Click and Pawl fly reels are simple reel options for fly anglers who regularly pursue trout and other smaller freshwater fish. These reels are typically made with fewer parts, making maintenance a breeze. Another reason many anglers turn to click and pawl reels is the classic sound that’s oh so sweet when a fish takes line. A majority of modern fly reels contain some sort of disc drag system and are often sealed to prevent dirt, grime, and salt from entering the drag system. While this may seem like an advantage, if a sealed drag system fails or is compromised you may need to send it to the manufacturer whereas a click and pawl reel can be easily cared for at home. The advantages of a click and pawl reel don’t end at ease of maintenance as you’ll see below.
What are click and pawl reels?
Click and Pawl drag systems are simple and effective and can handle a variety of species. This style of reel get their name from the metal tooth, or “pawl”, that is attached to the spool.
The second component of a click and pawl mechanism is gear that is fixed to the center of the frame. Lastly, a small “spring” behind the pawl adds resistance as the pawl passes over the gear on the frame, preventing your reel from over-spooling and providing drag. This style of drag system is tried and true and can introduce a fun, new challenge on the water.
Why try a click and pawl fly reel?
Click and Pawl reels are incredibly simple and effective tools designed primarily for freshwater fly anglers. The simple drag system outlined above consists of only a handful of parts making them incredibly easy to maintain at home. Fewer parts leave fewer points of failure which is why these reels are known for their durability. In the event that your reel does fail, you can access all of the drag components with ease.
Fewer parts also means a lighter reel. Click and Pawl reels are almost always lighter than a disc drag and sealed disc drag reel of equivalent size. Lightweight and simple, click and pawl reels are great for backcountry and pack-in fishing destinations where reducing weight is key. Pairing a click and pawl reel with a lightweight fly rod is a match made in dry fly heaven. Many anglers, myself included, turn to click and pawl reels in the summer months chasing smaller fish in high country streams.
Click and Pawl reels aren’t as strong as many modern-day disc drag systems and don’t have any adjustability in drag pressure. When hooked up with a large fish, anglers can apply additional drag pressure by “palming the reel”. This allows the angler to be in tune with the fish and manually adjust drag through the fight. Click and pawl reels are flat-out fun to fish when you hook up with a feisty trout or bass.
Choosing a Click and Pawl Reel
Abel TR $395.00
The Abel TR is a partially ported, large arbor click and pawl reel that has a classic sound when the line is being stripped out or retrieved. This reel is a favorite around Flylords for targeting trout around the world. The TR has an oversized palming ring that allows anglers to apply additional drag pressure while fighting feisty fish. Palming allows you to gently add drag to protect fine tippets. Palming a click and pawl reel also allows you to throw the breaks on a running fish when necessary.
The Abel TR is my personal go-to for a click and pawl reel. The 2/3 model pairs well with small stream rods like the 372-5 Scott F Series fiberglass rod. If a classic looking and sounding click and pawl reel is what you’re after, be sure to give the Abel TR Fly Reel some serious consideration. Best of all, the TR is available in all of your favorite Abel finishes.
Ross Reels Colorado $335.00
The Abel TR is a phenomenal reel, but it isn’t as light as some on the market if that’s your primary reason for buying a click and pawl reel. You may want to consider an option like the Ross Reels Colorado for a milled, made in the USA, click and pawl fly reel. Coming in at 3.2oz in the ⅔ model and 3.5oz in the ⅘ model, these reels are light. If you like to target fish in the high country or frequently pack your rod and reel into a fishing location, the Ross Reels Colorado was built for you.
This fully ported click and pawl fly reel has a large arbor and a Vesconite bushing for an incredibly smooth feel and lasting dependability. The Colorado click and pawl fly reel will help you land fish in skinny backcountry waters and big rivers alike. Available in matte platinum and matte black options, the Ross Reels Colorado will look right at home on your favorite trout rod. Be sure to check out our complete review of the Ross Reels Colorado HERE.
Disadvantages to Click and Pawl Fly Reels
As mentioned above, click and pawl reels don’t typically have adjustable drag settings to stop strong fish. The drag found on click and pawl reels is not as strong or adjustable as many modern disc drag reels on the market.
So if you are in the market for a saltwater-specific reel you may want to look past click and pawl reels. If you’re looking for a saltwater reel that’s lightweight and has an incredibly smooth drag, look no further than the Ross Reels Evolution R Salt fly reel. Be sure to check out our in-depth review of the Evolution R Salt if you’re still on the fence.
Your next reel?
If you’re in the market for a new fly fishing reel, a click and pawl reel may be for you. These reels help you feel connected to the fish while you palm the spool for added drag. One of the biggest advantages is that they are lightweight, allowing you to take them wherever you go. Simple, fun, and easy to maintain, click and pawl reels are perfect for the no-fuss fly angler.
What’s your choice then?
[…] The next type of fishing reel, the fly fishing reel, is more application specific than the other reels that we have discussed so far. Many still think of it as a reel specific to trout, but other uses have been commonly used for fly reels such as fishing for bream and speckled trout. One of the most characteristic traits of the fly reel is the “click”. More modern reels have eliminated the click to meet the needs of those who prefer silent reels for stealth. The click and pawl reels still exist for the traditional fly fisherman and are unmatched in terms of low-maintenance. However, there is no drag to help the fight against large fish, so be mindful when chasing larger saltwater species . […]
Very good article. Ive been flyfishing for 61 years. I used click and pawl reels exclusively fo 50 of those years They are simple and easy to maintain and fun as the artical mentions. The Abel and the Ross are fine pieces of engineering, but you do not need to spend that kind of money. Many fine Click and Pawl reels are avaiable for less than $100. And will serve you fine for most if not all of your life. I suggest any beginner start with one to learn how to use your hand to slow a fish down and to not have to spend a fortune to get started. I used one on an 8 wt rod to catch pike and big smallmouths and I can tell you it was an absolute blast!
[…] dad who has it all. Give him one of the finest trout reels available. The Abel TR is a classic click and pawl design, featuring timeless aesthetics and the ability to customize it just for dad through Abel’s […]
[…] Click and pawl reels feature an earlier style of drag system that isn’t as precise as disc drag. Some fly fishers prefer click and pawl reels because they’re easier to service and maintain, and there are fewer components, which means they’re lighter, and there’s less that can go wrong when you’re on the water. […]