Fly Reels

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Fly-Fishing Reels

The beauty of fly fishing lies in its simplicity: A fly rod, reel, line, and flies—the sport can be as straightforward or as complex as you care to make it. Whether you’re looking to purchase your first reel or hoping to add a large-arbor reel to your collection before your next fly-fishing trip, Orvis has you covered. Because there is no better sound than the scream of a reel when your fish decides to run.

Find the perfect Orvis fly-fishing reel for any application: Saltwater or freshwater, our fly reels perform to exceptional standards. Bring in fast and feisty predator fish with a lightweight, high-tech reel. We painstakingly engineer and test each new addition to our saltwater and freshwater fly reel collection to ensure impressive performance. Zero startup inertia and an incredibly smooth drag help land more fish, and your tippet fares better, too. Put the brakes on your favorite big species; the washer drag system on our larger reels offers plenty of torque for impressive fish-stopping power. Flawless sealed construction stands up to corrosive saltwater, dirt, and debris, and resists harsh conditions, so you’re ready for the most challenging environments. We’ve also made it simpler than ever to fine-tune drag pressure with the easy-to-use drag adjustment system on our fly-fishing reels. And we don’t skimp on our classic styles—they’re still meticulously designed for ultralightweight performance in a conservative profile. Explore our classic Battenkill fly reels: Hitting the water with the enduring click-and-pawl style reel reminds us that simplicity has its place.

What Is a Fly Reel?

One of the few pieces of equipment absolutely necessary to begin fly fishing, a fly reel holds the fly line and backing. Its braking system applies drag that puts pressure on the line and helps you control and bring in your fish.

What Do Fly Reel Numbers Mean?

Fly rods have a designated weight size designed to hold a specific range of fly line weights (WT). Different manufacturers rate reel size in different ways, but all reel sizes boil down to the line weight they’re designed to hold. Orvis reels are sized using Roman numerals I, II, III, IV, and V, and coordinate with the following line weights:

  • For Orvis fly reel size I, choose 1-3 WT fly line
  • For Orvis fly reel size II, choose 3-5 WT fly line
  • For Orvis fly reel size III, choose 5-7 WT fly line
  • For Orvis fly reel size IV, choose 7-9 WT fly line
  • For Orvis fly reel size V, choose 9-11 WT fly line

How Do You Know What Fly Reel to Buy?

When shopping for a fly reel, first decide what type of fishing (target species, water type, average conditions) you plan to fish most. From there you can determine a preferred line weight, and then the reel size which will fit that line weight.

Target Species

Trout & Freshwater Bass: The most important aspect of choosing a trout and bass fly reel is to match the weight of the line to your rod and reel. The most versatile freshwater rod is a 5 WT, designed to cast 5 WT fly line, and paired with a size II or III fly reel (both designed to hold 5 WT line). Go with a size larger if you’re fishing streamers and have a streamer-specific line or you’ll be adding longer sink tips. This makes gathering up line easier as you reel in.

Saltwater Species: You’ll need a strong drag and a large reel to haul in saltwater species, which often pull much harder than freshwater fish. Again, match the line weight to the reel size and the rod WT, but consider over-sizing it a bit if your desired line weight is on the edges of sizing. This allows for more backing, which you may need when a powerful fish takes off on a long run. Larger handles are nice on saltwater reels. You’ll be spending more time reeling in than when freshwater fly fishing.


As is true of most things in life, with fly reels, you get what you pay for. Most cheap reels are just cheap. For trout and bass fishing, you can get away with a less expensive reel, but rest assured it won’t last as long as a well-built, costlier model. In saltwater fishing, a lesser reel might not make it through a full season—corrosion from saltwater and sand will kill it quickly.

Fresh or Saltwater

When buying a saltwater reel, look for one with a sealed drag system (most freshwater reels don’t have them). This helps keep saltwater from getting into the guts of the reel and turning the parts into rusted, unusable pieces. Wash your saltwater reels after every outing to help keep parts moving.

What Is a Click Pawl Fly Reel?

With this style reel, you rely on the clicker system to slow down the spool’s speed (and the fish). In addition, you can place your free hand on the rim of the reel to use it as drag control. This is a classic style of reel many anglers still love; find it in our Battenkill line.

What Is a Large Arbor Fly Reel?

Large arbor reels, including the Clearwater fly reel or the bestselling Orvis Hydros fly reels, are larger diameter reels with oversized spools. These spools hold the line in a position that’s away from the center and the spindle.

Large arbor reels arrived on the scene a little more than a decade ago, and they quickly became the hottest thing in fly fishing since bead-head nymphs. For everyone from trout fishermen to saltwater anglers, their design offers several key benefits:

  • Less reeling to retrieve your line
  • More backing, thicker lines
  • Easier on your line, fewer tangles on the ground
  • More consistent drag

If you’re looking for performance, power, and value in your fly reels, then look no further. The freshwater and saltwater fly-fishing reels in our collection come in a variety of sizes and quality finishes, and they easily adjust to left- or right-hand retrieve.