Fly Fishing Reel

by sthone, published

Fly Fishing Reel by sthone Dec 27, 2016


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This is a simple fly fishing reel I designed for myself a few years ago but am posting it by request.

I've used a few versions of it for everything from bass to panfish and I actually used one to catch my first trout (on a fly) with it. (see picture)

The reel does use a few bits of non printed hardware.

Hardware Required

  • (1) 10-32 x 1" Socket Head Screw and Nut
  • (1) 4-40 x 1/2" Flat Head Screw
  • (3) 1/4" X 1" Fender Washers (Lowes - Item # 136616 Model # 880342)
  • (1) Spring & Ball (optional)

See exploded diagrams for assembly.... I don't have time to do a full write up right now but here's some misc. info I remember.

The spool halves get super glued together.

The fender washers act like a bearing and make it the reel spin more freely. (I tried a thrust bearing but it really wasn't worth it.)

This is a Click and Pawl design reel - The spring and ball for the clicker can be a Pen Spring and a BB but they will rust over time. I used a .186" chrome ball (Honda Motorcycle Part# 96211-06000) I also used a cut down stainless steel spring I found locally. Use a small Allen wrench to press the spring and ball into the hole while pressing the spool down. It's a little tricky but not impossible. :)

You can use the printed clicker (not show in the pictures) it clips right in the bottom cut out of the spool post on the reel frame. I don't remember which stl version I went with or what the printer settings I used were so I included a bunch of different versions with different sized nubs I was testing so you can play around with them if you want.

The hole for the spool bolt was left small and tapped with a 10-32 tap but you can probably just force the screw in.

The nut for the spool is embedded into the actual thumb knob during printing and requires a thin nut. (I used a 18-8 Stainless Steel Thin Nylon-Insert Locknut from Mcmaster Item# 90101A225) You could probably just use a nut and washer but seeing it's used to set the drag of the reel (so to speak as it is just a Click and Pawl design) it might be hard to adjust in the field without a tool if you went that route.

Updated 7-29-17 with a thumb knob that shoudl work with a full sized nut.

Fly_Reel_Thumb_Knob_Final.STL uses a Thin Nylon-Insert Locknut with with these specs
Fly Reel Thumb Knob Full Size Nut.STL uses a full sized Nylon-Insert Locknut with with these specs

For drag after hook up it was designed so you can also just use your hand on the out spool edge to control the drag if need be.) I've never caught anything big enough yet to worry about it though.

See http://imgur.com/a/da9rE for a few more pictures I took during the design process.

Anyway that's it for now if you try to print this and have any questions.. ask and I'll try to answer them.


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Hey I have a question what size are the metal Ball

It was in the description but "I used a .186" chrome ball (Honda Motorcycle Part# 96211-06000)" the hole is .21" so any ball under that should fit.

Not a bad idea... I'd probably go with these heat set inserts instead ( https://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/124/3395/=1c9vw1i )

I use them on a lot of my projects and they work well and you get twice as many for the same price.

Ive tried to look at the assembly photo but I am having a hard time figuring out where the "clicker" parts go into this?

It's actually not show but it snaps into the bottom of the center spool part of the reel body. Where the hole for the ball and spring is shown is goes on the opposite side where there is a relief.

I'm running into a strange problem. I have all my parts printed except for the thumb wheel nut holder thing. Since the bolt it has to thread onto is a 10-32 bolt, I purchased a 10-32 nut. This was apparently the wrong move because the 10-32 nylon nut is way too small for the hole in the thumb wheel tensioner part. I managed to pause the print at the right time and dropped the nut in, and it spins freely inside..... In a comment, someone said they used a nut other than the 10-32. So I'm super confused. Which nut did you use, and how did you manage to get it to thread onto the 10-32 bolt that runs through the center of the reel?

I think the comments you are reading that are confusing you are from people using metric hardware but this was design specifically for inch hardware. The nut I used measures 3/8" from flat to flat. (see https://www.mcmaster.com/mvb/library/20150316/90101a225l.gif)

You sure you have the correct nut?

Does the nut thread onto the bolt you have ok? (You should test that first to make sure its the right one.)

The nut should start to thread on to the bolt fine for the first few thread but then be harder to thread on once the threads of the bolt hit the nylon locking part of the nut.

Yep, it fits the bolt perfectly. I just grabbed a standard 10-32 nylon nut at Home Depot. I assumed they ere all the same from flat to flat. According to my calipers they're 0.370 inches. As opposed to the 0.375 that would be 3/8". .005 doesn't seem like a big enough discrepancy to explain just how oversized the opening was though.... I ended up using a little 3D pen to shove some extra filament in around the nut to lock it in place, hopefully that does the trick. Otherwise I'm going to have to go back over everything and trying to figure out what exactly caused the problem

Wait....Were you using my STL or the one listed in the comments from the dropbox?

Definitely used the original one. I haven't downloaded or tried the other one at all. Pouring a bunch of molten filament in around the nut via 3D pen to lock it in seems to have done the trick though. I was able to thread it on to the bolt wothout feeling any slipping or turning of the nut inside the piece.

Good design, I printed in PLA and it works fine. Tried the clickers but PLA isn´t durable enough and they tend to fade away fast. But with spring + bearing it works well! I ended up re-designing the thumb knob to fit standard M5 nyloc nut. I´m printing it right now and I can send the STL-file for those who are interested. I couldn´t find a low profile nut from where I live that´s the main reason for rework.

Yes! Can you send the re-designed thumb knob over?

Here you go. New knob is little higher I may have to modify it more. I had to scale the model 110% to fit the M5 nut but it depends on the printer.

Here´s a dropbox link for the STL-file:


Sweet thanks a ton!

Great design. I am in the middle of printing it now and can't wait to get it all assembled and try it out.

