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Best Fly Reel For Salmon – A Buyer’s Guide!

Welcome to the big leagues.  You are interested in catching some large salmon on your next fishing adventure and you are looking to get the best reviews on suitable fishing tackle. Fear not! The King of the Catch is here and in this article I will review two of the best fly reels for salmon fishing.

After more than 50 hours of testing, the Galvan Torque Fly Reel came out victorious and took the number one spot.  With a score of 90 points out of 100, this amazing fly fishing reels really surprised us. The runner up was the Sage Spectrum Max with a very close 89 points out of 100. 

Keep reading if you are interested in the full review!

Winner: Galvan Torque Fly Reel
Galvan Torque Fly Reel (Black, 4)
Runner up: Sage Spectrum Max
Sage Fly Fishing Spectrum Fly Reel
Amazon Prime
Winner: Galvan Torque Fly Reel
Galvan Torque Fly Reel (Black, 4)
Amazon Prime
Runner up: Sage Spectrum Max
Sage Fly Fishing Spectrum Fly Reel

Best fly fishing reels for Salmon

Who is this review for?

This review is for fly fishing anglers that are specialized in salmon fishing. The reels that we purchased and reviewed are mid to high price range priced used tested on Pink Salmon, Sockeye Salmon,, Silver Salmon and King Salmon. 

If you are looking for a fly reel in a different price range, make sure to check out our other reviews:

Reviews of fly reels for certain species:

Why you should trust us

We spoke with several experienced salmon fishing experts on what to look for when buying a good fly reel for salmon fishing. We also talked to product managers at Trident Fly Fishing and Bass Pro.

We asked the opinions from experienced salmon fly fishers from the Salmon Fishing Forum and Fly Fishing UK, and we combed through Facebook groups like Salmon Expert Fishing to find community favorites that held up well over time.

In addition, we invested more than 30 hours in researching, evaluating, and testing the best fly reels for salmon fishing in order to find the best one.

What did we look for?

High retrieval rate

A salmon fly reel is expected to have a high retrieval rate – it should be one of your first concerns as it helps land the salmon safely and quickly. Reels with large arbor designs are optimal.

Line capacity

Line capacity is considered an important attribute when choosing the best fly reel for Salmon. Salmon are strong and powerful fish and it is not uncommon to see that a catch taking a lot of line during a run. For this reason we recommend a good amount of backing on any fly reel that you use for salmon fishing.


Choosing a reel that will stand up to scrapes and dings is worthwhile, too. Salmon are often targeted in remote places like Alaska, Canada, and South America. You need a fly reel that is durable and can handle rough terrain and weather conditions as most salmon fishing spots are remote.  Anodizing coats help giving a reel that extra protection and it enhances resistance to corrosion in saltwater environments as well.


A strong drag system is highly recommend. As mentioned before, salmon are strong and powerful fish and a good drag is a must-have to successfully land one in your net.

How did we test?

The King of the Catch Review Team used a seven-criteria matrix for evaluating each fly reel and matching rod:

  1. Durability: Which stayed most functional during the test period?
  2. User-friendliness: Can a beginner use it without getting in trouble?
  3. Materials: How is the overall quality?
  4. Looks: Because the eyes also want something!
  5. Design: Old Vs. New features
  6. Value: Comparing price, features and performance
  7. Reviews: What did other fishing experts have to say?

Scores were added up after each testing period. In this article you will see the winner, the runner-up and other recommendations regarding other fishing tackle that we have used in the past or that are recommended by other anglers which we respect and trust.

Winner: Galvan Torque Fly Reel 

Galvan Torque Fly Reel
As the premier reel in the Galvan's Torque series, this fly reel is a culmination of stunning looks, versatility, and functionality. Although this reel is ideal for catching all Salmon species, we noticed that the 8/10 version is the best for catching Pink Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, and Silver Salmon.


What is our final score? The Galvan Torque Fly Reel scored a 9 out of 10!

Our First Impression

One look at this fly reel is enough to build a lasting impression. The Galvan Torque Fly Reel comes in variants of blue, burnt orange, green, and clear; however, we think the black version is exceptionally striking. 

What Did We Like?

Fishing for Salmon is no easy task. While you certainly require a level of skill and expertise, the job can be substantially easier if you have a good fly fishing reel. After scouring through dozens of products, we finally came across the Galvan Torque Fly Reel – one that is known for its exceptionally high performance and ease of use.

Being the first reel in the Torque series, this reel has been designed using the very best modern fly reel architecture. However, what initially catches your eye is the stunning anodized aluminum, which is, let’s face it, exceptionally striking. 

We love the color options available with this reel, as it allows you to match them beautifully with your colored rods. The colors are vibrant and high-quality, so you don’t need to worry about chipping and abrasion – even after long-term use. 

Coming to its performance, this had one of the smoothest drags we have come across. The drag is completely sealed, ensuring that unwanted particles and contaminants don’t interfere with the advanced system. 

The disc-drag system is absent of ball bearings; however, it consists of a high-tech plastic bushing. This gives it an almost friction-less spool rotation which is a pleasure to work with. Torque’s exceptional knob travel system makes the entire experience even better, allowing minor adjustments without losing heat on the fish. 

Next, we love the large arbor size that facilitates longer line pickup. This helps you catch Salmon of all sizes more efficiently in all kinds of waters. 

Finally, we want to talk about the fine balance between its weight and durability. Although it’s not the lightest reel in the market, it’s also not the heaviest. The machined 6061 solid billet aluminum frame and spool provide solid durability, while the T5, at 4.8 oz, provides structural stability and resistance. 

