Re: Drag style, material and rating factors?
There is a lot of good logic in this thread: Hardy Reels says, "stick with what works and be aware of future parts availability", Burke remarks on "good design and large surface area".
While it is hard to argue that the classic Hardy-type pawl and gear design is appropriat for most trout fishing and I too have and still do use such reels, I have come to the decission that a smooth, fine tunable drag is an advantage in that it alows a good trout to be brought to hand somewhat more quickly. This results in a fish being released in greener condition making it a happier, less stressed animal. Most of the popular American-built small surface area drag reels and the majority of the hub drag Asian reels will handle this just fine but if quality and aesthetic values are being considered, my prefered reels are the Hatch and Nautilus with a nod to Hardy's new Ultralite Disc model.
If you graduate from Nautilus FWX to NV, stick with terrific Hatch and add in the great Abel Supers, Tibor and Islander draw-bar cork reels you can cover the #7 - 12 range thoroughly. Of course there are countless other good reels that are more esoteric like HR's beloved Orvis Oddesy but these (good as they are) are flash-in-the-pan or limited production reels - Charlton, Catino, Ari't Hart, Alutecnos, Magla, Danielson, Vosseler, the list goes on and on - good luck finding parts for many of these decades from now! I still use reels like these because I like them and they achive a perfect weight, performance or aestetic mating with specific rods...I'll take my chances and I always have back-ups.
I have included both "sealed" drags and user maintainable designs in my list intentionally. Sealed is the new cool thing and reels like Hardy's powerfull Fortuna (which I have not fished) show their porential. But I have no problem lubricating cork and springs and could strip, lube, re-assemble and return to its case an Abel in less time than it takes to compose this post. Strength, reliability and quality performance are the important factors.
There is one popular design trait that I rail against and detest; the too wide, too shallow aspect ratio intended to maximize line retreaval speed and maintain drag uniformity. Such reels simply do not fish well in that requisit uniform line retrival requires undue attention. PLenty of reels like the Nautilus and New Hardy Ultralite have very large arbors for rapid line pick up but make a point of touting their NARROW spool width to promote intuitive uniform retrival. Abel, which has uniquily and long offered clients the choice of wider (but not too wide) or narrow spool width is in the process of reproportioning their model line up to be narrow accross the range. They understand what anglers need.