Fly Reels - Tackle Tips

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Trout Basics


Salmon Basics

Fly reels especially for trout fishing are little more than a means to store line. Most trout anglers tend to strip line manually rather than to crank a handle. An angler can strip in much faster than you can wind and holding the line gives you good feel. But there are times when you need to wind that line in:

  • When there are snags about.

  • to follow a big fish.

  • to move.

  • if you expect to get down to the backing


You should wind in on a salmon reel rather than strip by hand.
Salmon will often run you out to the backing even though the line is 10 yards longer than for trout and you can't easily hand strip backing which is even more likely to tangle.

Salmon reels have a bigger diameter so they are more efficient at bringing in line.

You are also likely to be in the water. So it is good practice to always wind when salmon fishing.





If you hand strip an expensive clutch is a waste of time. Most trout reels have a simple click drag or screw, which are quite adequete. If you have a large budget then you can go for disk drags.

You need a decent clutch on a salmon reel. The screw type tends to give up the ghost after heavy use so I tend to prefer the disk drag. Some people complain that these are inefficient if they get wet, but I have never had that problem.





I own up, I like simple geared reels for trout work, but have never fallen for automatic clockwork winders.

Keep it simple and keep it strong.



Capacity and Weight

Capacity and Weight

There is a tendency these days to make rods and reels ever lighter. For a rod this is fine, but I believe that fly reels have become far too light. A rod and reel balances around your hand, so if you have an ultra light reel it cannot hope to balance the rod. I like good old metal reels over graphite/carbon/plastic and they look oversized to many eyes.
Reels should be able to hold both your fly line and backing so that when recovered the fly line comes right up to the lip without snagging. A slightly oversized reel also lets you carry more backing. If you have ever had that monster fish take you down to the end of the backing you will know what I mean

For work with a double hander think big and then go bigger! I have seen a salmon disappear with 200 yards of backing before breaking the 20lb test nylon tippet. Weight of the reel is immaterial since it sits between your hands and does less to balance the rig.

Many aficionados like to fish with old Hardy reels. Not only do you have the pleasure of using an antique, but they are well engineered and are virtually indestructible. Look for the same qualities in a modern salmon reel.

Rules for loading a salmon reel are the same as for trout - fill it to the brim, but not so much that it jams.



Spare Spools

Spare Spools

You can get lot of flexibility from a single trout rod reel. Chose your rod and then your reel then buy at least 3 spare spools and lines to fit that reel before you buy another reel. When you get you next reel, buy the same one, that way its all interchangeable.

Mark your spools with the line weight that they carry, you will save hours in fields working out which line is which!

Reels tend to be forgotten in the bottom of a tackle bag and can take a bashing. It's worth investing in a proper case.

Spare spools are useful, but you are much more likely to have 2 set ups for salmon fishing. A sunk line rod and reel and a floating line rod reel. There are far more rings to thread through on a salmon rod so it makes a little more sense to have the two rigs.

One solution I like for the less affluent among us is the loop to loop. Use a 20/30 yard straight through floating running line and connect this to your backing. At the business end whip in a large loop. Create a working line from a standard salmon line by testing the correct amount needed to load your rod and cutting it to size. Whip another loop at the rod end of this line. Hold these working lines on a shaped board. When you want to change lines just reconnect via the loops outside of the rod



Buying from the States


Reels (and much fishing tackle) is much cheaper in the US. Most reels cost in Dollars what we pay in Sterling. So check out some of the on-line shops. Just be aware of tax (?), shipping, packaging and insurance.

Salmon reels are expensive, so try not to be tempted to use them for that bone fishing trip. They don't like sea water. If you must use a freshwater reel in the sea wash them religiously at the end of the day. Oil gears and the pivot at the end of the season, but keep oil away from clutches.




Paul's Personal Choice


Paul's Personal Choice

My personal choice is the J. W. Young 1560 (geared) or if on a budget the Leeda system 100. A nice little reel for brook work is the Orvis Battenkill. 3/4


My personal choice is the System2 from 3M Scientific Anglers or if on a budget J.W. Youngs offerings.


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