A company started in the year 1997 in South Africa, Shilton Reels are recognized as a benchmark of extremely high quality with an aesthetic appeal that few other reels can hold a candle to. And like the story with most great things, Shilton was born from equal parts passion and a mission to create reels that could stand up to tough fish in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
Shilton Fly Reels all started with Tony Fritelli–a passionate angler with a background in tool making and machining–and his partner Jerry Hewett. Between these two, they had decades of machining experience and wanted to leave the workforce in order to do things on their own. With Tony’s vision of creating fly reels that are straightforward, reliable, and filled the gap that he saw missing in the fly fishing industry, Shilton Fly Reels was born. The first reel in the Shilton lineup was their CL, which Tony and Jerry initially built for 6 weight rods to be used in freshwater situations; this reel was built with a specially-formulated polymer disk drag system that operated with a polished stainless steel disc. Just like the reels Shilton is known for today, the CL had a super-smooth drag system, low startup inertia, and a look that separated Shilton from the other companies on the market.
With South Africa being the home of Shilton Fly Reels, it wasn’t long before Tony and Jerry worked to create reels that could stand up to tough saltwater species and the harsh environments they call home. Taking inspiration from the flats and atolls found in Seychelles and the tough customers that live there, Tony began crafting Shilton’s SL series of fly reels. With this design, Shilton set out to handle problems like corrosion, salt and sand getting into the drag system, as well as the stopping power necessary to keep tough fish on track to being landed. After spending time on the R and D, Tony and Jerry settled on an open cork drag system that’s reliable and allows for quick DIY cleaning and servicing. It wasn’t long before the popularity of the SL series caught up to that of their CL reels, and like the CL, the SL is a group of reels that are still being praised today.
Following their success in both fresh and saltwater reel manufacturing, Shilton continues to push the envelope in design as well as maintaining a unique look that, like Tony initially wanted, stands out from the crowd of reels found in the fly fishing industry. Shilton Reels are manufactured in South Africa with all main components being manufactured in Tony and Jerry’s machining shop–the exception beings stock parts such as screws and bearings. Crafting their reels in their own workshop makes for total customization of the process, and this has allowed Shilton to come up with an assortment of colors that are unique to the brand while also manufacturing replacement parts to make things quick and easy on their customers.
Today, Shilton is a company known worldwide for crafting some of the best reels on the market, and one thing that can’t go unmentioned is a slogan that’s been associated with the brand for years: “we stop fish.” While that’s a simple statement, it requires a lot to maintain, and every reel in Shilton’s lineup holds true to that motto. Whether you’re looking for something lightweight for your 3-weight or need something to stop true pelagics and balance your 15-weight rod, Shilton has a reel in their lineup that you can rely on for it all.
Shilton has three main reels in their lineup that are built in just about every size that you need to chase fish that swim all over the globe.
Shilton CR Fly Reel - With their CR Fly Reels, Shilton provides everything that you need for decades of reliable use in freshwater environments. Available in three different sizes, the CR lineup has an offering for line weights 3 through 8, allowing you to tackle anything from small blue lines packed with native trout, lakes and reservoirs hosting large ‘bows, and even warm rivers packed with esox or lake tributaries loaded with fresh chrome. The CR Reels are built with a large arbor for reliable line pickup and all of the backing capacity you need for quick runs, yet each size maintains a super lightweight construction, with none of the three sizes weighing more than 5.6 ounces. Crafted with a tough anodized finish out of high-grade aluminum, the CR offers durability that’s second to none, and like all Shilton reels, their anodization is available in a range of unique colors, making it easy to dial in the look of your setup exactly how you like. From Euro nymphing picky trout in April to stripping streamers under lilypads in hopes of a trophy pike, you can turn to the CR Reel for any freshwater fishing scenario you find yourself in.
Shilton SL Fly Reel - The reel that put Shilton on the map as a company that manufactures top-performing reels for tough saltwater fish, the SL is a series that you can turn to whether you’re working a tidal flat at dawn for schooling striped bass or taking a run miles offshore to target strong fish like blackfin tuna. The SL maintains its cork drag system that Shilton’s been known for, and it also features a high-grade machined aluminum construction with a hard anodized finish. This build allows for a lightweight feel and long-lasting durability, no matter how tough the situation you find yourself in, and it would be irresponsible not to mention the clean look of this reel and its symphony-grade incoming and outgoing sounds–sure, you don’t need your reel to sing in order to catch fish, but it sure puts a smile on your face when you’ve hooked a hot albie and it’s taking its first run.
Shilton SR Fly Reel - The newest series of reels in the Shilton lineup, their SR Fly Reels are exactly what you need whenever you’re chasing strong and fast fish. Built with the classy appearance that Shilton’s known for and the custom processed cork disc drag system that’s been stopping fish for years, the SR is a reliable choice for just about all of your saltwater needs–and don’t let that statement fool you, because this reel is an equally solid choice for large freshwater species like steelhead and musky. Built to accommodate line weights 9 through 12, there’s an option in the SR family whether you’re casting to tailing bluefish in New England or working the spring tarpon run down in the Florida Keys. For long-lasting performance that’s light in hand, this reel is built from 6082 T6 Aluminum with a Type II anodization–this construction can hold its own when you’re facing the brutal conditions of the salt and its state-of-the-art build ensures that you’ll be using this reel for decades to come.