The Fly Fishing Reel

(Credit: Ian Neale)

Essentially, the reel is the mechanical device that holds everything together. There are some rods out there without reels but for classical fly fishing you use a reel. For the most part, most modern fly-fishing reels have some sort of drag feature. According to Wikipedia, “Direct-drive reels have the spool and handle directly coupled. When the angler is reeling in a fish, there's user operation, but when the line is going out, and the fish is taking the bait and the reel handles are visible moving likewise to the line unwinding. With a fast-running fish, this may have consequences for the angler's knuckles. Traditional fly reels are direct-drive.”  This mechanical device has your line tied to it and acts as the pulling force against the line, river, and the fish. As the fisherman cranks the reel, he produces more tension force pulling equally against the fish to aid reeling in this game. The drag feature on most fly rods acts as a friction source that fights the fish’s ability to pull your line out of your reel. Below, are some pictures of Fly reels to explain the friction system.


(Credit: Cabela's)

Wikipedia also said this about drag on fishing reels “Drag systems are a mechanical means of applying variable pressure to the line spool or drive mechanism in order to act as a friction brake against it. This supplies resistance to the line after hook-up to aid in landing the fish without the line breaking. In combination with rod flex and fishing technique, this allows larger fish to be caught than the straight breaking strength of the line would suggest. The mechanics of drag systems usually consist of any number of discs (drag washers) arranged in a stack on the spool shaft or in some cases, on the drive shaft. There is generally a screw or lever mechanism that presses against the washers—the higher the pressure, the greater the resistance. Drag washers are commonly made of materials such as steel, Teflon, carbon fiber, other reinforced plastics or metal alloys. Since large fish can generate a lot of pulling power, reels with higher available drag forces (which generate greater heat) for higher-test lines will use stronger and more heat-resistant materials than reels designed for low-test lines. A good drag system is consistent (generates the same force over and over), durable and smooth (no jerkiness).” Most fly rods have a generally lightweight backing for line that is easily broken if pulled all the way out. So, it is not a good day if a fish pulls your line all the way out of your reel.