Gear Test: The Redington ZERO reel

Small-stream trout reels really don’t need to be fancy. They just need to be dependable, hold line and pick up slack as needed. Drag? Virtually unnecessary.

Earlier this summer, I paired Redington’s new-ish ZERO fly reel with its new Butterstick glass rod—it was a great set-up for small-water trout that I really enjoyed fishing. I had the most fun, though, chasing trophy Arctic grayling in a remote Saskatchewan river, where fast water made legitimately big grayling feel even bigger (and I suppose the noodly glass rod helped with that, too).

The ZERO is a no-frills reel—as its name implies, it has no measureable drag other than the hearty “click, click, click” that lets you know line is coming out of the reel. The angler is essentially the drag system—in rare small-stream trout fishing instances where a larger fish is “on the reel,” palming the spool is the best option. So, no, this isn’t the reel you’ll need for bigger trout in bigger water (but it sure was fun!).

When used as intended, the ZERO is an ideal mate for a light-weight rod (say a 2- to 4-weight set-up). Its die-cast construction makes it the lightest reel in its class (you can barely tell it’s there), and it sports a larger-than-normal arbor, meaning you can bring line in faster when you’re moving around on small meadow streams or boulder hopping on brookie waters.

Perhaps the best thing about the ZERO? Its price—it can be yours for less than $90 (and it comes with a lifetime warranty). It’s sold in several gawdy colors (my favorite is “dreamcicle”), and in line weights 2/3 and 4/5.

As I said, trout reels really don’t need to be very sophisticated. Most of us never use them for more than just holding the line. For this, and maybe the occasional big fish that’ll get it clicking, the ZERO is as good of an option as any.

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.