Fly Fishing Reels: Part 4 - Arbor Size | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

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Fly fishing is a sport of precision and finesse, where every component of your gear plays a crucial role. Among these, the arbor size of your fly fishing reel is a feature that often goes unnoticed but has significant implications for your fishing experience. This guide will explore the importance of arbor size in fly fishing reels and how it can impact your angling success.

Arbor Size: A Core Feature of Fly Reels

The arbor refers to the central hub of the reel's spool. Its size affects how much line the reel can hold and how quickly it can retrieve line. There are two main types of arbors in fly fishing reels:

  • Standard Arbor: The traditional design with a smaller diameter. Ideal for fishing in smaller bodies of water where large line capacities and rapid line retrieval are not as crucial.
  • Large Arbor: A modern design with a larger diameter, allowing for quicker line pick-up and better line management, especially useful for big game fish or in situations where rapid line retrieval is an essential requirement.

Benefits of Choosing the Right Arbor Size

  • Improved Line Retrieval: A large arbor reel picks up more line per rotation, essential when fishing for species that make long runs. Think of it this way, if you were to wrap ropes of the same length around a small tree or a large tree, which would wrap faster.  The large tree of course. The fewer times I need to reel the better so I can get the fish onto the drag and or in the boat without long exposure to potential problems. 
  • Better Line Management: Larger arbors help reduce line memory (coiling) and enable smoother and more efficient casting. Coiling can be a nightmare and larger arbor reels will reduce that effect. It’s a subtle difference but can keep you from tangling and having to micromanage the line as you are fighting a fish.
  • Adaptability: The right arbor size allows for better adaptation to various fishing conditions, whether in a small creek or in open waters against larger species. The right tool for the job allows the reel to adapt but more importantly, allows you to adapt. Weight, efficiency, etc. can all be adapted according to your needs. “The right tool for the job,” my dad would say. 

Why Arbor Size Matters to Anglers

  • Efficiency in Fishing: The appropriate arbor size can greatly impact the efficiency of your fishing, enabling quicker response times when needed.
  • Compatibility with Fishing Style: Whether you prefer a leisurely day in a local stream or an adventurous outing in the ocean, your reel’s arbor size can enhance your fishing style. Vice versa, you don’t want to end up in the Sea of Cortez fighting a prized Roosterfish that continues to make blasting runs on you with a small arbor. You would be reeling in repeatedly exhausting yourself to the point where siestas would be mandatory.
  • Prevention of Line Problems: A correctly sized arbor helps prevent issues like line tangling and memory, which can hinder your fishing experience. Let’s use the example of saltwater.  Typically in a panga (small boat), you are a team of 3 where the second angler is helping the on-deck angler manage their line from tangles, getting into things, etc.   Coiling can be an absolute nightmare because it is an inevitable tangle.  Next thing you know the experience is miserable for both of you and the primary focus is tangles and not fishing. 

The arbor size of your fly fishing reel is more than just a technical specification; it's a feature that can significantly affect your fishing efficiency and enjoyment. Whether you opt for a standard or large arbor, understanding its implications will help you make a more informed decision that aligns with your fishing preferences and needs. In the nuanced world of fly fishing, the right arbor size can be the difference between a good day and a great day on the water.

I've shopped around for fly fishing reels for many years now and have talked to countless friends and pros about what to use. There are not to many tried and true brands that I've found and every day there seems to be a new reel company.  Here are a few brands and retailers that I trust and will get you into a solid reel with a bit of due diligence. 

Cheeky Fly Fishing Reels
Hardy Fly Fishing Reels
Peux Fly Fishing Reels (This brand specializes in automatic retrieve and multiplier reels...they are unbelievable.)
Greys Fishing
Ross Reels

Trident Fly Fishing 

You’ve been reading along and learning a ton about fly fishing reels.  Have you read all the other articles in this guide program?

Fly Fishing Reels: Overall Guide | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 1 - Understanding Quality and Price | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 2 - Compatibility and Size | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 3 - Drag Systems | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 4 - Arbor Size | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 5 - Manufacturing and Construction | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 6 - Extra Spools and Versatility | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Fly Fishing Reels: Part 7 - Lifetime Warranties and Brand | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

FFIP does receive a small commission from affiliate sales links. However, not all links are directed towards affiliate programs as I stay neutral and base recommendations more so on my own experiences. These commissions are used to support the FFIP expenses related to maintaining and hosting the show, blog, etc. Thank you for your support and by purchasing through the links within my articles when applicable!

Christian Bacasa, Host of the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

By Christian Bacasa
Host of the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast
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