Best Fly Fishing Reels (Complete UK Guide On 7 Top Centrepin Reels)
Over the past two decades, I have fly-fished all over the globe and must have used in excess of 50 different centrepin reels during this time. I have come to learn that the best fly fishing reels do not have to cost the earth.
The best centrepin reels are those that offer the right weight and balance to the fly rod you are fishing with. The build of the best fly reels is solid and made from robust materials. The mechanics of the best reels also allow for a smooth cast and retrieve.
So within this guide, I will detail 7 of the best fly fishing reels in the tackle shops today that I have personal experience with and robustly tested over many years.
Best Fly Fishing Reels
#1. Greys Tail Fly Fishing Reel
For as long as we can remember, Greys were a sign of quality in fishing.
Their Tail Fly Reel is a further testament to that fact and is an apt demonstration of why they have been in the business so long.
There’s plenty to like.
Large arbours seem to be the order of the day with modern fly fishing reels. This reduces fishing line memory and makes tangles much less likely. Stripping line during the cast is also significantly easier.
While Greys might be an older brand, they have managed to get a pretty modern look with this reel. The di-cast machine-finished face is perfectly complemented with a vibrant and rather attractive orange bezel.
We all hope to be stripped down to the backing at some point. Greys have indulged us with a high-quality carbon disc drag system, meaning you won’t get a fatal overrun at the worst possible moment.
I love little touches when investing in fishing gear. When shelling out for a reel, you want it to be protected. Greys have even been kind enough to include a handy pouch to store your reel.
The following video shows the features of this great fly fishing reel.
Standout Features: –
- Eye-catching design
- Rugged build quality
- Huge arbour
- Well-established fishing brand
#2. Daiwa Lochmor SLA Fly Reel
While Daiwa cut their teeth in the world of coarse fishing, it would appear that they are equally at home in fly fishing. Well, if this reel is anything to go by at any rate.
Based on appearance alone, it wouldn’t look out of place in the haughty ‘game anglers shops’ full of tweed, landed gentry and Hanoverian jaws. The champagne gold finish gives this reel an air of class that you won’t find in others at its price point.
But it isn’t all about looks. You want to know about features. There’s plenty to go at.
For a start, even if you are a ‘southpaw’, you’ll find that the Daiwa Lochmor fits the bill nicely. It is easy to switch the gears to suit a left-hander.
I love that the spool rim is exposed and not caged in. If you hook a big one, it is easy to apply a little palm pressure to slow its escape. Even if you take your hand off, you’ll find the disc drag system offers just the right amount of resistance.
One thing I always look for is corrosion resistance. This reel is machined from aluminium, meaning it is rust-proof and should, in theory, stay new for as long as you own it.
Take a look at the following video that shows off the beautiful finish on the Daiwa Lochmoor SLA Fly Reel.
The bits I like: –
- Super classy looking
- Exposed spool rim for easy drag control
- Ambidextrous design
#3. Snowbee Spectre 5/6 Fly Reel
If the Daiwa reel had delusions of grandeur, this reel by Snowbee is the outcast punk rocker of the family. It looks seriously heavy-duty. We reckon this one will be pretty bulletproof with a monotone, sleek construction.
At 137 grams, it is supremely lightweight, which is no surprise because it is mostly made of aluminium.
We weren’t too keen on the stainless-steel middle spindle. Steel and water tend not to mix, and while it won’t rust quickly, the possibility for corrosion exists if you don’t look after it properly.
Perhaps we need to stop being so lazy and invest in WD40?
The large arbour will have your line back in, in no time. It also makes casting a breeze.
Speaking of line…
The reel works by loading ‘cassettes’. Invest in a couple, and you’ll be able to switch from a floater to a sinker in a few seconds. It’s a nice feature, and the open-face design is something you won’t see on all reels.
Check out the following video that shows the Snowbee Spectre in action.
