Large Arbor Reels vs Small Arbor Reels

This post was last updated on August 8th, 2021 at 04:07 pm

There are a couple types of fly fishing reel options to consider before investing your hard earned money into one. There are two major types of reels. These are the large arbor reels and the small arbor reels. There is also a less common mid arbor size. You will see that a mid arbor reel will be the middle ground between the large and small (standard) arbor.

Large Arbor Fly Reels vs Small Arbor Fly Wheels

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Notice the huge difference in the size of the arbor. The large arbor reel will bring line in at nearly double the rate of the small arbor reel. These are both 5/6 weight reels.


Small Arbor Reels

The small arbor fly reel is a more traditional design. It is the most common type found in older fishing reels. The arbor is quite small and will not be able to pick up line very quickly without loading it up with a lot of backing. Having a small arbor reel will not really have much for benefits to be honest. They are somewhat outdated and not really a great option unless you are going for the traditional look. One benefit of a small arbor reel is potential weight savings. Although most high end fly reels are quite lightweight, some of the smaller standard arbor reels are significantly lighter due to less material being used to make them.

Large Arbor Fly Reels

The Large arbor reel is a vast improvement over the traditional smaller design. You will be able to reel line in 2x faster and enjoy the high tech look of the large arbor fly wheel design. Some downsides of a large arbor reel could be an increase in overall weight of the reel. The modern fly reel (especially high end) reels are made with high end aluminum, they are not really that much heavier than their predecessor the standard arbor fly fishing reel. They are larger in size, therefore a little bit more bulky, but this is a small sacrifice in my opinion.

Mid Arbor Reels

These are simply an in between choice of the above two options. These are a good safe choice for your fly fishing setup. Before buying a fly reel, you should go into your local fly shop and try things out. They are always happy to answer any questions and offer advice.

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Recap – Small Arbor vs Large Arbor Reels

Large arbor reels

  • Reel in line faster
  • more modern look and design
  • Slightly heavier than smaller arbor designs

Small arbor reels

  • Lighter weight
  • More classical look and appeal

Mid Size

  • The middle ground between the above two styles.  A safe bet for most fisherman

Choosing the proper fly fishing reel is best done at the counter of a fly fishing shop if you are unfamiliar with the individual reels. You will be able to try out the different types and feel confident you have made the right choice. A fly reel can be a large investment with the prices ranging from 20 dollars up to $1000. The fly reel is less important to your overall fishing than a rod. If you are on a limited budget I would advise you to spend more on a rod than you do on a reel. Most expensive reels will come with lifetime warranties. You can be sure you are buying a quality reel, that will last a very long time if you decide to spend the “big bucks”.

Arbor Reel FAQ

What’s the difference between Mid and Large Arbor reels for trout?

The biggest difference between small, mid and large arbor reels are weight, line coiling issues and retrieval rate. Large arbor reels are typically better in the retrieval rate and line coiling departments due to their wider reels and larger diameter.

How much backing do I need for a small arbor reel?

The general rule of thumb is about 100 yards of backing. This adds plenty of extra size to the arbor, increasing your line retrieval rate.