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Fly Line Backing: What It Is and Why You Need It

Fly line backing is a crucial component of a fly fishing setup that is often overlooked by novice anglers. It is a thin line that is attached to the fly reel arbor and the fly line, extending the total length of line on the reel. The primary purpose of fly line backing is to provide additional line capacity to the reel, allowing anglers to fight larger fish that make long runs.

Fly line backing is typically made from Dacron, a synthetic material that is strong, durable, and resistant to abrasion. It is available in a range of breaking strengths, with the most common being 20lb, 30lb, and 50lb. The length of backing spools can vary from 50 yards to 1000 yards, depending on the manufacturer and the intended use.

When selecting fly line backing, it is important to consider the species of fish being targeted, the size of the fly reel, and the type of fly line being used. Choosing the right backing can make the difference between landing a trophy fish and losing it due to insufficient line capacity. In the following sections, we will explore the different types of fly line backing, how to attach it to the fly reel, and how much backing to use for different fishing scenarios.

Understanding Fly Line Backing

Fly line backing is an essential component of any fly fishing setup. It is a thin, strong line that is attached to the fly reel arbor and the fly line. Backing is typically made from braided nylon or Dacron and is available in different breaking strengths, ranging from 12-lb to 30-lb.

The primary purpose of fly line backing is to provide additional line capacity for the angler. When a fish takes the fly and makes a run, the backing provides extra line to prevent the fish from breaking the tippet or running out of line. The amount of backing required depends on the type of fishing and the size of the fish being targeted.

When choosing fly line backing, it is essential to consider the breaking strength, length, and material. Dacron backing is the most common type of backing used in freshwater fishing, while braided nylon is often used in saltwater fishing. The length of the backing depends on the size of the reel and the type of fishing. For example, a 5-weight reel may require 50-100 yards of backing, while a 12-weight reel may require up to 300 yards of backing.

It is important to note that the backing should be attached to the fly reel arbor before the fly line. This ensures that the backing is wound tightly onto the reel and prevents any slippage. Additionally, it is recommended to use a backing knot that is strong and reliable, such as the double uni knot or the Albright knot.

Overall, fly line backing is an important component of any fly fishing setup. It provides additional line capacity and prevents the fish from breaking the tippet or running out of line. When choosing fly line backing, it is essential to consider the breaking strength, length, and material to ensure that it is suitable for the type of fishing being done.

Types of Backing

When it comes to fly line backing, there are three main types: Dacron, Gel Spun, and Polyethylene. Each type has its own unique characteristics and advantages.

Dacron Backing

Dacron backing is the most common type of backing used by fly fishermen. It is made from a braided polyester material that is strong, durable, and easy to handle. Dacron backing is available in a range of strengths, from 12-pound test to 30-pound test, and is generally less expensive than other types of backing. It is also available in a range of colors, which can be useful for keeping track of how much line is left on the reel.

One of the main advantages of Dacron backing is that it is easy to tie knots with. It also has a bit of stretch, which can help absorb shock when a fish takes off with the line. However, Dacron backing can absorb water, which can make it heavier and more difficult to cast.

Gel Spun Backing

Gel Spun backing is a newer type of backing that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is made from a high-strength gel-spun polyethylene material that is thinner and stronger than Dacron backing. Gel Spun backing is available in a range of strengths, from 12-pound test to 100-pound test, and is generally more expensive than Dacron backing.

One of the main advantages of Gel Spun backing is that it is extremely strong and thin, which allows for more line to be loaded on the reel. It is also less likely to absorb water, which can make it easier to cast and reduce the weight of the line. However, Gel Spun backing can be more difficult to handle and tie knots with, and it has less stretch than Dacron backing, which can make it more difficult to absorb shock when a fish takes off with the line.

Polyethylene Backing

Polyethylene backing is another newer type of backing that is made from a high-strength polyethylene material. It is similar to Gel Spun backing in terms of strength and thinness, but is generally less expensive. Polyethylene backing is available in a range of strengths, from 12-pound test to 100-pound test.

One of the main advantages of Polyethylene backing is that it is extremely strong and thin, which allows for more line to be loaded on the reel. It is also less likely to absorb water, which can make it easier to cast and reduce the weight of the line. However, like Gel Spun backing, Polyethylene backing can be more difficult to handle and tie knots with, and it has less stretch than Dacron backing, which can make it more difficult to absorb shock when a fish takes off with the line.

Choosing the Right Backing

Fly line backing is an essential component of a fly fishing setup. It performs the critical function of extending the length of the fly line while providing added distance when fighting fish that make long runs. Choosing the right backing is crucial to ensure that the angler has enough line to fight the fish and prevent it from breaking the line.

When selecting the right backing, there are several factors to consider. The diameter of the backing is an important consideration as it affects the amount of backing that can fit onto the reel. The breaking strength of the backing is also critical as it determines the amount of pressure the backing can withstand before breaking.

Another factor to consider is the color of the backing. While not as crucial as diameter and breaking strength, color can impact the visibility of the backing in the water. Anglers may choose a color that matches the fly line or opt for a high-visibility color to make it easier to see.

Micron is another measurement used to determine the thickness of the backing. The higher the micron count, the thicker the backing. However, it is essential to note that micron counts can vary depending on the manufacturer, so it is important to check the specifications before making a purchase.

When selecting the right backing, it is essential to match the diameter and breaking strength to the weight of the fly line. For example, a 5-weight fly line requires a backing with a breaking strength of at least 20 pounds. It is also important to choose a backing that fits the reel and provides enough length to fight the fish.

Overall, choosing the right backing requires careful consideration of several factors, including diameter, breaking strength, color, and micron count. By selecting the right backing, anglers can ensure that they have enough line to fight the fish and prevent it from breaking the line.

