Spring and Pawl Drag Fly Fishing Reels

Feb 8


Brett Fogle

Brett Fogle

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The first type of drag system is the traditional Spring-and Pawl-drag. Just because this drag type if traditional doesn't mean it's outdated. In fact, spring-and-pawl fly reels are ideal for trout fishing, particularly when using light tippets. When line is pulled out of a quality spring-and-pawl fly reel, it is pulled out very smoothly indeed. There is no "jerkiness" or "unevenness" in the tension that is applied to the line. The line instead leaves the reel at a very smooth rate, without any variations in the amount of tension. By getting rid of the unevenness in tension, the fly reel goes a long way towards protecting the tippet.


Try to think about it this way. You have a large fish on line. The fish starts pulling out fly line at a good rate. Then,Spring and Pawl Drag Fly Fishing Reels Articles the tension on the line suddenly increases then slackens again. What happens? If you're using a light tippet, you're fish is gone, that's what. The sudden increase in tension in the rate the fly line came out of the reel parted the tippet material. Its not much different than giving a good jerk on the fly line when you want to break the fly line because of being hooked on underwater logs or rocks.

So, the moral of the story is this. A quality spring-and-pawl drag system is excellent for most trout fishing situations, particularly those where you will be fishing using light tackle and tippets.

What's the drawback of a spring-and-pawl drag fly reel? They are not designed for very large fish, like large bass, steelhead, salmon or saltwater species. While they work, they don't work as well as the newer disc-drag models discussed below.

Disc Drag Fly Fishing Reels

The second type of drag system is the newer disc-drag system. This type of fly reel uses various materials that essentially act like a brake on a car. A pad inside the fly reel is adjusted up or downward (by the drag adjustment on the reel), which in turn applies more or less tension to the fly line. Disc-drag fly reels are all the rage in fly fishing. Even the cheapest of the cheap fly reels tout their disc drag system.

Disc drag reels excel in large fish situations, like when catching exceptionally large trout, large bass, steelhead, salmon or saltwater species. The disc drag reel is designed to exert a smooth but hard pressure on the fly line without seizing up and is ideal when large fish that strip out hundreds of feet of line are caught.

The drawback to a disc drag reel as far as fly fishing goes is that in comparison to a quality spring-and-pawl reel, the tension can be just a bit more uneven. This is not a problem in most fishing situations that a normal trout fisherman will encounter. However, if you are using 6x and 7x tippets and fishing for wary trout, even the slightest hesitation or change in tension pressure can cause a tippet to part ways with the trout.

Now that you know more about the drag system on fly reels, it is now time to turn our attention to the quality of the fly reel.