Freshwater fly reels are unlike any other type of freshwater fishing reel in that the bait and the force of the cast does not pull the line. When you are learning how to fly fish, the throwing distance is limited to a line that has already been pulled from the reel and is now in a loose spool. The efficiency of the wrong throwing motion then propels this line forward.
Beginning fly anglers usually target small fish like trout or bluegill, so at least initially, even the best freshwater fly fishing reels can mostly be used as a reel to hold and store lines. Eventually, you and your freshwater reel can begin to bond with larger fish that are able to pull the line off the reel. If so, you'll be glad you didn't skimp on your fishing gear and bought one with a cheaper, possibly less reliable, drag system.
The difference between saltwater and freshwater fly fishing reels is mainly related to the potentially larger size (e.g. tarpon) and speed (e.g. bonefish) of the fish and thus the greater need for a good, robust and reliable drag system. The best fly fishing reels are also selected as they match the fly rod, line size, and amount of line expected for the target species.
Ultimately, the best freshwater fly fishing reels are used. That said, it's affordable, has a robust enough braking system, and is durable, possibly with a good warranty. Talk to fly anglers and ask for their input on the subject. Also, read reviews online before purchasing. There may be some factor that is more important to your fishing needs. Then when you pick up your fishing license, read the regulations. It may include places to try out your new fly fishing reels.
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida but raised on the banks of farm ponds in Oklahoma, he now hunts pike, small bass and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After acquiring a B.S. He studied zoology at OSU and has worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, in the state of Iowa and in the state of Michigan.