What Is The Best Drag System In A Fly Reel?

Drag is one of the important features in the fly reel that affects the total amount of fish you catch on your trip. If when catching small fish the effect will not be so obvious, but if facing large fish, the drag system is very important to have a great performance.

There are two separate drag systems on the fly reel, they have different mechanisms of action, used in different situations. If your target is big fish then you should have a good understanding of these systems.

What is the best drag system in a fly reel? it is a drag disc system, which is the system used in most fly reels today. However, that doesn’t mean the spring-and-pawl drag system is not good, depending on the case, they have different performances.

To begin with a detailed explanation of each type of system, we must first understand what the drag on a fly reel is.

What is drag on a fly reel?

Drag is a term commonly used in all types of fishing, including fly fishing. The drag on the reel is understood as it creates friction to reduce the rotation speed of the spool, creating resistance that makes it difficult to pull the fly line out of the spool to fight the fish.

The drag created by the spool speed control is called the drag system. The fly rod won’t engage in combat between you and the fish, the drag system will do everything.

Besides, the drag system also helps to set the tension of the spool so that it does not continue to spin when the line hits the water, preventing backlash or tangles. This feature allows you to have more valuable time to do other important work.

What is disc drag on a fly reel?

What is disc drag on a fly reel

Dish drag is a series of compression washers made from different materials such as Teflon or cork sit between the drag knob and the spool. When you set up traction, those washers are pushed into the spool and create friction, reducing its speed to create tension on the line, thereby it harder for the line to leave the fly reel.

To put it simply, the fish runs after taking the bait and pulling the line out of the spool, and now the drag system creates the necessary tension in the line to fight the fish.

The disc drag system is widely applied in fly reels because they have the following outstanding advantages:

  • The ability to start smoothly
  • Consistent, even traction throughout the fight
  • Provides more power to deter fish
  • Easily adjustable for almost infinite tension increase or decrease
  • Can fight in extreme conditions

Probably the best material for the disc drag system is the cork, the most prominent being that it makes the drag start-up process extremely smooth. Besides, it has good heat dissipation, which is a necessity when fighting for a long time.

However, not stopping there, there is also other information about the disc drag system, which I will mention in other articles. You will just need to know those basics to be enough to fight the fish.

This system is suitable for fishing large freshwater and saltwater fish.

What is spring-and-pawl drag on a fly reel?

This is the drag applied to the classic fly reels, which have worked fine since their invention until now.

As for how it works, a toothed gear sits on the spool of the fly reel and a spring-loaded pawl (a triangular piece of metal) sticks into the teeth of the gear. When pulling the line off the reel, the spool&gear spin, and the pawl bounce along with the teeth of the spool, thereby slowing down the spool and creating resistance accompanied by repeated “click” sounds.

That is also the reason why it is also called click-and-pawl.

There is a knob to increase or decrease the drag on the fly reel, but the range of adjustment is very limited. There is still a way to increase traction and that is to use palm the reel with their hands to add more pressure. However, this method has quite a few risks, one is limiting the ability of the fly reel to work smoothly and if you don’t have much experience, you will break your leader or tippet.

This drag system is mainly used for smaller freshwater fish like trout and panfish because you only need to use your muscles to control the rod to fight them, they barely take any line off fly reels.

What is spring-and-pawl drag on a fly reel


From the mechanism of action and the advantages and disadvantages of each system I mentioned above, perhaps the disc drag system is the answer to the question “What is the best drag system in a fly reel?” However, optionally, depending on your fishing style and different circumstances, you can choose from different drag systems.

I hope this article is useful to you. Do you have another idea?

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