I like Abel reels for medium sized trout. Enough so that I bought my wife a new Abel 5N in Brookie colors for her Winston BIIx 8'6" 5 wt. - just so that I could get her old Abel 5N for my Sage Z-axis 9'0" 5 wt.! They aren't inexpensive, but they balance both rods almost prefectly and the cork drag on Abel reels is the smoothest that I've found to date. I think it's actually more sensitive than hand stripping; and a year ago I never would have even come close to saying that.
I am a firm believer of high quality reels. I don't subscribe to the old saying that the reel just holds the line. That may be true on creeks but when you get to larger fish in fresh or salt water, you should play the fish from the reel. Some fly fishers like to strip in the line instead of putting the fish on the reel. That may work in some instances but many times, with big fish, it is a disaster.
When fishing Steelhead in a fast flowing river the fish will usually head down stream to the next pool. If you have stripped line and have it laying on the ground you are almost assured to lose the fish. More times than not you will step on the line and break the fish off. If you are lucky not to step on the line you will catch it on a rock or limb with the same results.
If you are fishing from a boat you have the same problem. If you have stripped in a bunch of line the possibility of stepping on or tripping over your line is high. Some beginner fly fishers think they will strip in line with small fish and fight big fish from the reel. The problem with this approach is a beginner will get use to stripping line and never learn how to put the fish on the reel. So with any fish that has a little weight to it I would put it on the reel just for the practice. Then when the fish of a lifetime takes your fly you will know exactly what to do.
There are some nice reels in the $100 to $200 range but the best mid-priced reels are at the $300 mark. The next step up is the $450 to $800 range and most of these are salt water reels. There are some $500 to $650 range reels that are great for Alaska or any place with Steelhead and Salmon. The best reel for the money was the Teton Standard reel. Unfortunately they are not in business right now. I hope they find a buyer.
I know some of you think these prices are ridiculous but it is totally up to the individual. Each person must determine what is an appropriate price for their pursuit of becoming an accomplished fly fisher.
EDIT: I have a few Okuma SLV reels, and they work just dandy. My wife and I decided to treat ourselves this past year (and yesterday), so
we went extravagant. In my quest for the lightest affordable reel for my 7'6" 4wt, I did use a plastic Cahill reel for one season. It held
line just fine.....
You get what you pay for. The first false Albie I caught was on a Elkhorn reel I got as a Combo with a 10 wt & my buddies laughed their a$$e$ off as I chased the spool across the boat after the reel came apart. Elkhorn replaced the reel & I should have learned a lesson. Next time was a Plfuger Trion which didn't come apart but the drag would get jerky & erratic after a few long runs on albies. I picked up a Lamson Velocity & only used it once & haven't got it hooked to a big fish yet but my buddy has one & he has no trouble with it so I'm hopeing the "reel" game is over
Leaving aside the aesthetics--- after all you don't "need" a 6,000 bamboo rod to fish for trout, I think some people that have the bucks appreciate the machining and engineering etc of high quality reels. No doubt some are also caught up in the marketing and bling. A rolex and timex both tell time.
But beyond that, I think it comes down to what you're fishing for, and the type of fishing you do. And trying to find the sweet spot in terms of price and performance for the fish you're chasing. If it's panfish, that could very well be 25-40 bucks, for tarpon it could be 350ish for something like a used Pate Tarpon or 650-750 for a new Tibor or Charleton Mako.
For some stuff, like tarpon and the tunas-- even 6-25 pound ones like the False Albacore that beat up Fishn50's reel, a finely machined reel will definitely give you an edge over time if you chase things like that on a regular basis, or if even you go infrequently looking for a fish of a lifetime to some exotic remote destination where the extra cost of a quality reel is just a "rounding error" on top of air fare, lodging and guides. Or, if it's a trip to some semi-civilized part of the world like the Keys with a reputable guide, make arrangements to use the guide's equipment before you go to make sure nothing blows up when something decides to peel off 200yds of line in a hurry.
For trout fishing, I'd want a moderately priced reel with a low start up inertia and smooth drag for fishing light tippets, no wobble between spool and frame, and a sturdy frame and spool (rather than a lacey design with large holes to reduce weight) that could take an occasional ding on rocks etc without getting knocked out of alignment. I'm not up on the latest gear, but something like a Battenkill, Konic or whatever is comparable to the older stuff that I fish- (15+ year old Lamson 1.5's and 2.0's) or the Teton Tioga or old Ross Cimarron. If I was in the market for a new one, personally I'd look to the board for advice on specific recommendations in the ball park of 80-150 bucks. If i were to spend bigger bucks on a trout reel it would be to hang off cane, where I'd be more interested in something old timey for asethetics as part of the whole yin/yang thang, rather than specifically for qualities of performance.
For bass and other warmwater fish, I still use a medalist a lot. Any fish I lose are due to operator error.
The only caution I'll throw out there is that price is no guarantee of quality. There are many reels that have a very well earned reputation in virtually every price category as well as some dogs.
Hi to all,
I am a firm believer of high quality reels.
I know some of you think these prices are ridiculous but it is totally up to the individual. Each person must determine what is an appropriate price for their pursuit of becoming an accomplished fly fisher. Frank
I really enjoy fly fishing! I purchased a Orvis BLA for $179 new!
I simply love this reel. Very light, wonderful smooth drag, and reels line in quickly.
I could have bought a reel for half the price, but I want to keep it for a couple years.
When you think of all the hours that you spend fishing, a good outfit is much cheaper than golfing.
I usually make the mistake of buying cheap stuff first...... then upgrading!
Same thing with hunting, you get what you pay for.
Now I buy the best that I can afford.
I also have a much better time fishing with quality tackle.
It's like tying my flies. I could buy for much cheaper (after the rotary vise and all the tie stuff), but I love to tie.
My next fly outfit will be "top shelf" If it costs a few bucks, then I'll just have to deal with it.
Location: Lake of the Woods/Rainy River Minnesota Canada border
Re: your opinion on expensive reels?
My opinion of expensive reels is the same for all tackle. Rods, spinning reels, casting reels, all of it. If you catch large fish and fish real often, cheap stuff will break and need to be replaced. Drags tend to start up harder on cheap stuff and may eventually cost you a really big fish. It does not have to be the most expensive thing around, but cheap will eventually disapoint you. To me the most important thing in a reel is how hard it is to start the drag turning. If it starts way harder than it takes to keep it going it's no good no matter what it costs. Especially if it's not consistant. Breaking a fish off is operator error 90% of the time. The other 10% is lousy drags with maybe a bad knot or two tossed in. I've bought plenty of cheap stuff in my time and it's pretty much all dead now.
I like more expensive reels. Better built, better drags, hold the value better, balance out a rod better.
More expensive = $100+
That's in my eyes.
I have a number of CFO's, Hardy's, Lamson, other Orvis' (BLA's), Youngs, Farlows, Tioga-different reels for different conditions and rods.
You can't go wrong with a better built, higher priced reel. Just get what you can afford. But then get some good line to put on it. Sharkskin, or Rio whatever. I also fish with cane, glass and plastic.