Beginner's Corner Pt. III: Reel 'em In

by Kim Heaston

Well friends and fishers, we have yet another hurdle to jump so that you can catch a fish with your gear. We have talked about rods and lines. The next thing you are going to need is a reel.

The reel's most rudimentary function is merely a place to store your fly line when it's not in use. They can range in price from around $20 to the-sky-is-the-limit. As you go higher in price the functions of the reel increase. Most reels are single action meaning that one turn of the crank gives one turn of the spool. For very large game fish you can get reels with a 1:2 ratios.

Most fish caught are not reeled in but played in by stripping line. But the other functions of the reel are to apply resistance, or drag, to tire the fish and it must be rugged enough to handle the environment where you fish.

The most rudimentary reels have a simple click-and-pawl type of drag, which is not adjustable. As stated before, a drag is not a necessary function for most types of fishing and this type of drag system is adequate. Most reels come with some form of adjustable drag, which the purists consider a luxury, but there will come a time when a fish larger than you expected will take up all of your slack and start pulling line off of the reel. A drag will be handy then.

Reels must be rugged enough to deal with the fishing environment. If you wish to do salt water fishing you will need a reel that will withstand the corrosive environment of salt water. Also, the reel must not fall apart when taxed. Less expensive reels are often made of stamped sheet metal or injection molded graphite. You would not want to task a reel like that against a tarpon and conversely, you would not need a heavy-duty machined aluminum reel to catch a sunfish.

Size plays a role in your selection of reels also. You should match the reel to the line weight of your rod. Usually reels can accommodate several different line sizes. All reels must be strung with a backing, which is attached to the fly line. The backing acts as a filler to keep the fly line from being wound to small against the reel. The reel instructions will usually tell you how much backing to install for what size line. This is how one reel can accommodate different line sizes.

To sum up, a reel's main function is to store fly line and retrieve it. When choosing a reel consider your budget because there is a reel to fit all of them. Select according to the type of fishing you will do by considering what you will fish for and where you will fish.

Note: This feature originally appeared in our May 2001 newsletter.

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