Click and Pawl Fly Reel

Click And Pawl Fly Reels (What I REALLY Think)

For most anglers, the most exciting sound is a reel singing as the line is screaming off a fly reel. After all, the clicking noise signifies that a fish has taken your fly and is trying to outrun the line. It means the start of an exceptional fight whose success will come about determined by your gear, response, and the size of fish you’re pursuing, among other conditions.

The click and pawl are the earliest drag system that manufacturers added to help prevent the reel from overrunning when the fish tries to run away. It is pretty effective and can easily tackle many fish species. But to stop the fish from running away, you will have to palm the reel, making it one of the most fun gear.

Brown Trout
Brown Trout caught with a click and pawl

Despite having a simple design, the click and pawl reels are some of the best options for tackling small-sized fish species in the market. In this article, I’ll show why you should try this type of reel and the best click and pawl reels on the market. We’ll also show you the difference between the disc and the click/pawl drag systems.

What Are Click and Pawl Fly Reels?

Fly reels are single-action gear usually operated by stripping the line while using the other hand to cast the rod. Unfortunately, a considerable percentage of the early reels didn’t have a drag system; instead, they came with a click and pawl mechanism, which was quite effective and fun. (source)

Flying reels currently come with two types of drag systems, but the click and pawl mechanism is the most common and straightforward drag system to use. It gets its unique name from the pawl or metallic tooth attached to your reel’s spool.

The click and pawl fly reels are composed of some toothed gear and a pawl that helps slow down the spool. The pawl functions by applying tension on the gear and making it possible for you to fight most of the freshwater fish species. (source)

Guide Pro Tip: Taking care of your fly reel will help it last for years. I’ve got a YouTube video that will help. Check it out πŸ‘‰ Video How to Clean and Maintain a Fly Reel

When you open this reel, you will notice that it has a gear on one side which is usually attached to the middle part of the frame. The pawl is on the other side, but when the reel is locked, the pawl gets into the gear’s teeth and applies some pressure onto the line, making it possible for you to fight your catch. Behind the pawl, you will find a spring that plays a crucial role in adding resistance to the pawl when it passes through the gear’s teeth to prevent your reel from over-spooling.

The tension of the line is usually controlled by a button on one side of the reel. (source) Therefore, to apply the pressure once the fish bites your bites and tries to run away, you can press the button and turn the button clockwise to increase the tension on the line, making it hard for it to run away with the line. When casting, you can turn the button anticlockwise to release the tension and let the line glide smoothly.

Click and Pawl Reel vs. Disc Drag Reel: What Is the Difference Between the Two?

How Fly Fishing Reels Work
Read πŸ‘‰ How Fly Fishing Reels Work

When picking a suitable reel, you first should consider where you’re fishing and the type of fish species you’re targeting. Generally, the different types of reels can be pretty efficient. Still, there are scenarios where one can be more advantageous over the other. So here are some of the few reasons why you would pick click and pawl drag over the disc drag:

1. Type of Fish You’re Fishing

If you plan on fishing in small streams, you will be dealing with some small-sized fish species like trout, panfish, and bass. Therefore, you won’t need a powerful rod for the job; in most cases, you will use the flexible 3-wt or 4-wt fly rod. So, you will need a lighter reel that can handle the line while fighting the fish. (source)

If this is the case, you’ll need click-and-pawl reels lighter than the sealed disc drag and disc drag reels of the same weight class. Plus, pairing your click and pawl reel with a lightweight rod and line can result in a memorable fly fishing experience. When fishing smaller fish, most anglers turn to click and pawl reels in summer. But if you’re targeting some giant species, then you should go for the other types of reels.

Guide Pro Tip: How to use the drag on a fly reel and setting it up is CRITICAL. To tight and that trophy swims away. Learn my tips and tricks in this article. πŸ‘‰ Understanding the drag on a fly reel

2. Simplicity

If it’s a simple gear you want, then the click-and-pawl reel is the best option. It has fewer parts, which in most cases are the gear, pawl, and springs. This reel is straightforward to service and use; you can service or even repair it in the comfort of your home, even when one of its parts breaks down. Therefore, the click and pawl reels are the best options for beginners and anyone working with a tight budget.

click and pawl drag
click and pawl drag

3. Affordable

Fly fishing can be very costly; some of the gear needed can be quite costly. But this shouldn’t discourage you from fly fishing since firms manufacture both low and high-end options. Plus, the fact that they’re affordable doesn’t mean that they are low quality and unreliable.

Therefore, if you’re working with a tight budget, the best option is the click and pawl reel. This reel is known for dealing with small-sized fish species, but this doesn’t mean it can’t come in handy when you catch a 16-inch fish. Despite its price, it does bring balance to your gear and can last longer than some fishing gear. (source)

4. Fun to Use

Generally, the click and pawl reels don’t come with an adjustable drag system; therefore, they are not as strong as the other types of reels. But they are fun to fish with; after all, you can only increase tension on the line by palming the reel. Palming the reel allows you to adjust the drag manually, which means you will be more focused and in tune with the fish.

Palming the reel while fighting a colossal catch can be pretty fun, but with the other types of reels, you only need to adjust the drag, and you’re good to go.

What Is the Best Click and Pawl Fly Reels?

