Fly reels come in many different shapes and sizes and have different uses depending on the type of fishing you'll be doing. We get a lot of questions on what style of reel to purchase and how to match a reel to your rod. This can be broken down into a couple of different options to consider for every angler out there.
When choosing a reel consider: line weight, size/how it balances, whether it's cast aluminum vs. machined aluminum, large-arbor vs. mid-arbor, and sealed drag vs. click-pawl.
One of the major things is you want to do is balance out your reel with the rod(s) you'll be using it on. Take the Abel TR for example. It's a click-pawl reel, machined out of pure aluminum. It is made more for lighter rods. Doesn't really have a drag system, has the original click-pawl system which is about 250-year-old technology. This reel is a more traditional 3-, 4-, 5-weight reel.
Line Weights and Your Reel
A lot of reels can hold multiple different line weights. Usually 2. You'll commonly see 4/5, 5/6, 7/8, and the line weights continue like that. Also evaluate arbor size when considering line weight. For example, the saltwater reels will have a larger arbor, so they can hold more backing. When the fish runs, the permit takes off running, you've got some backing there to help you out.
Cast vs. Machined
Some of the entry-level reels are cast aluminum, meaning molten aluminum goes into a cast and forms and hardens to form the spool and the reel. They're not as durable. They're entry-level, beginner-style reels and have either a cork system or an unsealed drag system. Machined aluminum reels get CNC'ed out of a complete bar of aluminum. Way more durable and way more styling.
Some of the reels have a pressure pull-apart spool. This allows you to swap spools and add spools. We've seen a downtick in that recently than in years past.
There are two types of drag systems on fly reels: the click-pawl system, which is older technology, vs. the sealed-drag system on the newer saltwater and freshwater reels. It allows less corrosion on the bearings. They've pretty much gone away from the cork on the drag systems with the sealed drags. You can fine-tune your drag on how light and strong you'd like it to be.
Sealed drag on the Bauer SST