For fly fishermen, comfort and control are crucial. Many reels are designed to accommodate both right and left-handed anglers by allowing the reel to be switched from right to left-handed retrieve. If you’ve just acquired a new reel or are looking to switch hands, this guide will walk you through the steps on how to change a fly fishing reel from right to left-handed.

Understanding Hand Retrieve

Before we jump into the process, it’s essential to understand what hand retrieve is.

Hand Retrieve Explained

Hand retrieve refers to the hand you use to reel in your line. If you reel in with your right hand, you have a right-hand retrieve. Conversely, if you reel in with your left hand, you have a left-hand retrieve.

Switching Your Fly Reel Retrieve

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. While the specifics may vary slightly depending on the reel’s make and model, most modern fly reels follow a similar process for switching the retrieve.

Step 1: Remove the Spool

Start by removing the spool from the reel frame. This is usually done by twisting the center hub or using a lever.

Step 2: Locate the Retrieve Mechanism

Once the spool is removed, look inside the center hub of the reel. You should see the retrieve mechanism, which often appears as a small bearing or gear.

Step 3: Reverse the Retrieve Mechanism

The process to reverse the retrieve will depend on your reel. Some models require you to flip the bearing or gear over. Others might have a clutch that needs to be reversed. Always refer to your reel’s user manual to ensure you’re correctly changing the retrieve.

Step 4: Reassemble the Reel

After you’ve reversed the retrieve mechanism, reassemble the reel. Make sure everything fits snugly back in place.

Step 5: Check the Retrieve Direction

Once the reel is reassembled, check the retrieve direction by winding the reel. It should now retrieve in the opposite direction.

Important Note

While most modern fly reels can be switched from right to left-handed retrieve, not all can. Some older models or specific brands may not offer this feature. Always check your reel’s user manual or contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure.


Knowing how to change a fly fishing reel from right to left-handed retrieve adds to your versatility as an angler. It allows you to comfortably and efficiently fish, regardless of your dominant hand. However, always remember to consult your reel’s user manual to ensure the correct process for your specific reel. With the right knowledge and a little practice, switching your reel’s retrieve can be a breeze!

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