For 90 per cent of fly fishing in Canada, a reel is mostly just a place to store your line. Any reel with a recognizable brand name that costs more than $50 is typically made well enough that it won’t spontaneously seize or fly apart. You only need to spend more if you’re going after powerful fish that make long runs, such as steelhead, lake trout or salmon. Even then, you can often get by with sturdy, yet inexpensive gear. That first big pike of mine easily overwhelmed my drag, but—as generations of fly anglers did before me—I simply palmed the reel to manually increase the drag (pictured above).
Move up a bit higher in price, and you can get an even more durable reel featuring better components and a nicer appearance, as well as a stronger, smoother drag. For around $150 to $250, in fact, you can get a very fine reel that, if well cared for, will do everything you ask of it for decades almost anywhere you fish, including in saltwater. With anything more than $250, however, you’re getting a beautifully machined item that you can pass on to your grandchildren—but with fishing capabilities you’ll conceivably never need.
BONUS TIP: ACCESSORIES
If you’re on a tight budget, here’s what you need to spend on accessories: nothing. Trim knots with nail clippers, carry flies in leftover compartment boxes—or even pill bottles—and make leaders made from the same monofilament you would use with spinning reels.