I can´t wait to print this, i promise that i´ll post a make on this. Thanks for sharing, here in Argentina fly-fishing gear it´s to expensive. Sorry if mi english it´s bad.

Argentina, man I'm jealous. That's a bucket-list fly fishing trip.

This is very cool, cant wait to try it.

what clicker should i use?

You just have to experiment to see which one works best for you. They are all basically the same but the nubs are all different sizes.
Print settings (like infill) might change how they act too.

ok, thanks, already have most of the parts printed out, going fishing this weekend and going to see how well it works. ill let you know after we get back from Rob Roy

Does anyone know the metric size of screws and washers? Thank you.

I can't promise they will be perfect or even work but I did a quick internet search and this is what I found for conversions.

10-32 x 1" = M5 x 25mm length (you will have to find an equivalent low profile M5 nut.)
4-40 x 1/2" = M3 x 12mm length

For the Washers try anything under 25.32mm x 1.44 thick. (this is what I measured mine to be.)

Thank you! I made the same quick search with the same result :)

Made one and caught fish with it i like it thx for the upload great job.

This is a great design! Your attention to detail with all of the fillets and corners is fantastic. I've started down the path of designing a reel like this a few times and just gotten bogged down in the many parts.

That said, there are a few things that I'd like to tweak. I'm a long-time fly-fisher and I like to keep my rod in the back of my car in case I need to fish on the way home from work. I typically fish with a Scientific Angler Concept 2 35, and it's a great reel made from composite plastic. However I want something a little smaller with a larger arbor.

Is there any chance that you'd be willing to share the original design files? I'd be happy to post my remix and document the changes.

I appreciate your interest, but sorry sharing my design files is not something I'm willing to do.

What are the frames for?

I'm not exactly sure what you are asking?

In the files there is frame 1, frame 2, frame 3, and frame 4, I printed them, but am not sure what they are for/are they necessary

Oh I think your talking about the "Clicker" files..... those snap into the cut out in the center of the frame (where the spool slides on) to provide the drag if you do not have access to a ball and spring. You only need one of them but there are 4 different versions that can be tested to get different tensions. It all depends on how they are printed though. (infill, outlines, etc.)

Ok, thank you very much and great build

Just on the frame if I remember correctly.

10-32 Cap Screw should be 1 1/2" long.

Fly reel handle pin is not printing solid and the center breaks out when trying to screw the 4x40 screw in.

Change that to 1 1/4" long 10-32 Cap Screw. Works just right.

You might have to pre-tap it then.

Also, how did you print the nut into the thumb knob?

The print is paused at the layer right before the top of the nut gets covered, I drop the nut into the print, and then resume the print.

I wrote a tutorial (if you use Simplify3D) on how to edit the g-code to pause the print automatically at the right layer which can be seen here - http://forum.makergear.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2132 (unfortunately this method doesn't work running the latest version of S3D but does still work if you run using octoprint.)

What nut did you use for the knob that locks when in use but also allows for tension to be altered?

"I used a 18-8 Stainless Steel Thin Nylon-Insert Locknut from Mcmaster Item# 90101A225"

What are the printing settings you used? I am printing in PLA using the program Cura, but it doesn't want to print the top of the fly_reel_final part. Should I use supports or am I doing something wrong?

I printed the Frame in ABS and every printer is different so I can't help you with actual settings but yes I used supports while printing that part.

what chemical do you recommend to dissolve the HIPS from the prints, i made my printer in a university class and they said we could use acetone, but i find that it eats away the PLA as well.

You need D-limonene

Sorry I never used HIPS before ... you might have to google that one.

This reel is great! Just printed one and got it all together, then realized it's for a right handed fisherman (I'm a lefty). I haven't been able to find a way to mirror it, and I'm not able to edit the STL file in SolidWorks. I was wondering if you would be willing to share a file that I would be able to edit, or have an STL file that is mirrored?

There is a left handed version available in the files

What are you using for a slicer? I thought most of them have a mirror feature but if not I can try to just mirror the frame and post that.

I have an Afinia H800 printer and am using the Afinia 3D software that came with the printer, and it doesn't have a mirror option. I mirrored it in a different program, saved it as an stl and then printed it using the Afinia software, but it didn't print very well at all. It ended up printing with a whole bunch of extra supports that weren't needed that weren't on the first one (right handed reel) that I printed. Maybe I can download a different program and try using that to mirror it, unless you would be willing to mirror and post it? That would be great!

If I can find the correct original part file I will try to mirror it tonight and upload a left hand version for you.

Awesome, thanks!

Ok.. I uploaded a left hand frame, let me know if it works out for you.

Mine has rotate and scale, but no mirror. I was able to use a program I have (Meshlab) to mirror the main part of the reel and re-save it as an STL. It's working now! Thank you!

This looks awesome trying salmon fishing here in the UK this season, would be keen to use this if only i could print it! I managed to get the _bottom printed but the _top and _final i cannot, the print is printing in a way that doesnt look complete on the first layers, stop start, which is then becoming unstuck, ive tried everything i know, any advice? using Cura, pronterface and a anycubic kossel 3d printer.

I'm not familiar with those programs or that printer but what material are you trying to print in? Do you have a heated bed? and what are you using for bed adhesion?

I printed everything at 80% myself....

im printing this out right now I sure would like to get the scorpion plates from you as that's my sign would be cool

Those pictures were from an older version but give me a few days and I'll see if I still have them, if so maybe I can transfer them over to the newer design for you.

awesomeness I made the one you shared and its fantastic I upgraded the drag washers with some fiber washers found at home depo im getting ready to post a made it so you can see what I did will have all the info the drag is really smooth now
here is what I did http://www.thingiverse.com/make:281638

Fly Fishing Reel