington Reels...
Redington Reels...
$67.33
Orvis Clearwater Large...
Orvis Clearwater Large...
$98.00
Sage 32-7300R45602 Fly...
Sage 32-7300R45602 Fly...
$400.00
Hatch Outdoors Finatic 4...
Hatch Outdoors Finatic 4...
$450.00

Last update on 2023-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Frequently Asked Questions: Best Fly Reel for Trout 2023

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?

As a rule of thumb fly line weights for trout range between #4-6. The lighter your tackle, the more fun it is to catch smaller fish with it as stronger reels and rods will overpower the fish.

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?

Read more of our Gear Guides here:

Ultimate Guide: Best Wading Jackets

Buyer’s Guide Best Wading Boots

A Guide to the Best Sling Pack

Top 6 Best Fly Fishing Nets

A Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Starter Kits

Building your own Fly Rod

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