This is the third of six articles included in the series entitled Fly Fishing for Shad- The Basics.
“Fly reels are just a place to store your fly line.” I have said that before, and sometimes that is true. In trout fishing, the fish are generally played by hand, and the reel is seldom used. However, anyone that has ever saltwater fly fished can tell you that the reel becomes a critical component when a big fish makes a run at 30mph in the opposite direction.
Now shad do not hit speeds anywhere near 30mph, so the importance of the fly reel is somewhere in between line holder and critical component. There are times that a large fish will take you well in to the backing and sometimes leave you fighting the fish as well as the current. For this reason, a reel should have a decent drag and an arbor large enough to hold 100 feet of fly line and 100 feet of 20 pound backing. Shad will rarely take more than 50 feet of backing, but if/ when they do, you will be ready. This means there are any number of fly reels for shad that fit the bill.
As with fly rods, there are reels that one can spend exuberant amounts of money on. These reels have there place, particularly in saltwater fly fishing when targeting large and fast sport fish. I prefer a more modest reel and have come to like large arbor reels in general. While a medium arbor reel is capable of handling the line and backing requirements, I like a large arbor as it minimizes curls and line memory. I have started using a large arbor reel with a carbon drag and really like the smooth feel the drag has when fighting the fish. However I have caught shad on more simplistic click-n-paw reels and still love their nostalgic sound and feel.
One thing to note is, make sure that the reel is balanced on your fly rod. When fishing long days making hundreds of casts, a well balanced outfit can help minimize fatigue.