How to Attach Backing to a Fly Reel – Step by Step Guide

how to attach backing to a fly reel

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As an avid fly fisher, one routine task that can make or break your experience on the water is accurately attaching the fly line backing to your fly reel spool. I learned the importance of this task the hard way.

In my early fly fishing days, I was mainly trout fishing, and no fish had ever taken me to my backing. I perceived the backing more as a tool to bulk up my fly reel, allowing my fly line to sit higher on the reel. I soon realized I could not have been more mistaken.

During my first saltwater fly fishing expedition, a bonefish took me to my backing within moments. The result? A tangled mess that quickly broke off! That experience taught me the significance of correctly attaching my backing to my fly reel, regardless of the species I am pursuing.

In this guide, I will walk you through the steps to do just that. Let’s get started!

How to Attach Backing to a Fly Reel

Attach Backing To The Reel Spool

Step 1

Start by unspooling a few feet of line off the backing spool. Tie an arbor knot or a uni knot around the reel arbor. Both of these knots are known for their strength and their ability to stay firm, even on slippery gel spun backing materials. For enhanced strength, wrap the backing around the spool twice before tying the knot. I prefer the arbor knot for its simplicity.

Step 2

For this step, you’ll need a pen/pen cil, a towel, and an assistant. Hand the backing spool to your assistant, instructing them to insert a pencil through the spool’s center hole, allowing it to spin freely while applying pressure with the towel.

Step 3

step 3

Begin winding the backing onto the reel, using your thumb as a guide to layer it neatly. Your assistant should maintain steady pressure throughout this process. This method ensures the lines are wound tightly to prevent the backing from biting into itself and potentially breaking during a fish fight. Aim to wind on approximately 250 yards of backing, leaving sufficient room for your fly line.

Step 4 – Connecting the Backing to the Fly Line

Now, it’s time to attach your backing to your fly line. Your knot of choice will depend on your preference and whether your fly line has a factory-made loop end.

If your fly line features a loop end, consider creating a backing loop by tying a single or double bimini knot. I usually opt for a double bimini knot due to its strength and versatility. If you leave the loop large enough, you can easily change fly lines. Alternatively, an Albright knot could also work but might bite into the loop of your fly line.

If your fly line lacks a loop end, you can create one with a perfection loop. However, this might be too large to fit through the fly rod guides. In this case, a nail knot would be more suitable, especially if you’re targeting smaller fish like trout.

To further illustrate these steps, check out our video tutorial on attaching backing to a fly reel.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use for backing on a fly reel?

Your choices for fly reel backing are either dacron or gel spun braid. Dacron is a bit thicker but features a hollow design which allows you to thread your fly line into it, creating a solid connection. Gel spun backing, although more popular and affordable, can accommodate more line on your reel.

How much fly line backing do I need?

Typically, all fly fishers should have about 250 yards of backing on their reel. However, the precise amount will depend on the type of fish you’re targeting. Saltwater fly fishing necessitates 250-300 yards, whereas 100-150 yards should suffice for trout fishing. Ensure your reel is full with the fly line, leaving enough space for your fly line on the reel. This way, you’ll have the maximum amount of backing possible.

What knot should I use to tie backing to my reel?

The arbor or uni knot is ideal for tying backing to your reel. These knots are robust, attach to reels effectively, and they facilitate winding the backing onto your reel due to their non-slipping nature.


What knot do you use to tie backing to your reel

Correctly attaching your backing to your fly reel is a vital skill that can significantly impact your fly fishing experience. By following this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-equipped to face any fly fishing challenge that comes your way. Remember, the journey to becoming a pro fly fisher involves constant learning and practice. So, keep refining your skills and exploring new techniques.

Ready to delve deeper into the fascinating world of fly fishing? Download our series of fly fishing books below to explore more tips, techniques, and insights, all aimed to enhance your fly fishing experience. Happy fishing!

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