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Winter Project - Fly Reel Design

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Hello all,


Thought I would share my winter project here! I was in need of a 4 weight reel for a rod that I built, so I decided to design a reel that would suit both my 4 weight and 6 weight rod. The goal was to design a high performance disc drag reel which would cost no more than two decent fly reels. Since getting into fly fishing, I have had this dream of having a fly reel on the market which could compete with the best. Maybe someday!

I used the info and formulas from the "2015 5 weight Fly Reel Shootout" by Trident Fly Fishing to determine my specs and adjust them. The final design had:

-4.25oz Approx

-3.5" OD

-Spool volume of approx 4 in^3 for the 4 weight spool, and about 4.5 in^3 for the 6 weight spool

-Line pickup approx 7.6" per turn


The reel has a disc drag system with alternating Teflon/Rulon and Stainless Steel drag washers and has plenty of adjustment, and will be sealed. Other features include an incoming and outgoing click sound, easy spool changing, and pretty much everything else a normal fly reel would have.

As my motivation for this project was high, I didn't have many issues designing the reel. Most things just took time and some research (and a background in designing stuff with CAD). The main challenges were designing a drag system to be adjustable AND sealed, as well as making it affordable. The first design was going to be fully CNC machined, but it would have cost upwards of $1500 from a Chinese manufacturer, which is way more than I was willing to spend considering it may not even work properly. I worked through a few more design iterations and ended up coming to the conclusion that I would have to do some unconventional things to make it affordable/worthwhile. I decided to utilize a lot of CNC laser cut parts in the design, which can achieve precision similar to CNC machining, although they lack the ability to do 3D features on a single part.

In the end, i was able to design something that would function well and look cool (to me at least). All parts are either CNC laser cut or machined from 6061-T6 Aluminum or Stainless Steel. I wanted it to stand out and be unique, so I designed it to have fish graphics laser cut into it, featuring a rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat, and bull trout - basically, the trout we fly fish for in Alberta. Some "wave" features joined them to provide structure. Below are some renders of the design:

Housing Plate4 Weight Spool (Large Arbor)6 Weight Spool (Mid Arbor)With additional "spots" - not sure if i will add these yet

Most of the parts have now arrived and I am totally satisfied with them all. The drag system has been tested and feels very smooth and strong, and all parts fit together exactly as they should. It really would have sucked if it was a disaster :lol: If all goes well, I will have a fish pulling line off this thing by the end of next week! 

Next winter I will likely design a second housing with a different graphic, as well as play around with more finishing techniques (polishing, etching, anodizing). For now I'll just enjoy it!

Fish graphics4 Weight Spool6 Weight SpoolParts


I'll upload a picture when its completely finished. Cheers!

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Man that is pretty cool...love the renderings you did. Pretty solid skill set you have there! 

I taught my students a little AutoCAD and Revit, takes a lot of work to make something as nice as you did. 

My skills are no where near where yours are (or my students)


Nice design, like all the different fish on the casing. Drag looks pretty solid!


awesome post all around!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks everyone! I'm lucky to have a home office through work which gives me access to SolidWorks, the perfect program for mechanical design like this. I have all the parts now and have tested everything, all is pretty great except for some wobble caused by using 3D printed plastic parts (black) which will be replaced now with machined parts. I'll be waiting a bit longer to fish it, but I have some new pictures of everything put together! 20190425-000828.jpg20190425-000828.jpg20190425-000828.jpg20190425-000828.jpg20190425-000828.jpg20190425-000828.jpg20190425-000828.jpg

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  • 1 year later...

More project spam... i had a great summer fishing my reel, it helped me land a few beasts over 24" and brought on many new good memories on the river. I did some more work this winter to change the finish and add a few more components. I hand polished all existing parts, replaced all plastic parts with CNC Aluminum parts, and designed a new spool featuring some artwork of a few of my favorite spots/memories. I tweaked the drag bearings a little bit and with the new aluminum hub, it sounds and feels better than ever. The polish is so nice and clean that it's almost on the level of unfishable now but I guess I have no other option than to fish it! Enjoy




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  • 3 years later...

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