Why Are Fly Fishing Reels So Expensive?

This article has links to products that I may make commission from.

Fly fishing is a popular and rewarding angling technique that requires specialized equipment. One of the most crucial components of a fly fishing setup is the reel, which plays a vital role in being able to control the fly line and land a big fish.

Many people who want to start fly fishing are surprised by the high price tags attached to fly fishing reels. And, if you’re wondering the same thing, you’ve come to the right place.

Let me explain the factors that contribute to the higher costs of fly fishing reels and shed light on the value they provide to fishermen when paired with the right fly rods.

Quality Material and Craftsmanship

Two of the primary reasons for fly reels being so expensive are the use of quality materials and expert craftsmanship that goes into their production. Better craftsmanship means your fly fishing setup will last longer, work better, and feel great while you’re fighting a fish.

Below are some of the materials used to make different fly fishing reels:


Aluminum is a lightweight and robust material, making it ideal for fly reels. Another property of aluminum is its ability to withstand corrosion. This also makes it good for saltwater fishing gear.

High-quality aluminum reels undergo precise machining processes to create intricate designs and mechanisms that work well. Just keep in mind that not all aluminum is of the same quality. Fly fishing gear that is made from lower-quality aluminum may be more affordable, but it will also break more easily.


Titanium is lighter and stronger than aluminum. It’s also even more resistant to corrosion than aluminum, making it a better material for reels. With titanium being a better material, it obviously also comes in at a higher price point. And, on top of that, the manufacturing costs are higher, which further increases the price.

Carbon fiber

Carbon fiber is a material used in a lot of different sports to make equipment much lighter whilst maintaining strength, durability, and rigidity. And, as you can guess, it does exactly that for all kinds of fishing gear.

You’ll often find high-end fly rods, reels and other fishing equipment with carbon fiber components.

Innovative Design and Functionality

Another thing that drives up the price of equipment is design and functionality – and fly fishing reels have seen significant advancements in design and functionality over the years. Manufacturers continually strive to introduce innovative features to enhance the angler’s experience and improve each reel’s performance.

Let’s take a look at some of the design and functionality features that may impact the price.

Drag system

High-end fly fishing reels often have advanced drag systems that provide smooth and consistent resistance when battling fish. A good drag system is built with intricate mechanisms and high-quality components in order to provide the fly fisherman with precise control and improved performance.

Arbor design

The arbor of a reel refers to the diameter of its spool. When the arbor is larger, you benefit from an increased line retrieval speed, as well as reduced line memory. This will help you to catch fish more easily.

A larger arbor also means that more material is used to make the reel, which makes it more costly. There is also the concept of value that is provided to fishermen when using a reel with a larger arbor, which may contribute to price differences.

Lightweight construction

If you’ve been fishing for extended periods, you’ve probably realized that it can be quite a tiring experience when you’re holding a rod for so long. This is where lightweight construction comes into play.

Many expensive reels prioritize lightweight construction to reduce fatigue during long casting sessions and allow you to fly fish for longer. Remember all those materials we mentioned earlier? Reels weren’t always made with these. It took innovative engineering techniques to incorporate them into reel designs, whilst improving both their weight and durability.

Brand Reputation and Prestige

As with most products from different industries around the world, brand reputation and prestige play a role in determining the price of a fly fishing reel.

When a brand is known for making higher-quality reels, they’re going to be able to start selling them for a higher price because more people will realize the quality. As the brand’s reputation grows and they get greater demand from customers, they are able to increase their prices.

Brands of fly-fishing reels are often steeped in history, here’s 5 you should consider if looking for a new, high-quality reel.

  1. Hardy: Known for their high-quality craftsmanship, their Fortuna XDS reel is considered top of the line. Hardy is an English company founded way back in 1872!
  2. Abel: Abel reels are highly regarded, and they offer a range of premium options. Their Super Series and Sealed Drag reels are particularly esteemed. Abel is an American company and quite youthful in comparison, being founded in 1980.
  3. Tibor: Tibor reels, especially the Signature series, are renowned for their robustness and craftsmanship. Pronounced TEE-bor, their first reel came to market in 1975.
  4. Nautilus: Their NV-G series is considered among the top premium fly reels on the market. These reels are made in Miami and, as they say on their site, “rust never sleeps”
  5. Orvis: Their Mirage series is designed for heavy-duty use and is priced accordingly. Another historic company, founded in 1856, they are known for their commitment not only to quality but for their donation of 5% of pre-tax profits to good causes, particularly conservation.

Orvis Mirage Reel Close Up

Recently, I was in an Orvis store, so took a couple of pictures of a Mirage Reel to try and show the incredible craftsmanship of this flagship reel. It really is a thing of beauty!

Orvis Mirage Fly Reel in close detail

As Orvis themselves say this reel is “Machined in the USA from strong, yet lightweight 6061 T6 aluminum barstock” (which is the same kind of alminum used in aircraft) and is also “unconditionally guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship”. This isn’t just a reel it’s a work of art! I held it in the store and it’s incredibly light too. Amazing.

Of course, you don’t always have to choose well-known brands when buying a decent reel (or any other gear), but it does usually guarantee that you’ll get something high quality.

Benefits of Expensive Fly Fishing Reels

When fly fishing reels are more expensive, there’s usually a good reason. As we’ve mentioned, higher-quality materials, reputable manufacturers, and excellent functionality and design all contribute to a hefty price tag.

Below are some of the benefits of buying an expensive reel:

  • It’ll have superior durability and longevity.
  • Its performance will be much smoother and more consistent.
  • You’ll have more drag control when catching fish.
  • Line retrieval and management will be more precise.
  • It’ll likely be lighter in weight, which reduces fatigue.
  • Casting accuracy and control may be better.


Do you really need an expensive fly fishing reel?

While you don’t necessarily need a fly fishing reel that’s expensive, it does help to get one that is of higher quality (and that means a higher price point too). A more costly reel will also usually last longer, feel more comfortable, and have other benefits that will improve your overall experience.

Is fly fishing gear expensive?

Yes; fly fishing is undoubtedly an expensive sport. You have to buy a fly rod, a fly line, and a range of other fly fishing gear. All of these costs add up, and if you want higher quality fly fishing rods, reels, and other equipment, it’ll hike up the price even further.

In addition, depending on the type of fishing you’re doing, gear may cost even more. Trout fishing, for example, tends to cause you to go through many flies. If you have only started fly fishing recently, the expense might be offputting, but a great reel is a worthwhile investment.

Does a good fly reel make a difference?

Definitely! Using a high-quality fly reel makes a difference. Reels are made at varying levels of performance and weight, among other things. If you purchase a good reel, you’ll have a smoother experience, will become less fatigued, and will have a lot more control when trying to reel in your catch.

Does fly reel size matter?

The size of your fly reel definitely matters. Each reel is intended to handle different sized fish. They also take the size of the fly rod into account. Making sure you have a reel that is the right size for your fly rod and quarry will help to improve your overall experience.

So there we have it – what brand do you prefer for your fly reels?

Written by James - thanks for reading.