Selecting a Click and Pawl Reel
Selecting a Click and Pawl Reel – learn about maintaining a fly reel πŸ‘‰ Reel Maintenance

Ross Colorado Fly Reel

When it comes to fly fishing, beating the original drag mechanism is almost impossible; fortunately, the click-and-drag reel has evolved over the last few decades. Plus, it is still the best option for tackling small-sized fish species. Therefore, if you constantly fish in some of the country’s top trout fishing spots, you should always carry the Ross Colorado fly reel.

As one of the top brands in the market, Ross Reel has produced some of the best fly fishing reels. And one of their best click and pawl reels in terms of weight that set the standards in the industry was the Colorado LT reels. But if you thought that was their best work, then you have never tried the Ross Colorado fly reel.

With the Ross Colorado Fly Reel, this company took fly fishing to the next level. Weighing about 0.15kgs, the Ross Colorado Fly Reel is the lightest click and pawl reel in the market that can work perfectly with several fly rod brands. (source)

This reel’s unique design introduces a perfect aesthetic to the market, which features aerodynamic surfaces and shapes. I love that it is different from all the reels designed by Ross Colorado; after all, it works perfectly on and off the stream.

This reel is fully machined from a solid piece of the spool and a one-piece frame for maximum rigidity and strength. This reel is made from stainless steel and aluminum to guarantee that it can serve you for a very long time. Unfortunately, it is a left-handed reel, making it challenging for some folks to use. (source)


  • Brand: Ross reels
  • Color: matte black
  • Material: aluminum, stainless steel
  • Hand orientation: left hand
  • Weight: 0.15kgs


  • Durable
  • It’s easy to use
  • It is available in a wide range of colors
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty

Guide Pro Recommendation: The Ross Colorado Fly Reel is a perfect choice for matching up to a light 2 to 4 weight fly rod. In this size a click and pawl is a perfect selection. Just enough drag to stop your reel from overrunning and easy access to palm the spool to slow down fish. You can find the Ross Colorado in fly shops all over and at Amazon. Read reviews and check prices with this shortcut link πŸ‘‰ Ross Colorado Fly Reel


  • Not ambidextrous
  • A tad costly

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

The Abel TR Fly Reel in Native Brown Trout

Besides being an upgraded version of their classic fly reel, the Abel TR reel is one of the most beautiful clicks and pawl reels on the market. It is a perfect fly reel for trout anglers who love using modern designs with traditional performance. It’s an ideal balance between classic performance and contemporary designs. Plus, this lightweight fly reel comes in different designs and colors is a bonus.

Generally, most folks assume that click and pawl reels are not always strong and can break easily, but that is not always the case. Several high-end options are designed to serve you for a very long time without fail. Therefore, one of the key things I love about this reel is that it features 21 meticulously designed machined parts that guarantee a lifetime of dependability. (source)

The Abel TR fly reel features a classic click/pawl drag mechanism, a balanced clicker, and a fast-changing spool with an exceptional threaded release cap. Therefore, this unit was designed for performance, but its aesthetics and designs make it a work of art.  

The Abel TR fly reel ia a beautiful click and pawl
The Abel TR fly reel is a beautiful click and pawl – image Abel Reels

Another thing I love about this click and pawl reel is that it comes with a highly pronounced palming reel that stands out. Its unique palming reel makes it easy for you to apply pressure while fighting your catch everywhere you go. Its exceptional drag mechanism uses steel to create the click-pawl sound while preventing over-spooling and protecting the tippets.

Abel is one of the most expensive reels you can get. The fit and finish are of an Abel is exceptional though. Considering its quality, design, and functionality, you will get value for your cash.


  • Brand: ABEL
  • Color: Brown
  • Material: stainless steel


  • Durable
  • Its beautifully designed
  • It comes with a uniquely designed palming rim
  • Lightweight

Guide Recommended: An Abel Fly Reel will get those jealous looks from your fishing buddies. Sold at fly shops all over the country and even on Amazon. Read reviews and check prices with this shortcut link πŸ‘‰ Abel TR Fly Reel


  • Costly

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5

One More Cast (Wanting to hear a screaming reel)

Despite featuring the oldest drag mechanism, the click and pawl fly reels are still some of the best options available. The click and pawl reels are the simplest to use and service compared to the other fly reels. After all, they have very few parts, including gear, pawl, and springs, which play a crucial role in applying tension on the fly line.

The only way you can apply some pressure to the line when fighting an aggressive fish is by palming the reel, which can be fun and engaging. Unfortunately, they can only guarantee success when dealing with small-sized fish, making them a great companion for your next trout fishing trip. So, if you love keeping with the traditions, then the click and pawl reels are the best options.

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


  1. Wikipedia contributor, Fishing Reel, accessed September 7, 2022
  2. Mark Van Patten, Fly-Fishing – it’s not just for trout, accessed September 7, 2022
  3. YouTube contributor, What is a click pawl drag for fly fishing? accessed September, 7, 2022
  4. YouTube contributor, Do you even need drag? Click pawl vs. Disc drag for fly fishing, accessed September, 7, 2022
  5. Amazon contributor, Ross Colorado Fly Reel, accessed September 7, 2022
  6. Amazon contributor, Abel TR reel in native brown trout, accessed September 7, 2022
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