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

One of the most important things a fly fisher needs to get right is attaching their fly line backing to their fly reel spool.

I made the mistake of doing this wrong once. Having been exclusively fly fishing for trout in my early years, a fish had never taken me to my backing and I thought of backing more as a line to bulk up my fly reel so my fly line at higher on the reel. Boy was I wrong!

The first time I went fly fishing in saltwater, a bonefish took me to my backing in seconds and it was a cluster of tangles and it broke off! Since that day I make sure my backing is attached correctly to my fly reel no matter what species I’m targeting.

How To Attach Backing To The Reel Spool

Attach Backing To The Reel Spool

Step 1

The first step to properly attaching your backing to your fly reel to take a few feet of line off the backing spool and tying either an arbor knot fishing or a uni knot around the reel arbor.

Both of these fishing knots are super strong and are great for this purpose as they don’t slip even on the slippery gen spun backing materials. Just make sure to wrap the backing around the spool two times before tying them, this way they’ll be stronger. I use the arbor knot as it’s easier to tie.

You can check out our post here if you want to learn on how to tie a uni knot.

Step 2

You’ll need a pen/pencil, towel, and a friend for this next step. Give your friend the spool of backing, as them to place a pencil through the center hole of the spool to let it spin and use the towel to apply pressure to it.

Step 3

step 3

Take your reel and start winding your backing onto the reel using your thumb to guide it neatly while your friend applies equal pressure during the whole process.

The reason for this method is so that the lines go on tightly. If your backing is soft it will bit into itself and break when you’re fighting a fish.

Wind on about 250 yards of backing making sure to leave enough space for your fly line.

Step 4 – Backing To Fly Line Knot

Now it’s time to your backing to your fly line. There are a few knots to choose from and which knot you choose depends on your preference and if there is a fly line loop ready-made in your fly line end.

If there is already a loop end in your fly line, you can either create a backing loop by tieing a single or double bimini knot. I always tie a double bimini knot as it’s very strong and if you leave the loop large enough you can easily change fly lines. You could also use an Albright knot to do this but it might bite into the loop of your fly line. See our post here on how to tie the albright knot for a step by step guide.

If your fly line doesn’t have a loop at the end you can make one with a perfection loop but it will be a little large to go through the fly rod guides. A nail knot is better in this case, especially if targeting smaller fish like trout.

Here is a video showing you how to attach backing to a fly reel

What can I use for backing on a fly reel?

You can use two types of lines for backing on a fly fishing reel and these are dacron or gel spun braid. Dacron is a little thicker but it is hollow which allows you to thread your fly line into it making a solid connection. Gel spun backing is more popular and affordable, plus you can get more of it onto your reel.

How much fly line backing do I need?

Generally speaking, all anglers need about 250 yards of backing on their reel but the amount does depend on the type of fish you are targeting. In saltwater fly fishing 250-300 yards is a must, if you’re chasing trout, then 100-150 yards will do.

The easiest way to look at it is to put enough backing so that the reel is full with the fly line while making sure there is space for your fly line on the reel. This way you have the maximum amount of backing on there.

See our post here if you are looking for the best fly line backing in the market today.

What knot do you use to tie backing to your reel?

What knot do you use to tie backing to your reel

The best knot for tying backing to your reel is either the arbor or uni knot. Both of these knots are strong, attach to reels when, and make winding the backing onto your reel much easier as they don’t slip.

Photo of author

Jamie Melvin

Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.

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