How Does A Fly Reel Drag Work-You Should Know


Fly reels are the most basic part of a fishing setup. Even though it is comparatively a small component, a fly reel is still of a great importance. In this article, we will find out the working mechanism of a fly reel drag which will make it clear that how does a fly reel drag work. We will also talk about different types of fly reels and factors that help you to choose the perfect one for you.

Before diving into all that, let us first discuss what the drag on a fly reel actually is.


What Is A Drag On Fly Reel?

The word “drag” implies a braking system that is used on fly reels. It functions as an equipment to slow down the rotation of the spool for more control and pressure to a fish on the fish line. Consider this analogy, a fly reel drag is like the brakes on a vehicle, it gives you a “stopping” power. In case of fly fishing, that power stops the fish.

Drag System on a fly reel also has another usage, It acts as backlash prevention i.e, keeps the spool from overrunning. This function is another reason why a good drag system is much needed for fishing. It saves a lot of time.

how does a fly reel drag work
Piscifun Platte Fully Sealed Drag Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel


Different Fly Reel Dragging Systems

There are mainly two different types of drag systems used in a fly fishing reel: disc and click-and-pawl. Each one of these has their own importance and features which makes them ideal for certain conditions.

Let us look at them in detail now.

Click and Pawl Drag System

Click & Disc drags
Courtesy: Cabela’s

Before the modern disc drag, there was click-and-pawl drag used by everyday fishers. This type of drag has a traditional system of click and pawl. They have a spring loaded “pawl” inside the reel of the frame which has a small “toothed” wheel on the spool’s center.

The tension present on the spring gives a vital resistance to the spool when it turns to release the line, as the frame’s pawl ratchets again the teeth present on the spool. They are of two types: Single and double pawl. Some Click and Pawl drags can be adjusted usually with a knob while others cannot be adjusted.

Disc Drag System

Reels having disc drags are very famous nowadays. They are considered advanced to the click and pawl drags mainly because of their ability to provide a good resistance to a revolving reel spool which helps to slow down the speed of the fly line. They are also heavier than click and pawl reels.

Most of the disk drags have a mechanism that supports adjustable tension via a knob present on the frame. Generally speaking, a disc drag reel can apply a more consistent restraint level than the old school click and pawl reels. Hence, they can be used to catch a wide variety of fishes.


Which One is Better? Disc Drag or Click-and-Pawl?

The main reasons why disk drags are better than click and pawl drags are given below:

  • Disc drags give more stopping power than click-and-pawl reels.
  • Disc drags have smoother start-up mechanism.
  • It offers a range of tension adjustments to help you in most of the conditions.

In addition to these reasons, many disc drag reels are constructed to face harsh weather conditions and water currents. This makes it compatible with both the seawater and freshwater. All these sweet additions make a disc drag more of a logical investment than a click and pawl drag.


How Does A Fly Reel Drag Work?

To make a fly reel drag work, we have to know how to adjust the drag in the reel. Adjusting the drag is as simple as turning the drag knob. if you do a clockwise rotation, the drag gets tight and it increases the pressure. On the contrary, a counter-clockwise rotation loosens the drag and reduces the pressure.

Now you’re basically done adjusting the drag. The real problem is finding a drag setting that suits a certain fishing condition. And this doesn’t have a proper answer, you need to hit and trial the problem and find your own balancing setting. This is all done with practice when you have all the practice in the world, you develop an intuition that helps you to do this properly.

The working mechanism of fly reel drag is explained below. As we know that fly reels have two different types of drag systems; the disc drag and the click and pawl. They both have their own working mechanism so, answer to the question of how the fly reel drag mechanism works are really two-fold.

Let us discuss them.

Click and Pawl Working Mechanism

The ‘Click and pawl’ drag system is the original drag system which is still in use today. This drag system makes uses of the gearing inside the fly reel that allows the fly line to exit the fly reel at a steady rate. This makes the drag system best for trout and other smaller fishes.


Disc Drag System

The Disc Drag system, as we mentioned earlier, resembles the braking system of a car. A pad present inside the fly reen can be adjusted by putting the required tension. By doing this, the drag system can have multiple adjustment levels.

Initially, the disc-drag fly reel’s motion and overall working were praised by all. But today, almost all fly reels come with workable disc-drags embedded. This makes the whole disc drag system as a really great innovation in fishing.


Which Drag System Should You Buy?

Well, it really depends. As long as you have a good quality fly reel, the drag system really won’t be that bothersome. But there are certain cases where certain drag systems are preferable. Want to catch small fishes? Get the one with the click and pawl mechanism. Want to catch every kind of fishes? Get a Disc drag system. Since it is a modern type of system and has many pros than cons. hence, logically, it is a great choice.

Did You Read:   Best Fly Reels Under $200- Quality isn't Always Expensive

Since we know that the quality of fly reel is still a big factor. We’ll now discuss what kind of fly reel you should buy.


Which Type Of Reel Should I Buy & Why?

Fly reels are a crucial part of a fly-fishing setup. You need to have proper knowledge of how to buy a fly reel. Here are the factors that you would want to consider:


Fly ReelsI cannot stress enough how important the size of your reel is. It should be determined by the amount of fly line and backing the reel can hold. Larger fishes will require a larger spool. The standard fly line is 90 inches in length while the diameter of your reel varies with the weight of the line. So, there’s a bunch of things to consider here.

Drag System

We’ve already discussed this in detail. You know what to go for now, don’t you?


There are basically three kinds of arbor; large, mid and small. A large arbor has many benefits like faster line retrieval, less line coil, and more drag. Fast line retrieval helps in keeping the tension consistent on the line, even if the fish swims at you. While more drag results in better fishing experience.

Small arbor, on the other hand, is also useful in certain conditions. They are lighter and they balance properly. Catching a smaller fish is also comparatively easier with a small arbor. Reel rods today, however, have adopted the inclusion of a mid-arbor. The mid arbor reels combine the best of both worlds.

Manufacturing Process

There are mainly three kinds of reel manufacturing. They are explained below:

  1. Reels Made with Machine: Machined reels are the ones that are mass produced on factories, they are very good for long-term use as they can handle more abuse. They are resistant to corrosion and hence, they are very much compatible with saltwater, glacial silt and other harsh environments.
  2. Die Cast: Die Cast reels manufacturing has picked up a rapid pace over the years. These are really economical fly reels that have great performance. If you’re on a budget then. this one is for you. It is not as good as machined reels, they can’t be anodized meaning corrosion is inevitable.
  3. Stamped Metal Reel: Stamped metal reels are very heavy and ultra durable. They’re also the cheapest reel among the bunch. If you’re really trying to save some money and aren’t that much of a fisherman then, we recommend you get a stamped metal reel.

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Fly fishing is probably the most famous type of fishing in the world and it’s good to have any advantage you get. Although in this process, a fly reel is a great way to enhance your chance to catch more fishes, it isn’t everything. There are many other things that you must improve for becoming a great fisherman which includes the knowledge of how does a fly reel drag work. Fly reels do provide you with the initial push that you might need. Well, these fly reels basically come with two rag systems with the Disc Drag system reigning supreme over the click and pawl system. It is also kind of situation specific and the reel quality. The quality of the reel depends on its size, drag system, manufacturing process, and the arbor.

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