- Solid construction
- Very lightweight
- Cassette loading spools
- Sleek looks
#4. Wychwood RS2 Fly Reel
Wychwood has firmly begun to position itself as the discerning anglers brand.
If you want a change from the likes of Orvis but want something equally good in both performance and quality, then this is a worthy contender.
I love the open design of the Wychwood RS2. Aside from looking just a bit trendy, the open spokes allow you to avoid tangles and get your finger in if you’ve been unlucky enough to get a loop in your line.
The aluminium frame and spool are both tempered, giving them extra firmness and rigidity. In the simplest terms, this means that the reel is solid as a rock with little play, and it should stay that way even if you drop it.
The carbon washer drag is a great feature, where you can tweak how easily the line pays out up to a maximum force of 4kg. This is easily enough to stop even the hardest fighting fish from taking too much of a liberty.
One thing I like with centrepin reels is choice. Wychwood has you covered. This reel is available in many different sizes, so whether you are off down the brook for a cheeky brown trout or headed somewhere a bit warmer to have a bash at Bonefish, this is a great choice.
Key features on this reel
- The ultra-solid construction
- Different sized reels available for choice of venues
- Include reel case (bespoke at that, swish!)
- Great corrosion resistance
#5. Daiwa Wilderness Fly Reel
Ever spent a fortune on a fly fishing reel, only to drop it, and it’s never the same again?
Ask me how I know!
Perhaps you don’t often fish or resent paying for a ‘fancy line holder’. If you match any of the above (or a combination of all three), then Daiwa might just have the answer.
Posh, this isn’t.
Is it as premium as some of our other ‘best’ fly fishing reels? Probably not.
Will it get the job done for a fraction of the price? You bet your backing it will!
The Daiwa Wilderness reel would be ideal as part of a beginner’s setup or one you might want to lend your mate if it’s their first-time fishing.
It is certainly well built.
With a die-cast aluminium body (that also happens to be fully anodised), this is one that you won’t mind knocking about a bit.
It’s rough and ready… And we quite like it. The sides aren’t as open as some of the more ‘premium’ reels, but that said, how often do you look down at your reel when fishing anyway? Looks aside, you’ll find a large arbour and plenty of room for backing, making this one to consider if you are on a budget.
Specifications and Key Features
- Variable drag system
- Quick-release spool for easy line changing
- Bulletproof design with a classic look
- Really great price point
- Great for beginners!
#6. Wychwood Game River & Stream 2/3 Weight Fly Reel
Let’s be honest.
Anglers tend to be heavily influenced by looks when choosing a new fly fishing reel.
I had one word when we first opened the box on this one.
Quickly followed by “shiny”. If you were transported into the future in a time machine, this is what fly fishing reels would all look like. It’s modern, futuristic and altogether beautiful.
You’ll pay for the privilege, but this Wychwood reel is one of the best looking out there, with smooth gunmetal aluminium lines and a really open spool.
Heavy fly fishing reels?
Forget it. You can see where Wychwood have managed to save the weight here. There’s more air and holes than there is reel! But that’s a good thing. Wychwood has even gone so far as to shorten the main centre pin to cut down on any excess bulk and mass.
The end result, when paired with a good quality rod, you have a fly rod and reel combo that weighs practically nothing.
The adjusta click drag system is super nice too. When false casting, it gives a crisp and metallic click that sings of high quality and precision engineering.
Is it perfect?
We weren’t over-enamoured with the flat, wedge-shaped winding handle. While it didn’t happen to us, with an adverse wind, you could expect the line to get caught occasionally, but that might just be us being nit-picky.
Check out the following video of this Wychwood fly reel in use.
The Best Bits
- Amazing futuristic looks
- Low glare gunmetal finish
- Wide arbour and wide open spool, preventing tangles
- Easy to change spools
#7. Shakespeare Omni Fly Reel
A good quality budget fly fishing reel isn’t always the easiest thing to find. If you are spending serious dough, it is relatively easy to find something great. The other end of the spectrum isn’t always catered for.
