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Change the Retrieve Direction of Your Fly Reel

For those long days or weekends on the water, comfort is key. The more comfortable you are, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy your time fly fishing. This is especially the case concerning your rod and reel. One way to keep your rod and reel feeling perfect, natural, and comfortable is to make sure that your retrieve is fitted for the proper hand.

Which Hand Should I Use to Reel?

So let’s start with the basics - what hand should you use to reel? It is typically common for most right-handed anglers to cast with their right hand and reel with their left. That setup allows for really smooth transitions between casting and stripping or reeling. So, if you cast with your left, it makes sense to switch the retrieve to the right hand.

How Do I Change the Retrieve?

  • If you decide to change your retrieve from left (standard) to right, the first step is going to be removing the spool from the frame.
    • Remove the spool from the frame by holding back the quick release lever right below the reel handle. (To note: If you are using Wild Water Fishing Reels, don’t take off the drag knob to remove the spool. All of our reels use a one-way clutch bearing to set the retrieve direction.)
  • Once the spool is removed, take a look inside. You may see a six-sided clutch bearing, on a spindle or in other cases, on a spool.

Spool Mounted Clutch Bearings:


  • You’ll need to remove the bearings first. They are held in place in one of two ways - with a hexagonal clip or a screw cap. The screw cap is very simple, all you’ll need to do is unscrew it! If you have the hexagonal clip, you’ll need to take a small screwdriver or tool and remove one of the ends of the clip from the tabs. This will release the clip. It is important that you keep your fingers near the clip when this is done so that the tension doesn’t cause it to shoot out and get lost.
  • Once the screw cap or hexagonal clip is removed, flip over the spool and the bearing housing should naturally just fall out. It will then need to be reinstalled. To reinstall, flip the bearing to change the hand retrieve and then replace the screw cap or hexagonal clip you removed.
  • When the screw cap or hexagonal clip is replaced, your reel will be ready for the changed hand retrieve.

Spindle Mounted Clutch Bearings:

  • If your clutch bearing is on a spindle, you will see a small clip that holds the bearing and the drag discs. Be careful with this clip as it is integral to the functionality of the reel.
  • Start by loosening the drag knob all the way to remove tension on the clip.
  • Once you have reduced the tension, use a small flathead screwdriver or small tool to slide the clip out of the groove in the spindle. Like with the spool-mounted bearing clips, make sure to cover the clip with your hand or fingers so that it doesn’t shoot out and get lost.
  • Next, remove the washer and any shims that are under the clip.
  • Now, remove the clutch bearing and flip it so the opposite side is facing down. (It will make life easier if you don't disturb the sliding shaft under the clutch bearing or any of the drag discs.)
  • Reinstall the washers, shims, and clip.

Your retrieve change is done and you are almost ready to get back on the water with a new and hopefully more comfortable setup!

What’s Next?

After you change your retrieve direction there are a few more steps you must take to be able to use your reel.

    • First, remove all of the fly line and backing. You will need to switch this or you won’t be able to reel and retrieve in the proper way. Take the line off by winding it around another reel or a similar cylinder like a can, but be careful to not let it pile on the floor or become tangled.
    • Before you reattach the backing and fly line, you should fully tighten the drag so that you’re only able to reel in one direction. If you’re reeling in the right direction, go ahead and reattach the backing and fly line, so long as you make sure the backing and fly line are properly spooling on your reel.

Now you’re finally ready to get back out there! So grab your rod and reel and enjoy the new setup!


Now that you’ve walked through how to change your retrieve on your fly fishing reel, make sure you check back with us if you have any more questions, need some helpful tips, or just want to stay connected to the world of fly fishing over on our blog. Of course, feel free to contact us at (585) 967-3474 today!

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