Flaws But No Dealbreakers

Now that we’ve told you everything we love about it, it’s time to talk about its deficiencies. As such, this reel is exceptional and doesn’t have any obvious, glaring flaws.

That being said, every once in a while, we would notice a slight issue with the drag system. This mainly happened after the reel was submerged, and it would go from tight to free spooling. However, it occurred rarely and could be fixed by taking care of the bearings. 

We certainly don’t think it’s a deal-breaker, and as long as you maintain the drag system well, it shouldn’t be a major problem. 

Runner-Up: Sage Spectrum Max

Sage Spectrum Max Fly Reel
Don't let its size fool you. This reel is anything but bulky and cumbersome, making it ideal for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. After testing it extensively on several Salmon varieties, we concluded that the 10/12 version is ideal for King Salmon fishing.


What is our final score? The Sage Spectrum Max Fly Reel scored a 8,9 out of 10!

Our First Impression

At first glance, you will be taken aback by the sheer size of the Sage Spectrum Max reel. Well, this reel is the largest one in the Sage Spectrum series and has been designed specifically for saltwater fly fishing, making it ideal for catching Salmon. 

What Did We Like?

Despite being significantly larger than your average reel, the Sage Spectrum max weighs 7.7 ounces – surprisingly lighter than most competitor reels. 

We tested this reel in water and were able to snag some pretty amazing King Salmon. We have to admit it – we loved the sound of this reel. Yes, it’s a little louder than others, but to a fly fishing enthusiast – it’s like music to the ears. 

Moving on, this reel has a solid feel to it and is pretty substantial. Moreover, its 6061-T6 aerospace-grade aluminum build is both lightweight and durable, which is the perfect combination. The best part is that it’s the first reel in the Spectrum Series that is fully machined. 

But it doesn’t end there. Not only is the reel entirely machined, but it is also cold forged and tempered. This substantially increases its durability, giving it added performance and fantastic rigidity in both freshwater and saltwater conditions.

Getting to the drag system, this reel features a Sealed Carbon System drag which is robust and can easily take on most tasks you throw at it. That said, not every angler will love the single turn drags it offers. You will notice that by turning it halfway, you get 25% of the total drag. 

The hard anodized finish does an excellent job of protecting it from constant wear and tear. As such, you can enjoy several hundred hours of lively fly fishing without worrying about damage, corrosion, or parts getting loose. 

Of course, you don’t need to think about repairs in any case, as the company offers a lifetime original owner warranty. 

Flaws But No Dealbreakers

We have only one issue with this reel – which is to do with the drag. As we mentioned earlier, the single-turn drags are definitely not a favorite amongst anglers. However, we also noticed that it offers only 3.6lb of drag strength. Sure, it’s adequate, but we wish it could have been slightly higher. 

Final Words

That’s all for now. We hope this helps you figure out which fly fishing reel you’d like to test for Salmon next.

Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know which reel you chose. In our opinion, the Galvan Torque Fly Reel takes the cake thanks to the variety of color options, knob travel system, and exceptional performance. 

However, the Sage Spectrum Max reel comes a close second. So, which one will you opt for? 🙂



2 thoughts on “Best Fly Reel For Salmon – A Buyer’s Guide!”

  1. This review is very helpful as I am just getting into salmon fly fishing I do a lot of fishing but never got into fishing for salmon with fly .i did like the Hatch gen 2Finatic what fly rod would you recemmend with this reel .i was thinking of a 13foot switch rod don’t know would this be a good choice for this reel tanks hoping to hear from you soon .excuse my spelling

    • Hi Brendan,

      Thank you for your message. I already replied to your e-mail but will do again here. You need to know the size first.

      2 Plus
      Perfection for small water! The 2plus idieally suits #2 to #4 weight rods weighing in at only 92g. Combined with your favorite trout rod these reels make make for a fantastic combo.

      3 Plus.
      The 3Plus covers a wide range of application covering the classes’ #3 to #5. We here have to say that this is our reel of choice for 10ft nymphing rods as well.

      4 Plus
      With 4Plus reels you are perfectly equippedfor light coastal sea trout and other light streamer situations. Generally an ideal choice for #5 to #6 weight rods.

      5 Plus
      5Plus models have been designed for rods between #6, #7 and #8 weight classifications. Bonefish, redfish, mullet, sea trout, perch, asp….. you name it!

      7 Plus
      The 7Plus reels are made for heavy duty fly fishing and its strong drag dominantly stops everything from pike to permit. 7 weights and upwards will appreciate the company of 7Plus reels but also switch- and light double handed rods are a clear match.

      (This is your choice 😉 )

      9 Plus
      Now we’re talking! Giant trevally, tarpon and freshwater biggies such as huchen, catfish and pike mamas the 9Plus drag will battle fish in these categories with ease! Attached to #9 weight and higher or double handed rods these reels are unbeatable.

      11 Plus
      When fishing #11 weight and higher we are certainly talking fish with sheer power and a boundless will to spool a lot of line. That’s exactly where the 11Plus jumps into action beating your dream fish with dominance. Especially in off the grid fisheries where tackle stores are miles away if at all existent you want a reel that braves the harshest of condition never letting you down.

      12 Plus
      Let the big games begin! Salinity, elementary forces of giant pelagic fish and the absence of supplies ask for absolutely indestructible tackle. Here we go: a reel with enormous backing capacity and braking power to disappoint even the most motivated sailfish, marlin and tuna

      I hope this helps!


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