When Was the Fly Fishing Reel Invented?

Fly fishing is an ancient form of angling and has been around for centuries. It was first recorded in England in the early 16th century, and since then, it has spread around the world and become a popular recreational activity. But what many anglers may not know is that the fly fishing reel wasn’t invented until much later.

The first documented use of a fly fishing reel dates back to 1768, when an Englishman named Robert Bickford patented a design for an “artificial fishing apparatus.” This apparatus included a spring-loaded reel that allowed for the line to be reeled in more efficiently. However, it was not until 1874 that fly fishing reels began to be mass-produced and marketed to anglers.

The person responsible for this development was Charles Orvis, who established the Orvis Company in Vermont in 1856. The company quickly became a leader in the field of sporting goods and soon developed its own line of fly reels. The original Orvis reel was made from brass and featured a large drum-style spool with multiple layers of drag plates designed to reduce friction while reeling in fish. This innovative design became a standard feature on many fly reels over the next century, and it still remains popular among anglers today.

In addition to Charles Orvis’ invention, modern fly reels feature numerous advancements over the original design including larger spools with faster retrieves, adjustable drag systems for better performance, and lighter materials such as aluminum or graphite for improved portability. Fly reels have also been adapted to fit various rod lengths and different types of lines such as braided monofilament.


The fly fishing reel was first invented by Robert Bickford in 1768; however, it wasn’t until Charles Orvis developed his own version in 1874 that they began to be mass-produced and marketed commercially. Since then, numerous advancements have been made to improve their performance and make them more portable. Today’s modern fly reels are lighter, more efficient, and provide better control over line retrieval than their predecessors.

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Emma Gibson