How To Decide Fly Reel Size

Trying to decide on the perfect-sized fly reel for your fly rod? With rods getting ever lighter, many reel manufacturers have become hyper-conscious of reel weight. But as Phil Monahan points on in this week’s installment of “Fine Lines,” lightest is not always best. In fact, the “finger test” still works quite well, thank you very much.
Excerpt: “HOLD THE ROD as if you were going to cast it to see where the ‘pivot’ point is for your particular grip. This point is one inch below the top of the cork handle. Put the reel on the rod and then try to balance the outfit on your finger at that pivot point. If the outfit is properly balanced, it should pretty much balance perfectly, with the weight of the reel offsetting the weight of the rod out to the tip.”

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  • Gary Eaton

    I respectfully disagree. This represents a poor balance function when the line and backing are going to at least equal the reel weight in many cases (This also exceeds modern light weight rod mass by many fold). Further, if you’re casting long, single-hand spey fishing, or fishing sinking line or shooting heads – the balance point is absurdly ephemeral.
    I say 1)match reel to species and method. Generally this means largest arbor, smoothest drag and most durable mecahnism.
    2) If color/aesthetics are a factor, reel finish trumps spool diameter. The clean lines of a classic reel may enhance one rod and the “busy” appearance of some modern reels may suit your visual expectation. Look at how many cars are bought based upon style and color.
    3) Ease-of-use, consistent feel. I changed to all single manufacturer reels a few years ago so that when I switched between salt water and spring creek, the drag knobs and reel handles were all where I did not have to look for them. A bonus included that this manufacturer made new style reels and old spools interchangeable!
    4) If one is casting long, stealthy casts at Carp or Permit or Brookies in a beaver pond, the reel mass will balance better if it is heavier as there is certainly going to be more line off the reel much of the time. If, however, the casts are under 40-feet to pocket water in boulder strewn, high-gradient streams, then reel mass plus line and backing are a more realistic factor.
    Bottom line – get what you want and ignore the bias of others (including me). Function trumps aesthetics, to a point. Most of us sport more rods than reels or vice versa and the crossing over of gear frequently makes these considerations moot. When you are night fishing, the fancy color and diameter aesthetics become equally unimportant. Just avoid making the outfit intentionally ugly or unwieldy. Gary Eaton, MCCI