Trouts Journal

What Is a Click and Pawl Fly Reel?

Ivan Orsic / Nov 8, 2021

Somewhere along the line in your fly fishing career, you may have asked yourself, "What is a Click and Pawl Fly Reel?". Most popular among trout anglers, click and pawl fly reels are among the best fly reels for many smaller freshwater species. These reels pair perfectly with a 3wt fly rod up to a 5wt fly rod. The beauty and appeal of the click and pawl fly reel come from the inherently simple design and is truly a minimalist's dream out on the water. However, beyond the sleek minimal design most click and pawl reels come in today, the real reason why these fly reels are so beloved is the sound. There is no better sound for many anglers than a click and pawl reel when a fish decides to take out line. Well, maybe the sound of a cork popping out of a whiskey bottle but, to each their own.

On top of that traditional sound, click-pawl fly reels offer much less worry when it comes to overall reel maintenance when compared to most modern sealed drag systems. Which should make sense, right? A closed and contained system is excellent when you do not want various types of dirt and grime getting inside, but when and if that system fails, a majority of the time, you must send your fly reel back to the manufacture for a repair. With a click and pawl reel, a majority of the time, it is as simple as replacing the spool.

Click and Pawl reels are a fantastic option for those looking to have a lightweight setup when they head out to the water. They are also an excellent option if you are looking to test your skills against larger fish. Today we will be covering the topic of Click and Pawl Fly reels, what they are, how they work, and their advantages and disadvantages. So, without wasting any more time, let us dive into Click and Pawl Fly Reels.

What Is A Click and Pawl Fly Reel?

The click and pawl fly reel is one of the most classic types of reels in fly fishing. The name "Click and Pawl" comes from the mechanisms that allow the rotation to function correctly. The metal "tooth" attached to your spool is known as the "Pawl." The pawl is in a triangle shape and located on the lower half of a fly reel. The "Pawl" is activated when it comes in contact with the "gear" above it. So, each time you perform a forward revolution with the fly reel, you hear that highly sought-after "click" of the fly reel. As mentioned previously, your "gear" is fixed to the center of your reel frame and never moves. The shape and design remind me of a chainring on your mountain or road bike as someone who loves bicycles.

In short, a click and pawl fly reel is straightforward and typically only has three components within the system. However, when all of those components are function correctly, they provide the angler with resistance and drag that will not allow for over-spooling or, worse, missed fish. So know that we know how these fly reels work; it is time to go over why you should try a click and pawl fly reel.

Why Should I Try A Click And Pawl Fly Reel

Click and pawl fly reels can be defined in three ways, practical, lightweight, and most importantly, enjoyable. Today, anglers can find the modern click-pawl reels on just about any section of freshwater across the United States; however, most of them can be found on trout streams specifically. Trout fishing and click pawl reels go together like peanut butter and jelly. As mentioned above, a few components make up the drag set up on a click-pawl fly reel. And, naturally, with fewer components comes easier "At-home" maintenance. More importantly, however, fewer components lead to fewer points of failure when you are out on the water. If you happen to find yourself confronted with reel failure, it is as easy as replacing your spool most of the time.

Along with the straightforward home maintenance these fly reels provide, they are also an incredibly lightweight option for anglers looking to shed some much-needed pounds. Nine times out of ten, Click-Pawl reels will be lighter than those with disc drag technologies of similar size. This makes click-pawl reels an excellent option for anglers heading into the backcountry, where weight is always a top priority. The click-pawl reels are the best reels for anglers looking to get the most out of their time on the water, especially when paired with a lightweight fly rod as well.

The final reason why you should look into buying or at least trying a click-pawl reel is the enjoyment that they can bring to your fly fishing experience. It does not matter if you are brand new or a salty seasoned veteran of the sport; feeling a fish make long runs and hearing that perfect click with each run is one hell of a feeling. Since there is no sealed disc drag system for these reels when anglers hook into a large fish, they often find themselves more in tune and at the moment when trying to reel in their catch.

The Top Two Reels in Click Pawl Reel Design

The Ross Colorado Fly Reel

It is hard to beat a classic reel like the Ross Colorado Fly Reel. This classical reel has found itself inside many anglers' reel seats and is a must-have fly reel, especially if you find yourself hiking in and out of your desired trout fishing locations. The reel comes in at an astonishing 3.2oz for the 2/3wt versions. This reel may have you forgetting that there is anything there. The Colorado LT set the bar for lightweight click pawl reels. The semi-caged frame on the Colorado adds unmatched strength and rigidity, but with only a minimal weight gain - just enough to balance out a more comprehensive range of lightweight rods. The industry-first bushings are fully machined from Vesconite - a material specifically designed to be used in the most demanding marine bearing applications, guaranteeing a lifetime of flawless operation.

Classic sound and feel meet modern strength and design to make the Ross Reels Colorado a functional piece of art - both on and off the water. With every angle and material carefully analyzed and considered, the Ross Colorado is designed to be used from small streams to big rivers and everything in between.

The Able TR Fly Reel:

Crafted by Abel's expert machinists in Montrose, Colorado, the TR is a lightweight masterpiece. An integrated precision-balanced clicker on the spool eliminates the need for a counterweight, yielding a clean look and retaining an iconic click-pawl sound. The pronounced palming rim is deliberately shaped to manually control drag pressure in all fishing conditions. The TR also features a large-arbor spool engineered to reduce line memory and increase retrieval rate. Machined stainless steel accents on both the frame and spool add that extra level of detail found only in an Abel reel.

** Being one of the largest Abel Dealers, Trouts can get you any custom Abel you need. If you would like a customized Abel we currently do not have on hand, don't hesitate to contact us via phone or LiveChat. Custom Reel's lead time is roughly 3-4 weeks **

Image Courtesy of Able Reels
The Downside To Click Pawl Fly Reels:

Unfortunately, there is no "perfect fly reel," Like everything else, click-pawl fly reels have some disadvantages. We mentioned at length that the one thing that separates click and pawl reels from the pack is that they are not equipped with adjustable drag systems. Although this is by design, the lack of a flexible drag setup becomes an issue when targeting aggressive or feisty fish, such as a large or smallmouth bass. If you find yourself fishing big, deep water, a click and pawl fly reel may not be for you.

Let's Reel It In:

In closing, I cannot say enough positive things about Click and Pawl Fly reels. If I had to pick one reel to fish for the rest of my life, click and pawls would be the one. There is beauty in simplicity, and this style of reel reflects that. If you have been looking for a reason to try out a click and pawl fly reel, let this be your reason. With the holidays right around the corner, there is no better time to get your hands on one of these fly reels and try one out for yourself.

Our Favorite Click and Pawl Fly Reels

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