For small waters and smaller fish, an $800 fly reel isn't necessary. The priciest examples are surely amazing to own, fish, and simply admire, but an inexpensive reel with a decent drag system will serve you very well in most cases. Most fish typically targeted with a 2–3 weight setup won't be huge nor will they be getting into your backing, but very light tippet is often used here so you don't want a cheapo reel with a clunky drag system. But, is there a reel out there from a well-known manufacturer that's offered at $100 or less? Yep, there's a few, and we just so happen to test one of them right here—the ECHO ION.
Line Size: 2/3
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Diameter: 2.9 inches
Spool Width: .9 inches
Backing Capacity (20 pound): up to 75 yards with WF3F
Drag: Rulon/Stainless (semi-sealed)
Machined/Cast: Die-Cast Aluminum Alloy
Easy Release Spool: Yes (twist-off center cap)
R/L Conversion: Yes
Reel Pouch: Yes
Spare Spool Available: Yes ($34.99)
Reel Price: $79.99
ECHO ION fly reels feature a large-arbor design and die-cast aluminum construction. They are pretty simplistic in design and have very open and airy frames/spools for weight reduction. Speaking of weight, I completely forgot to weigh our 2/3 test reel on my scale, but ECHO advertises it at 4.8 ounces—not too bad for a value-priced die-cast reel with a full drag system.
Other typical design features include a large rear drag knob, spool counterbalance, quick-release spool, and a semi-sealed disc drag. As you probably can tell in the pictures, our tester had quite the battle scarring from previous testing which made it kind of difficult to look for any original imperfections. Just remember to not expect the same level of refinement or durability/strength in a die-cast reel when compared to one that's machined.
This little reel made a perfect companion to ECHO's new River Glass fly rods, one of which I recently reviewed here.
The drag of my ION 2/3 tester exhibited a hint of startup inertia when line was first pulled off, but otherwise it was decently smooth throughout the drag range. To adjust tension, there's a large rear drag knob that's elevated quite a bit so that the frame spokes never interfered with my fingers when turning it. The knob rotates about two full turns from zero to full drag and there's crisp, loud clicks as it rotates.
The reel boasts modest clicks whether reeling or listening to a fish take line. I liked the tone and thought it had a good quality sound to it. Speaking of cranking, the tapered handle is a little thicker than average but is comfortable to grasp.
Unscrewing the center cap is how you go about removing the spool. Since it's in the middle of the spool between the thick handle and the rather tall counterbalance, there's not a whole lot of space in there to work your fingers to unscrew it. A larger ION with a bigger diameter should afford more room, though. The center cap will come off if unscrewed enough, but it doesn't have to be removed to take the spool off—that's a nice feature.
If you want a basic, inexpensive reel that just works, the ECHO ION is a good candidate. Its looks won't likely turn a lot of heads, but it gets the job done in an understated fashion. These reels come in sizes starting at my 2/3 tester and go all the way up to a mighty 10/12 with prices topping out at $99.99 for the largest model.
Get your ECHO ION fly reel at