Originally Posted by spinsheet
OK, I am totally new to fly fishing so please forgive this question. I'm a bit confused about how drag works on a fly reel. I know from my spinning reels and baitcasters how it works as the reel will release line even when reeling in depending on how the drag is set. I'm not seeing this with a fly reel though. If you are reeling it in, no matter how the drag is set it will not release line. The only way that I can see the drag working is if you are simply not holding the crank (handle?). The crank and reel are locked in at 1:1 so no matter what that stays the same.
It's almost like my old Ambassadeur 5000C, if you want to give the fish some line you simply crank in reverse. Am I missing something regarding drag on a fly reel?
First of all....your old Ambassador 5000C does have a drag on it. From the description you give, the drag is on maximum and the fish cannot pull out line. Normally, this reel will allow line to come off the spool without the handles turning.
I have never come across any fly reel that let out line without the handles turning but I bet that there are some somewhere that will do that. My Okuma reels and my Fenwick Nighthawk have good drags yet the handles turn when line comes of the spool.
I never rely on simply letting the fly line slip through my hands when fighting a fish. Yes, I will do this but I quickly reel in the slack fly line so that I can either palm the spool on my fly reel or simply let the drag on the fly reel do it's job. Since I like to palm the fly line spool, my drag is set a bit lighter. When palming the reel, you can use your palm or fingers or the tip of a finger.
Cheaper fly reels do not have very good drags. Some are just a device that makes the spring on the pawl a bit tighter so that the reel does not overrun when a fish quickly takes line off the spool. If you could really tighten the drag on some of those cheap fly reels, they would quickly overheat and melt or seize up.
When fishing for panfish (brook trout, bluegill, perch, bass etc) a drag is not really necessary. These fish are usually small and don't make long runs. However, if you ever want to go fishing for salmon, musky, pike, bonefish etc., etc., you will most definitely need a fly reel with a good drag and the fly reel must be quite strong. A fly reel with these qualities does cost more.