The term Euro nymphing has taken the fly fishing industry by storm, and rightfully so. When it comes to its sheer effectiveness, it’s hard to beat. This specialized technique uses heavy flies, long rods, and light lines to optimize the amount of time your nymphs spend in the strike zone. The result is more fish in the net. With the increasing popularity, companies have begun to tailor their gear to Euro nymphing enthusiasts. Reels are an often overlooked part of trout fishing but a crucial piece of the perfect Euro setup. Long rods in the ten to eleven feet range require reels that balance the combo. This minimizes fatigue to effectively keep your flies in the zone all day. With new options flooding your local reel case, here are our picks for the best fly reels for European nymphing.
How We Made Our Picks
Choosing a Euro reel is a crucial part of any good Euro setup. While it’s certainly easier now with a fleet of dedicated reels, there is still plenty that went into our picks. We tested these reels on the water and made sure they could handle the issues normal fly reels encounter. First and foremost, the reel had to keep the thin diameter line on the spool. We then looked for reels that were heavy enough to handle long Euro rods. If they met those parameters, the final test of a good reel was drag. We looked for reels with a smooth drag system with minimal startup inertia. Fishing light tippets, it’s crucial that the drag engages instantly to ensure fish don’t break off on the initial hookup and run.
- Spool Diameter: 3 7/8in
- Weight: 4 15/16oz without added weights
- Drag Type: Fully sealed disc drag
- Numbered drag settings
- Interchangeable weight system
- Good looking reel with two color options
- Higher price point
Sage has always found a way to stand out from its competitors, and the ESN is a prime example. It’s the first Sage reel I’ve had the chance to put my hands on I was not disappointed. Out of the box, the attention to detail immediately stood out. The reel is slimmer than others but with a diameter of nearly four inches. When a fish is running at you, the wide diameter gives you the best shot of getting extra line on the spool and staying tight to the fish. It’s paired with a fully sealed carbon drag system and an oversized drag knob. Additionally, Sage took the time to number all the drag settings, making it easy to fine-tune your setup. Like the Tilt, the ESN comes with an interchangeable weight system. The options range from 1/2 ounce to 1.5 ounces and can be switched out by removing the spool.
- Spool Diameter: TKTK
- Weight: 7oz
- Drag Type: Carbon disc drag system
- Larger arbor design picks up line fast
- Adjustable weight system balances out long rods
- Smooth drag system
- Modern styling may not be for everyone
A typical Euro-style fly rod can range anywhere from 10 to 11.5 feet in length. Balancing these extra-long rods with the correct weighted reel can be tricky. Enter the Redington Tilt, one of the few reels with an adjustable weight system. The ingenious design allows anglers to choose from three different one-ounce weights that mount to the reel frame. Having the ability to use one reel on every Euro rod I own is a nice feature. Especially since level lines are universal across rods, a simple weight change has me on the water. This full-frame reel comes with a crisp drag system, an oversized drag knob, and minimal startup inertia. The Tilt features a surprisingly slim and wide profile for fast line retrieval and minimal coiling. At an intro-level price point, it’s a surprisingly good-looking reel with modern styling, two color options, and more features than most.
- Spool Diameter: 5 in
- Weight: 6oz
- Drag Type: Sealed disc drag
- Incredibly tight tolerances
- Full frame design
- Increased weight to balance longer rods
- Set weight and size make it hard to balance specific rods
The Orvis Hydros is a legendary lineup with a reputation as powerful and reliable reels. The newest iteration is the Hydros II Euro Reel, and like its predecessors, it lives up to its name. It features a fully sealed drag with an ergonomic drag knob. Paired with carbon and stainless steel disc washers, the drag is incredibly smooth with little startup inertia. When fishing light tippets, minimal startup inertia is crucial to protect light tippets. The reel is slightly oversized and heavier than the standard Hydros to balance out long rods and aid in line pickup. The full frame design keeps thin diameter lines from slipping between the frame and spool.
- Spool Diameter: 25 in
- Weight: 10 oz
- Drag Type: Composite-Disc Drag with Stainless Steel Interface
- Smooth operation
- Tight tolerances help keeps Euro line on the spool
- Canvas phenolic handle adds grip
- The drag system is not fully sealed
My first experience with the Ross Animas happened by chance when I was looking for a reel for a Euro rod before it was cool. I landed on the previous version of the Animas and have fished it for 300 plus days on the water with zero issues. When the new Animas launched, I picked one up, paired it with a 10.5 ft three weight and threw it through the ringer. Like its predecessor it held up to everything I put it through and exceled. This lightweight, beast of a reel has a premium feel in the hand. The canvas phenolic handle adds an extra bit of grip even when wet. Paired with a composite-disc drag with stainless steel Interface, it’s easy to make micro adjustments to dial in your setup. While not as heavy as other reels, it balances long rods well and is an excellent option for those wanting a crossover reel for all their rods. If you find yourself looking for a heavier option, the 5|6 size adds a just enough weight and increased line pickup. Time and time again Ross has established itself on reliable and clean looking reels, and the Animas is worthy of that reputation.
- Spool Diameter: 54 in
- Weight: 9 oz
- Drag Type: Sealed carbon drag system
- Stunning modern look
- Buttery smooth drag with no startup inertia
- Good weight to balance Euro rods
- Higher price point
Prior to the Bauer RVR, I had limited experience with the brand. After, multiple days on the water two things stood out – quality and performance. Bauer prides itself on engineering overbuilt reels with sleek modern designs. In fact, to build the RVR, they had to retool to new 5-axis CNC machines. The result speaks for itself. The RVR has one of the smoothest drag systems we tested capable of handling strong fish and ultra-fine tippets. For a modern-styled reel, it still has a good weight to it for longer rods. The RVR does not have a full frame design, but the over-engineered design results in tight tolerances that minimize the chance of line slipping between the frame and spool. If you’re looking for premium performance, the RVR is amongst the best, but it does come with a hefty price point.
- Spool Diameter: 5” or 3.7”
- Weight: 96 oz or 5.40 oz
- Drag Type: Torque Drag System
- Perfectly weighted
- Available in two sizes
- Full frame design
- Basic looking design
Galvan Fly Reels delivered on its take on a Euro reel. The Galvan Euro Nymph Reel checks all the boxes for a specialty reel. It’s built with a full frame and an oversized spool to minimize line coil and aid in quick pick up. Rather than a weight system, Galvan took the approach of making two sizes for various rods. The 3.5 weighs in at 4.96 ounces and is designed for rods under 10ft 9in. For rods longer, the 3.7 weights 5.40 ounces to properly balance these longer rods. To round out its flagship Euro reel, a three-pawl drag system results in a smooth and powerful drag. It has zero startup inertia to protect fine tippets. On several occasions, the drag proved itself on abrupt runs from fish that didn’t want to give in. My only gripe with it is the looks. When you’re paying a premium price, it’s nice to have a reel with a premium design.
Choosing the right reel is the difference maker between lost fish and an enjoyable day on the water. Euro reels exemplify this. These technical pieces of gear must balance long rods well, protect fine tippets, and tackle the issues associated with thin, level lines. While the market has evolved to offer specific reels to European nymphing there are some that stand out from the rest. Before you go all in look for a reel that is adaptable and in your budget. From there it never hurts to test fit on your rod or one similar in weight and length. If you find a setup that feels balanced and meets your standards, you’re ready to hit the water.