The Best Trout Reels
Trout reels tend to be, first and foremost, line holders. For many fishing situations, when a fish is hooked, you’re more likely to simply strip line in rather than crank it in with the reel. But that’s not always the case. When you do get a fish “on the reel,” it’s important that it performs as needed without fail. Trout rods — that is, rods designed primarily for targeting trout species —represent the single biggest segment of the fly rod market. Therefore, it stands to reason that the largest part of the fly reel market is devoted to trout reels.
A good trout reel must be sized properly to not only balance well on its designated rod. It must be able to hold an appropriate line with a reasonable amount of backing. A good trout reel will balance out its rod, helping the angler swing the rod comfortably all day without arm fatigue. A reel that is too heavy can create too much vibration in the rod tip, throwing off accuracy and performance. A reel that is too small and too light, can lead to the angler dropping the tip too much during casting. That affects distance and line control.
In evaluating the performance of trout reels, we cast line from it using a variety of rods — and anglers. We’ll adjust the drag, checking for smooth control at all stages of fishing. The drag setting should be easy to adjust without having to look for the control knob. And the control should allow smooth adjustments from tiny tweaks to locked-down stopping power.
The best trout reels feature easily swappable line spools so anglers can pop out their weight-forward floating line and switch to a sinking line when they jump from river to lake. And the reels should be able to stand up to the rigors of rough use in a variety of situations: We’ll test it while rock-hopping western river banks, bouncing around in drift boats, and tossing it into gear bags will road tripping to new angling locales.
The price of trout reels is one of the last considerations. Given that the reel needs of the standard trout angler are fairly modest for general trout fishing, our best-rated reels are seldom the most expensive — though some high-end expensive features are certainly beneficial. Machined aluminum construction, as opposed to cast aluminum, carries a high price but adds considerable durability to the reel. When looking at reels, we’ll explore the costs versus benefits of all the reel features.