You've probably heard the myth that in trout fishing, your fly reel is nothing more than a line holder. Well, that might be true if your game is catching 14-inch hatchery trout on 3X tippets. If you're a serious fly fisher, however, it's likely that your sights are set much higher. Want to enter the 20/20 club and catch a 20-inch trout on a size 20 or smaller fly? You'll need a quality reel with a smooth drag system. And for saltwater fishing, your reel becomes even more important. Here are a few of the best new fly reels of 2014 for all types of fishing.
Engineered for a Purpose
Your go-to new fly reel could be anything from a functional, inexpensive workhorse like the Sage 3250, to a sealed-drag showpiece like the Tibor Signature Series. The Hardy Ultralite SDS is a saltwater big-game reel, while the Sage Evoke was developed with Spey fishers in mind.
Hardy Ultralite SDS $450-$495
Green means go on the color-coded drag system of Hardy's new Ultralite SDS reel. When you want to slow the fish down, you can visually adjust the drag into the amber color zone, and when you want that running tarpon to stop and turn, you crank it into the red zone. The Ultralite SDS has a one-turn drag knob that goes from zero to 13 pounds of drag — on the 12-weight version. (The six woven carbon-fiber pads in the drag system create a maximum of 8 pounds of drag in the smallest SDS.) While quick and easy stopping power is what you need with fish that streak away from you, many big, hard-mouth fish are lost when they run straight toward you and create slack. The 5.3"-diameter SDS solves this problem by picking up 14 inches of line with one crank of the handle. hardynorthamerica.com
Check out Fly Fisherman's review and insider video on this product! Hardy Ultralite SDS
Sage 3200 $200-$240
Our tester took Sage's affordable new trout reel across the country's trout belt — from Montana, east to the limestone spring creeks of Cumberland County, and up into New England. 'It's trout fishing, not rocket science, ' he said. 'All you need is a reliable reel that looks good on your favorite rod, and more importantly feels good. The 3200 series has a dependable, smooth drag system that protects light tippets and keeps small hooks in place. The thing I like best is the oversize, numbered drag knob that lets me quickly and easily set my drag exactly where I want it every time. ' The reels have a sealed carbon fiber drag system with a stainless steel one-way clutch bearing so the drag engages instantly. They are available in three sizes for 3/4-, 5/6-, and 7/8-weight lines, and either black/platinum or platinum colors. sageflyfish.com
Sage Evoke $575-$595
Yes Spey anglers, you can have your cake and eat it too. The new Evoke from Sage is a completely enclosed 3/4-cage design, which means your thin running line can't slip out from between the frame and the spool, causing hassles on the water. For traditionalists, the open portion on the bottom gives you access to the spool rim so you can palm it for instant drag adjustments. Our tester used the distinctive reel for fresh-run Chinook salmon and said 'The palming feature is nice, but with a drag system like that, you don't really need it. I just enjoy the clean lines of this reel, and the functionality of the old-school closed cage. ' The sealed carbon fiber drag system has a large, easy-to-grab, one-revolution knob with detents from 1 to 39. There are two reel sizes for 8- and 10-weight lines, and three colors: stealth/platinum, bronze/platinum, and stealth/blaze. sageflyfish.com
Tibor Signature Series $685
Ted Juracsik set the saltwater world on its head when he reinvented the Tibor brand with his Signature Series. The reels are lighter than the original Tibor series and have a sealed, waterproof drag system that's easy to change from right- to left-hand retrieve. The esthetics and stopping power of the Signature Series quickly made it a staple for everything for bonefish and redfish, up to billfish and tarpon with the giant 11-12 size. In 2014 this saltwater stalwart is coming down in size to a 31/4"x23„8" trout-size reel that holds 200 yards of 20-pound-test gel-spun backing and a 6-weight line. The 5-6 Signature reel has a lighter foot to balance with smaller trout rods, and there's also a speciality color scheme for the lightweight of the family that allows you to choose a distinctive lime, aqua, crimson, or black drag system to match with the standard frame and spool colors that Tibor has offered for years. tiborreel.com
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