Freshwater fly fishing reels are unlike any other type of freshwater reel in that the line is not pulled off by the lure and the force of the cast. If you are learning how to fly fish, the casting distance is limited to line that has already been stripped off the reel and now lies in a loose coil. The efficiency of the false casting motion then propels this line forward.
Beginning fly anglers usually start by targeting small fish such as trout or bluegill so, at least initially, even the best freshwater fly fishing reels may mostly be used as a spool to hold, store line. Eventually, you and your freshwater reel may start connecting with larger fish which are capable of pulling line off the reel. When this occurs, you’ll be glad you didn’t skimp on your fishing gear and purchase one with a cheaper, possibly more unreliable drag system.
The difference between saltwater and freshwater fly fishing reels mostly has to do with the potentially greater size (for example, tarpon) and speed ( for example, bonefish) of the fish and thus greater need for a good, tough, reliable drag system. The best fly fishing reels also are selected because they match with the fly rod, line size, and line quantity anticipated for the targeted species.
Ultimately, the best freshwater fly fishing reels will be the ones that will be used. That means it is affordable, has a sturdy enough drag system, and is durable, perhaps with a good warranty. Talk to fly anglers and ask for their input on the subject. Also before purchasing, be sure to read reviews online; there just may be a factor that ends up being more important to your fishing needs. Then, when you pick up your fishing license, check the booklet of regulations; it may contain locations to give your new fly fishing reels a try.