Learn to Set Up a Fly Reel

Carter Andrews discusses the way to set up a fly reel of right-handed vs. left-handed retrieve.

I’m often asked, “What is the correct way to set up a fly reel: right- or left-handed retrieve?” This always leads to an interesting conversation. I usually start my answer by saying, “The right way is whichever is more comfortable and easier for you.” But then I add that I like to reel with my left hand.

I prefer to cast and play fish with my dominant hand — which for me is my right hand — on the rod. Once I start to fish, the rod never leaves that hand. I do not have to change hands to reel once I have hooked a fish. In order to do that, there is a momentary pause in the action. Sometimes I need that little extra wiggle of the rod tip to slide the fly through the water to coax a bite from a wary fish. I have more confidence with my right hand. Once the fight is on, I have more stamina in my right arm than my left. I see a lot of novice fly anglers nod their heads as I explain why I reel with my left hand.

I’ve had this conversation with many accomplished anglers. Most of us are set in how we do things. Every now and then, I see one of my friends — who has always cast with his right hand and reeled with his left — switch to reeling with the right, and scratch his head and say, “Wow, that just seems to make sense.” And then they are converted.

Send your questions on casting, fish-fighting, rods, reels, lines, and all things fly-fishing to Carter Andrews via askcarter@saltwatersportsman.com.