Shilton SL Reel Review - SL5, SL6, SL7, SL8, SL12, SL14 & New Names for 2024!

January 27, 2024
Shilton SL Reel Review - SL5, SL6, SL7, SL8, SL12, SL14 & New Names for 2024!
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Shilton SL Reels Review of the SL5, SL6, SL7, SL8, SL12, SL14 Fly Reels with New Names for 2024!

Everyone wants to know about Shilton reels. I am always happy to talk about them and I own a few myself. They are the reel of choice for remote destinations due to their bulletproof reliability and stopping power. Very simple and elegant design, not much that can go wrong. These are highly specialized performance fly reels for serious saltwater use. Giant Trevally (GT's) are the species these reels have mainly been tested on, and the smaller reels are just scaled down from those. South Africans love them for Tigerfish on the Zambezi river as well. Mongolia for Taimen, Golden Dorado in Bolivia and elsewhere in South America like the Amazon, Shilton reels prove themselves over and over again. 

I have sold hundreds of these reels and I have heard nothing but great feedback from everyone who bought one from our shop. Note that I already reviewed the SR Series Shilton reels so parts of this review are copied from there in the interest of saving me time.

"Shiltons are the reel of choice for remote destinations due to their bulletproof reliability and stopping power"

Those of you who know me know that I have tested pretty much everything there is in terms of high-end saltwater rods and reels, lines, and so on, and while that may not make me an "expert" by itself, it should at least establish that I have a pretty good frame of reference for which gear feels best and works best. If you're considering Shilton for your next reel, it's a great choice. 

There are two different series from Shilton which are for saltwater, and one freshwater series as well. SR series is the top end from Shilton, more modern designs than the classically styled SL series (which now get new names in 2024). The CR series are freshwater reels which are also very nice. 

Overview of the Shilton SL Series Reels:  

Previous Names:

SL4, SL5, SL6, SL7, SL8

NEW Names for 2024 (for those exact same reels):

SL6 (6wt or compact 7wt reel), SL8 (7/8wt), SL9 (9/10wt), SL12 (11/12wt), SL14 (14-16wt and yes, this reel is huge).

Don't worry about getting something exactly the right rod size, this series is meant to be able to cover a range of weights. They are very popular for travel to remote fly fishing destinations since they are probably the most durable and reliable of any reels on the market right now. You can literally hammer nails in with these reels.  

Speaking of reliable, people of course naturally ask me "Why is it better than other reels?" - It's a big cork drag, lots of stopping power, very simple and very effective. Tibor and some Abel reels also have a cork drag (previously the Abel Super series but now the Rove), they are proven for decades now and work very well. Shilton just happens to have some of the largest drags of anything on the market. More surface area helps with stopping power, since your drag on these reels basically is just pressing the spool up against the frame of the reel to slow down the fish. Yes, that's it. That's the whole system, and you can get more drag out of them than many carbon fiber sealed drag systems (yes, really). I'm not saying it's a great idea to tighten your drag until the spool completely stops moving while you['re fighting a big fish, but with a Shilton you can do that if you want to (not the case for some other brand of reels). It's simple and it works very well. 

Stopping power, reliability/durability, and very nice build quality. What's not to like? Price is comparable to Hatch and other high-end fly reels. Abel is considerably more money but also very nice. Nautilus and Tibor are less money by a little bit (somewhat depends on how you compare the models). Oh and Shilton reels come in a bunch of fun colors in addition to the usual silver or black. Note that Shilton calls silver reels "Titanium" although that is not the material just how they identify the color of the matte finish on the reels. Like how Abel calls their silver plain aluminum finish "Platinum" although to me that would imply a different color than just regular aluminum. Anyway, I don't name the colors but I like Turquoise the best personally, followed by Blue.

If you have any questions about Shilton reels, let me know. We don't check comments on this blog so just shoot me an email or call me directly.



*Fairly obvious disclosure but I make money if you buy a reel from our shop here. I do not let that affect my recommendations, I want people to get honest advice on the best gear because it is better for you and for me (happier customers and fewer problems for everyone when the gear is great). Doesn't have to be a Shilton but I personally like them. Shilton has given me one free reel before as a very kind gift, but I paid for all the rest myself. I also pay for all this inventory of course, such as the many Shilton reels currently in stock here at the time of writing this review. I wouldn't do that if I didn't believe in both the quality of the gear and the wonderful people at the company. 


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Hey, thanks for the feedback and keep in mind we are a saltwater fly shop and it helps support our reviews when you buy your gear here!

Regarding your question, the SL6 works well with the 8wt Flats Pro line because Flats Pro is a size heavy so it’s actually a 9wt line even though it says 8wt on the box. The SL6 (Now called the SL9) is a great option for 9-10wt lines or equivalent, such as the 8wt Flats Pro. Scientific Anglers Grand Slam is 3/4 size heavy, so almost a full size heavier than a standard 8wt line, so that’s another example of a larger line better suited to sizing up your reel a little bit.

Ben - Salt Fly Pro Staff

Hello ,

Confused , I purchased an SL6 last year and it takes a 8W Rio Flats Pro perfectly for my 8W Sector .

I have now purchased a 9W Scott Sector and km looking to purchase another reel for a 9W line .



Stephen Daniels

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