You can always rely on Shakespeare to save the day, especially with their Omni Reel.
To be or not to be? That is the question… This effort from Shakespeare is the answer if you are after a cheap yet good-quality fly fishing reel.
It won’t win any awards for being beautiful. Still, it offers some astoundingly similar features to the top-end reels at a fraction of the price.
Oh, just quick-release spools, a huge arbour, a decent drag system and respectable weight.
We aren’t going to pretend this will be your ‘forever’ reel. But if you are looking to get started and want something that isn’t a million miles away from the quality found in the other fly fishing reels we tried above, then this would be a perfect place to start.
- Great value and quality
- Nice action with little play in the spool
- Variable drag
- Relatively lightweight
- Quick change spool
The following questions are the most common I get asked when talking about the best fly fishing reels for individuals. Hopefully, the answers will point you in the right direction on what centrepin reel is best for you.
What makes a great fly reel?
First and foremost the best centrepin reels must compliment the rod and line you are using so your whole setup remains balanced. Once you have the balance right, look for the following features in your fly reel as these can often be the difference between an average and a great reel.
The raw materials of the reel – Ideally made from aluminium and CNC machined.
The amount of backing it can hold – The best centrepin reels hold a substantial amount of backing.
The weight of the reel – The lighter the better but not to the detriment of durability.
The Arbour size – The larger the arbour, the higher the retrieval rate. A larger arbour allows for more backing as well. Opt for the largest arbour that still allows the reel to be fairly lightweight and as compact as your luggage will allow.
Drag system – The best modern-day fly reels utilise a disc drag system. This type of drag system allows for the extra power and control needed when fishing for larger fish.
What size fly reel is best for trout?
The best-sized reel for trout is a 5 wt. This size of reel balances the required power and lightness of the setup nicely.
What does 7/8 mean on a fly reel?
The numbers on a fly reel tell you how big the reel is. This then gives an idea of what line to use and what rod to pair it with. The size of fish you are angling for will dictate what size setup you should use. For example, a size 7/8 reel would typically be targeting larger fish and predators.
What size Arbour for a fly reel?
The arbours on a fly reel tend to come in 3 sizes; large, mid or standard. In simplistic terms, the arbour size determines how much space there is between the centre spindle and the spool base. The larger the arbour size, the better the retrieval rate of the reel. Larger arbour sizes also hold more backing so tend to be more suitable when fishing for larger fish.
Large arbour reels, however, tend to be bulkier and slightly heavier than mid and standard arbours so this needs to be taken into consideration if weight and size are major factors in your fly reel choice.
Click-drag or disc drag for a fly reel?
Click-drag systems use cogs to control the pressure put on the spindle. This sort of system is mostly seen on standard arbour reels and tends to only be suitable for smaller fish.
Disc drag systems work by applying pressure on the central spool in an attempt to slow the fish down. This type of drag system is seen on more modern centrepin reels with mid and large arbours and can handle the strength of larger fish.
Die-cast or CNC machined fly reel?
Die-cast or CNC machined, refers to the manufacturing process in creating the fly reel. Pouring molten metal into specially made moulds creates die-cast reels.
This is a cheaper way of manufacturing reels which makes these types of centrepin reels more affordable for those anglers on a budget. The caveat to this however is that they are less durable and carry the risk of being shattered if dropped from a height.
A CNC machined reel is cut from a solid block of aluminium by a machine. This allows for a solid build that is extremely robust and durable.
Depending on your budget and the required longevity of your fly reel will dictate what build you choose.
Hopefully, this guide on the best fly fishing reels has provided enough detail for you to make an informed choice of what centrepin reel is best for you.
As I said at the beginning of this article, the reels featured in this guide have been tried and tested and contain all the required features needed in a decent fly reel. I hope one of them suits your needs.
Many thanks for reading.