How Much Backing on a Fly Reel

Backing is what extends the length of your fishing line on your fly reel. It is usually attached to the fishing line using unique knots and then spooled first on the fly reel. It provides support to the fishing line, especially when catching big fish [1].

Knowing how much backing to thread on a fly reel can be pretty challenging. Fly Reels come in different shapes and sizes, and the backing lines also vary a lot in weight and diameter.

This article will cover how much backing you should put on a fly reel to improve line control and achieve better results when you are in the water.

Do You Need Backing on a Fly Reel?

The need for a backing line on a fly reel will be determined by the size and the type of fish you are targeting. The standard length of a fly line is around 90 to 100 feet. If you cast 40 feet of fishing line, you will have 60 feet of line left on your fly reel to reel in the fish.

If you catch a small fish, the 60 feet will be enough to pull in the fish. But if you catch a bigger fish, there is a high chance that the line will run out, and you will lose the fish. That’s where a backing line comes in. It extends your line, giving you more length to pull in the fish.

It also gives you more control since it is made of a rigid material that’s less likely to tear up. It also makes reeling easier and quicker because it fills up the reel. An empty reel has a small diameter on the open space of the reel and will need more time to reel in a short length of the line.

Additionally, a backing line will save you money since it’s more affordable than a fly line. It will also extend your casting distance, thus increasing your chances of catching fish.

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Types of Fly Line Backing

There are two types of backing classified according to the material used to make them. They include Dacron and Gel spun polyethylene.


Dacron is the most popular brand of backing available. It is made of synthetic polyester that’s abrasion-resistant, low stretch, and long-lasting. It has a large diameter and is easy to spool.

The 30lb dacron has a diameter of .024 inches, giving it less capacity. You can use it when you do not want to overload your fly reel and when you are not expecting the fish to run more than 350 feet.

Gel Spun Polyethylene

Gel spun is made of a slick material that is abrasion-resistant. It has a small diameter and more capacity to put more back on the reel. It also has a fast retrieval rate and creates less drag.

It is slightly more expensive than Dacron. But since it has a thin diameter, it gives you more capacity to load more length onto the fly reel. You can use it for a fish expected to run more than 300ft.

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How Much Backing Should You Put on a Fly Reel?

You can put as much backing as the fly reel can hold. However, make sure you leave ¼ inch of space between the fly line and reel frame to protect the line from damage.

Backing Length for Different Types of Fish

You need different lengths and weights of backing for different types of fish. Here are some guidelines to follow.

  • Use 25 to 50 yards of 12-pound backing for panfish and small trout
  • For a standard-sized trout, use 50-100 yards of 20-pound backing
  • Use 150 yards of 20-pound backing for steelhead or a big trout
  • Use 250 yards Dalcon for salmon since it is easier to handle
  • Lastly, for tarpon and other bigger fish, use 300 yards of Dacron

Before you load your fly reel with backing, ensure that you confirm with the manufacturer how much length and weight the wheel can hold so you do not damage or overload it. For instance, a reel that is meant to handle a 4- or 5-weight line can hold 100 to 120 yards of backing and still leave space for your fly line and reel clearance.

Also, you need to consider the type of waters you regularly fish in. Use a 30-pound backing when fishing in saltwater and a 20-pound backing when fishing in freshwater. For shallow water fishing, use a 20-pound backing with a minimum of 180 yards on the fly reel.

How to Attach Backing on the Fly Reel

One can use different knots to attach the backing to the reel. These knots include Albright, arbor, nail knots, and uni-knots.

The first step is to attach the backing to the reel using an arbor knot. The arbor knot is done by wrapping the backing around the spool and then tying two overhand knots. It secures the backing onto the reel to avoid losing the line when catching a fighting fish [2].

Next, use an Albright to connect the backing to the fly line, then the nail knot to connect the line to the leader. And lastly, a double surgeon’s knot connects the leader to the tippet. After making the knots, moisten them and inspect them for smoothness.

If you don’t trust your knots, you can ask someone from your local shop or a friend to help you attach the backing. Most shops that sell fishing gear have a machine that can spool the backing tightly and smoothly onto the fly reel. They also have a professional that can help you out with the knots.

Backing Line Maintainance

The line does not need maintenance if you use it in freshwater. However, salty water can cause damage to the backing. So you must rinse the line under running water to get rid of salt and dirt that may dry the backing and cause damage.

Additionally, you need to regularly inspect the line for cuts and tears and replace it if damaged. You also have to store the backing in a cool and dry place away from sunlight.

Substitutes for Fly Reel Backing

If you can’t access Dacron or Gel Spun backing, you can use a monofilament line as backing. Simply spool the wheel with the monofilament line until there is a ¼ inch gap between the line and the fly reel frame.

Monofilament lines are much cheaper and a better alternative for backing. However, they have a shorter life span than GelSpun and Dacron and will need upgrading in the long run.

The Bottom Line

How much backing to put on a fly reel is determined by various factors. You need to consider the weight of the backing, the type of fish you are targeting, and much more. This article provides a general guide to how much backing to spool on the fly reel.

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