So you want to fish for one of the most notoriously difficult fish to catch in saltwater? Catching a Permit on the fly is no easy feat. Choosing the right gear helps. If you're wondering about how to choose a fly rod for Permit, check out our separate post on the topic here. If you're trying to choose a reel, you've come to the right place.
Conventional wisdom tells us that a 9/10wt reel with a sealed drag, durable build, and a large arbor is the best option when targeting Permit on the fly. In some cases, that wisdom holds true. There are situations when other reel features should be considered, however, and some situations when different reel options will boost your chances of success. Read on to find out which reel features matter in which situations and why.
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When Drag, Durability, and Arbor Size Matter
So when should you apply general wisdom and purchase a reel with a strong drag system, high retrieval rates, and a durable build? Side Note: if you're going to use a 10wt reel for Permit fishing ONLY, some features may be extraneous. If you're going to use a 10wt reel for Permit and Tarpon and Trevally, it's worth spending the extra money to get a top-of-the-line reel with all the bells and whistles.
A reel with a strong max drag is useful when fishing for large Permit, especially from the beach. If you're targeting smaller Permit with smaller flies from a boat, chances are you're not going to need a huge drag system to land a fish. You should always have a sealed drag system when fishing in saltwater.
Durability has more to do with how often you fish. A reel that's bombproof pays for itself if you're a Permit nut and you're chasing them 6 months out of the year. If you go on one Permit trip every season, reel durability is a non-factor.
Arbor size is arguably always important when targeting Permit. Because Permit are so difficult to hook and land, a reel with high retrieval rates is necessary to keep slack out of your fly line and to give you the best chances of landing a hooked Permit.
What about Ergonomics, Start-Up Inertia, and Backing Capacity?
Good questions. Again, these features matter in some Permit situations and not so much in others. Here's the breakdown.
Ergonomics are always important in a fly reel but the good news is most fly reels on the market today have great reel handles and accessible drag knobs. Drag adjustability can be a worthwhile consideration when targeting Permit; the ability to adjust your drag quickly and efficiently can improve the chances of landing a hooked fish.
Start-up inertia really doesn't matter when choosing a fly reel for Permit. If you're fishing to really small fish in really shallow water with really small flies and a light tippet, start-up inertia may be a worthwhile consideration. That being said, Permit aren't mushy-mouthed and aren't usually targeted with a fine tippet so don't worry about start-up inertia.
Backing capacity can be important, especially when targeting Permit in bluewater/deeper water scenarios when they have a ton of room to run. If you're fishing for them on the flats, however, with a reel that has a strong drag system, you're simply not going to need 200 yards of backing.