I bought a like new Sage SLT 389 4 piece rod. My only other fly rod is a Sage SP 5wt so I need a new reel to mate to my 3wt.
Geez, such a variety of options out there. I have a Ross reel for my 5wt and think it's a well made reel but would like to hear some opinions on what else I may look at for a 3wt rod. I see a lot of rave reviews for the Orvis reels, especially the older reels that were made in England like the Battenkill. Looking on ebay, I just saw one, mint condition, that is topping about $150 (it's a Battenkill disc 3/4) and the auctions is not over yet. Yikes!!! If that is the going rate for some of these older Orvis reels, I may just buy something new.
Abel? Orvis? Ross? I'd say my price limit would be $200-ish.
So many options at that level. I have a couple 3 wt's. The reels I use:
Loop Opti Creek - nice and light, large arbor for line pick up when I put the fish on the reel. Use this on my Loop Opti Creek 3 wt.
Galvan Standard 3.0 - Nice sized standard arbor reel (3 inch diameter). Excellent reel, reasonably priced. Use this on my LL 3 wt. with a DT line.
Abel Ought - Tiny reel. Classic. Love it, but the reel is not very functional because the diameter is just so small that if I have line out, which I usually do, getting a fish on the reel is extremely hard because the line pick up is just not there. Use this on my LL 3 wt. with SA Trout Stalker line.
If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Loop Opti creek reel. Performance wise it's just top notch, very light drag setting to protect the lightest tippets when I tight line with tiny nymphs, which I do quite a bit. It's just so finely machined, light, smooth and functional. Beautiful to boot.
The most ideal reel, price wise, is a click/pawl reel. You really don't need drag, just a little resistance with that SLT. I fished a Reddington Rise last weekend and it was a sweet little reel. Under $100. Would be a perfect set up for that SLT if budget conscious.
If you want to spend a little more coin, look at the Abel Creek #1 Large Arbor. You can get it in black with fly line from Stillwater for around $260. That's a reel loaded with backing and fly line. Hard to beat that set up for that SLT IMO. If it were me, that's the direction I would go. But I'm an Abel fanatic.
From what I can gather, the weight on that rod is 2 15/16 oz, so just nearly 3 oz. Give consideration to the weight of the reel when you make your decision.
Chi has you covered in his post and he's not kidding when he says he's an Abel fanatic Definitely can't go wrong with an Abel, of any variety assuming you want to drop that Abel kind of cash.
You might want to consider the Galvan Rush LT or you may be able to find the old model Rush on sale. Very smooth drag on these and somewhere between a very progressive look to a more classic look leaning towards progressive. I have one lined up that has yet to be fished and can't wait to fish it in a couple of weeks.
If click & pawl is what you are looking for, you may want to give a look at the Korean Made Hardys, they are still nice reels. I was toying around with one in a shop a few weeks back. A guy in my local shop who has knowledge of both the UK made and the Korean made says the newer ones are machined better, which isn't much of a stretch to comprehend given the changes in technology from years past until now. If you are looking for a UK made Hardy on ebay, expect to pay as much as you would for a new one. They are also in varying degrees of condition, so a new one may be the way to go if you want a Hardy Lightweight series.
The new CFO's from Orvis look great, I was handling one in a shop a few weeks back, but they are disk drag not click & pawl. From an aesthetics perspective, the bronze color on the CFO II would look great with your SLT. The weight should balance it pretty nicely too.
Litespeeds have great drags and are very lightweight but on a classic rod like this, I wouldn't go there. Just my opinion.
In summary, my short list in no particular order would be an Abel Creek or TR, Galvan Rush, Hardy Featherweight or CFO II.
Nothing wrong with a Ross Evolution LT either.
Congrats on the rod purchase and let us know what you end up with.
You may want to check out the Cortland Retro I, it should run you somewhere around $120. It has a classic look, feel, and sound to it and is very light. I recently picked one up to put on a 359 CGR and am very pleased with the reel.
I just bought this reel for my 3wt Xa from a guy on the uk fly fishing forum. Total shipped was $75. Its a great little reel. Machined Aluminium, with top drag, though i doubt it will ever be tested.
Just a budget option for a great reel.
I think the biggest question you need to answer is "classic" which would be a click pawl, standard arbor with the classic look and sound, or "modern" which would give you a performance edge, but not a classic look (for the most part). On a 3wt, your reel choice shouldn't matter that much. With a large arbor, performance tuned disc drag you might have a slight edge if you hook into a fish that you shouldn't hook into on a 3 wt.
IMO Abel is the king of the click pawl...the CFO, especially the old ones made in england look great and classic, but they also behave in a "classic" manner. they are fragile and they scratch and dent much easier than the new machined reels to. The Abel is a very tough frame and spool. I'd take it hands down over the CFO, but some people like the nostalgia more than they like the toughness.
Large arbor, Litespeed 1 is an awesome reel and can be had for under 200 now. Cheaper is the Guru, and weight wise still probably matches up with your rod very well. There are numerous options that top out in the 200-250 range.
Can't speak to the other reels, but I have a Ross Evolution LT 1 (also green) on my 8' 4wt St. Croix Ultra and it balances it out perfectly. I would think with a 7' 6" rod as light as your ZXL, the Evolution 1.5 would be a bit too big and would look out of place.