What Is Fly Line Backing?


A fully rigged fly rod contains a lot of individual components, which can make getting set up a confusing proposition if you've never done it before. Fly line backing is an essential part of fly fishing, helping to fill out the spool and giving big fish more line to run with if necessary.

Why Backing Matters

  • One of the jobs of fly line backing is simply to take up space, filling the fly reel so that you can reel in a fly more quickly. More importantly, backing provides what you might call an insurance policy, giving you a section of extra strong, extra thin line between your main fly line and reel. This becomes increasingly important as you pursue bigger fish. Small stream trout might not ever pull enough line out to reach the backing, but big fish like salmon and steelhead can do it easily.

Types and Quantities

  • Fly line backing is usually made of polyethylene terephthalate, which is sold under the brand name Dacron. Some anglers also use gel-spun backing, which is thinner in diameter. Backing is tied directly to the arbor of a fly reel's spool using a series of basic overhand knots, and the main fly line is tied to the tag end of the backing. You can choose the strength and amount of backing based on the type of fish you're after. About 50 yards of 20-pound backing is standard for trout fishing. Steelhead anglers often use up to 200 yards of 20-pound backing, or a little less of the thicker 30-pound backing.

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