Part IX: Fly Fishing for beginners – Reels continued

Posted by Christopher Paine on

Reels – continued

If you are fishing for the large striped bass or any large saltwater fish, you will need a much more reliable and adjustable drag system. When am friend of mine started fly fishing he started with an American reel Pflueger Medalist, which had a very simple drag. He caught hundreds of bone fish with that reel, and he still has it. Still going strong and never had to replace the drag. But now the new Medalist is half what the old Medalist use to be. The older drags were made specially of saltwater and more corrosion proof materials. They were truly made for sea run trout what we called “Salters”.

Smooth drag system if very important when fighting big fish. A large number of fish lost had more to do with faulty drag system and less to do with the strength of the fish. Something to think about is when you rod is in storage back off on the drag. So that you are not putting pressure on the drag system all the time. As you play some of those large fish pay attention on how smooth it feels, it maybe time to pay attention to the drag if it is jerky and loosing fish.


Backing refers to the braided-nylon line or running line attach to the reel ahead of the fly line that attaches to the backing. The amount of backing the reel can hold is very important with large salt water fish. Large arbor reels are made especially for hold a large amount of backing. If you been fishing fresh water all you life and then go out after strippers or blues, salt water fish fight harder, run faster and further than any fresh water fish. The nice thing about have plenty of backing is that you can let the fish run again and again until it or you tire. A good quality reel is one that has plenty of backing and let the fish run out peeling line off smoothly. I one caught two 3.5 lbs. salmon in Moose River in Rockwood Maine, took ½ an hour to land each fish and lots of backing. It was not because the fish were hug salt water fish but the current of the river is a factor as well.


The reel seat is where the reel attaches to the rod. There are many common types Cork and Ring, Down Locking, and Up Locking are most common. The Cork and Ring reel seat is the very minimal setup, and the poorest. The reel can easily slip from the seat especially in the middle of landing a trout so buyer beware. The Down Lock reel seat type comes with a double nut like locking system to guarantee a good and safe fit. The Up Locking reel seat is great for saltwater fishing. Double locking ring and keeps the reel away from the bottom of the rod. Fighting fish is ideal when holding the butt end of the rod on your belt and the reel is out of the way.

Max Backing

Some manufacturers state that their reel holds the maximum amount of backing for a saltwater reel, they are not misleading you but there are other factors to consider when loading a reel with backing. One is the length of you fly line, they all very from manufacture to manufacturer. Also the kind of fly line you are using, floating line is slightly larger in diameter than sinking or intermediate line, thus taking up much more room on the reel. Best practice is not to over load your reel with line. Good rule of thumb when a reel is fully loaded with back and fly line, that there is left still at least and eighth to a quarter of an inch of space between the line and frame of the reel. Around 150 to 250 yards of total line and backing is about right, although it all depends on the fish you are going for…

Protecting you reel is always good practice when in the car and going down over some slick rocks. Friends of mine sometimes use an old sock to protect his reel in case he takes a tumble.


Reels can be very expensive to replace. So it is good to take care of them as often as you can. If you are saltwater fishing or even brackish water you should after every fishing trip rinse with the hose your reel. No mater if the manufacture claims the reel is water proof all parts fail! End of the season good practice to pull the line off completely and give a final rinse with fresh water. Oiling is also a must, because of the moving metal parts. Silicone lubricant is a good choice for spools and spool posts.




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