June 03, 2024 6 min read

We reached out to everyday anglers, like yourself, to give us the real review of the Spray Fly Reel Series. Whether you're fishing freshwater or saltwater, you can get the real deal here. Check them out below! 

Cheeky Spray Review: Great Lakes Steelhead

Reviewed by Matt Redmond

The south shore of Lake Erie, adequately dubbed “Steelhead Alley,” sports a plethora of medium and small-sized tributaries that receive strong runs of migratory rainbow trout from September through April each year. Stocking programs by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, in addition to excellent river access and highly traversable bottom content, have created an outstanding fishery that’s received a high degree of notoriety nationwide.

These oversized trout average around 5lbs and can be targeted by fly anglers in a variety of ways. Great Lakes steelhead are one of the few freshwater gamefish that can put a reel’s drag to the test, exposing your backing in an instant. As such, anglers should ensure their gear is up to snuff before tangling with these silver bullets – and that’s where Cheeky’s newest offering, the Spray comes into play. This spring I had the opportunity to test drive this workhorse throughout steelhead alley, on one of the Great Lakes’ most acrobatic species, and it didn’t disappoint.


Design: In addition to an elegant design (and Cheeky’s trademark vibrant color palette), the Spray feels like a high-end reel in the hand. It’s light – quite a bit lighter than it looks, and it has a very tight tolerance. Its wide spool accepts a great deal of backing and fly line —more, in fact, than most other reels I’ve used in the 7-8 weight range. That high capacity allowed me to employ the reel in several ways on my local waters.


Versatility: I fished this reel with an 8-weight floating line for an indicator setup one spring morning before swapping spools and single-hand spey casting a 35lb mono running line, 330 grain skagit head, and a 12-foot sink tip in the afternoon. The spray had room to spare even when the whole rig was wound up. To explore this further, I paired it with my typical swing rod, a Scott L2h 11.5ft 7-wt switch rod. Here, I bumped up to a 450-grain head and still had no issues. While not designed as a spey reel, the spray does a really nice job when deployed in that capacity. Not once on any of my excursions did my running line slip between the spool and the frame, like it usually does with reels lacking a full cage design.


Performance: I was able to put the Spray’s drag system to the test on a good many fish, most notably when one fresh buck slammed my tube fly and took off downstream in heavy current. The spray’s pleasantly quiet drag system worked smoothly with the fish as I jogged (less smoothly)after it over slippery rocks. On this occasion, it was paired with Orvis’ new Helios 4 in a 10ft 7-weight model, and it balanced quite well. The setup proved extremely light, and it handled well in both indicator and spey applications. Many times, steelhead will eat, turn, and run, effectively ripping drag before the angler knows they have a fish on. Increased tension right at the beginning of a fish’s run can easily pull-out small hooks, but the spray’s super low startup inertia handled these instances exceedingly well. Line pickup is also breeze with this reel – an important attribute when fish decide to run right at you. Another plus for the Spray.


Durability: In addition to its looks and performance, this reel is rock solid. It feels well-put together and has easily withstood the typical abuse that comes from regular use. Its fully-sealed drag held up well in freezing temperatures, even after being dunked in the river, and its sturdy design has proven durable for those who climb up and down steep banks, bushwack between access points, and traverse break walls. Cheeky included robust turn knobs with aggressive knurling for loosening and tightening the spool and the drag, a welcome design for steelhead alley anglers who’s fingers regularly go numb.


Takeaway: This reel is a winner, especially at its mid-range price point. Aside from steelhead, I’ve tested the Spray on Lake Erie freshwater drum and smallmouth bass with similarly positive results, and I would recommend it for its versatility and high quality. It’s built to be a big-game reel, but remains light enough to comfortably cover all types of fly fishing. The Great Lakes and their connecting waters support incredible biodiversity, including a wide variety of feather-eating species, and the spray reel can handle all of them.


Matt is an avid fly angler and tier based in Northeast Ohio. He enjoys exploring the Great Lakes and their connecting waters, with a special interest in smallmouth bass and steelhead.


Cheeky Spray Review: Long Island Stripers

Reviewed by: Jack Larizadeh

My home turf on the Long Island Sound holds a special place in my heart, specifically for striped bass. Every year, these fish show up in force in my local waters of the western Sound. The run follows the usual order with the arrival of schoolies; however, the big fish come in hot and quick! The first wave of fish typically shows up in mid-March, and by the end of April we already have fish to 20-plus pounds.


Whether you're after the schoolies or cows, you’ll need a reel that you can count on throughout the trials of a long season. This spring I’ve had the pleasure of fishing the new Cheeky Spray reels and they’ve been an absolute gamechanger. Here’s how the Spray has helped me get a leg up on striped bass recently!

Water Resistant Seal: The early season stripers hit the western sound in early March. Before I put the boat in, I wade my way around the back bays in search of large fish fresh on the scene. Between deep wading and handling fish, you can’t help but give your gear a salty bath every so often. I’ve lost a few nice reels over the years to the salt corrosion, and to put it bluntly, it sucks. This past March I put my Cheeky Spray 400 through the ringer while exploring the back bays. The top notch seal was able to keep out corrosive water and performed at its best when it came to landing quite a few healthy fish. The fish below slammed a pink and white hollow fly during a late night session. 


Arbor Size: Rock piles and reefs are plentiful throughout the Long Island Sound and attract big stripers during the spring run. To effectively target these bass I often dredge full-sink lines on a 9-10 weight in anywhere from 15-25 feet. That said, it’s no fun breaking off a big striper because you weren’t able to get the fish away from jagged structure. Luckily the Spray was designed with a large arbor that has an insane pickup ratio. After a big bass goes for its initial turbocharged run, I'm able to quickly muscle it through the water column. This April, the Spray helped me put the brakes on this 18lb fish that I hooked in 30 feet of water. To put it in perspective, the Spray 400 takes in a whopping 12.6 inches of line per rotation. It’s certainly a game of inches when it’s time to go into battle with a giant. The Spray has a competitively higher retrieval rate than other high performing reels on the market.


Smooth Drag: The Spray 400’s drag has the sensitivity and stopping power to handle big fish. Unlike most reels that have drag systems that quickly lock down with small adjustments, each micro-turn of the drag knob adds a steady and progressive amount of tension. Another key aspect of the drag system is the size and texture of the dial. It’s safe to say a lot of fish are lost when you begin toying with the drag, however the large knob on the spray is easy to grip and takes no effort to adjust mid battle. Striped bass aside, I've had no problem handling Arapaima to 70lbs with this drag system. 


Durability: As someone who fishes 4-5 days a week, I’m looking for a reel that can take a beating. The machine grade aluminum has stood up to some gnarly tests. I’ve dropped the Spray on sharp jetty rocks and concrete, and even slammed my trunk closed on it by accident. No problem.

If you're looking to tame New England’s number one game fish, the Spray has you covered. It’s no mistake that this reel took home plenty of awards upon its release, and as its first full season gets underway it has the fish to back it up as well.  


With roots in the northeast Jack Larizadeh is a passionate fly fisherman and writer willing to go to the ends of the earth to catch some of his bucket list species. Through fly fishing he’s met a ton of new characters and friends who share the same pursuit of the next catch. Jack has authored a multitude of educational and informative content with an emphasis on catch and release practices and community. Off the water, he's sharing his passion as one half of the blog Long Haul Fly Fishing