Fly Line Backing for Different Fish Species

When it comes to fly fishing, having the right backing can make all the difference. Different fish species require different types of backing to ensure a successful catch. Here are some guidelines for selecting the right fly line backing for different fish species.

Trout and Panfish

Trout and panfish are known for their quick and erratic movements, so it’s important to have a backing that can handle their speed and strength. A 20-pound test backing is usually sufficient for these species, but if you’re fishing in a fast-moving stream or river, you may want to consider a 30-pound test backing.

Bass and Carp

Bass and carp are larger and stronger than trout and panfish, so you’ll need a backing that can handle their power. A 30-pound test backing is usually sufficient for these species, but if you’re targeting larger bass or carp, you may want to consider a 50-pound test backing.

Salmon and Steelhead

Salmon and steelhead are known for their long runs and powerful jumps, so you’ll need a backing that can handle their strength. A 30-pound test backing is usually sufficient for these species, but if you’re targeting larger salmon or steelhead, you may want to consider a 50-pound test backing.

Bonefish and Tarpon

Bonefish and tarpon are fast and powerful, so you’ll need a backing that can handle their speed and strength. A 50-pound test backing is usually sufficient for these species, but if you’re targeting larger bonefish or tarpon, you may want to consider a 65-pound test backing.

Sailfish

Sailfish are one of the fastest fish in the ocean, so you’ll need a backing that can handle their speed and strength. A 65-pound test backing is usually sufficient for sailfish, but if you’re targeting larger sailfish, you may want to consider an 80-pound test backing.

In summary, selecting the right fly line backing for different fish species is crucial for a successful catch. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you have the right backing for the species you’re targeting.

Attaching Fly Line Backing to Reel

When it comes to fly fishing, attaching fly line backing to a reel is an important step that should not be overlooked. There are several knots that can be used to attach the backing to the reel, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Arbor Knot

The arbor knot is a simple and easy knot to tie, making it a popular choice for attaching fly line backing to a reel. To tie the arbor knot, start by passing the end of the backing through the center of the spool. Then, make an overhand knot around the standing line. Finally, pass the tag end back through the overhand knot and tighten.

Nail Knot

The nail knot is a popular choice for attaching fly line backing to a reel because it is strong and reliable. To tie the nail knot, start by holding the end of the backing and the fly line together. Then, wrap the backing and fly line around a nail or other cylindrical object. Next, remove the nail and tie a series of tight overhand knots around the standing line. Finally, pull the tag end tight and trim the excess.

Albright Knot

The albright knot is a versatile knot that can be used to attach fly line backing to a reel as well as to join two lines of different diameters. To tie the albright knot, start by doubling the backing and passing it through the center of the spool. Then, make a loop with the tag end and wrap it around the standing line. Finally, pass the tag end back through the loop and tighten.

Uni Knot

The uni knot is a strong and reliable knot that can be used to attach fly line backing to a reel as well as to join two lines of the same or different diameters. To tie the uni knot, start by passing the end of the backing through the center of the spool. Then, make a loop with the tag end and wrap it around the standing line. Finally, pass the tag end back through the loop and tighten.

When attaching fly line backing to a reel, it is important to ensure that the knot is tight and secure. This will prevent the backing from slipping or coming loose during use. Additionally, it is important to trim the tag end of the knot to prevent it from catching on anything while fishing.

In conclusion, there are several knots that can be used to attach fly line backing to a reel, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The arbor knot, nail knot, albright knot, and uni knot are all popular choices that can be used to securely attach backing to a fly reel.

Role of Backing in Fly Fishing

Fly line backing plays a crucial role in fly fishing. It serves as an insurance policy for anglers to prevent losing a fish due to insufficient line on the reel. Here are some key points to understand the importance of fly line backing in fly fishing:

  • Distance: Fly line backing is used to increase the distance between an angler and a fish. It allows an angler to cast further and deeper into the water, increasing the chances of catching a fish.
  • Insurance: Fly line backing acts as insurance for an angler. It prevents the loss of a fish by providing additional line in the event that the fish runs further than the length of the fly line. Without backing, an angler risks losing a fish by running out of line on the reel.
  • Spool Capacity: Fly line backing helps to utilize the spool capacity of the reel. It allows an angler to fill the reel with less expensive backing, while still having enough line to catch a large fish.
  • Fly Rod Weight: Fly line backing is also important when using a heavier fly rod. It helps to balance the weight of the rod and reel, allowing for a more comfortable and efficient casting experience.

Overall, fly line backing is an essential component of fly fishing. It provides distance, insurance, and spool capacity, while also helping to balance the weight of the fly rod and reel. Anglers should always ensure that they have enough backing on their reel to prevent losing a fish due to insufficient line.

Additional Considerations

Backing for Freshwater vs Saltwater

When it comes to choosing the right backing for fly fishing, it is important to consider the type of water you will be fishing in. Freshwater and saltwater fishing require different types of backing due to the differences in the size and strength of fish found in each environment.

For freshwater fishing, a 20-pound test backing is typically sufficient, while for saltwater fishing, a 30-50 pound test is recommended. This is because saltwater fish are generally larger and stronger than freshwater fish, and require a stronger backing to prevent them from breaking the line.

Line Winder

Using a line winder can make the process of spooling backing onto your reel much easier and more efficient. A line winder allows you to quickly and easily wind backing onto your reel without having to use your hands. This can save you time and effort, especially if you are spooling a large amount of backing.

Cost Considerations

When choosing backing, it is important to consider the cost. While some types of backing may be more expensive than others, this does not necessarily mean that they are better. It is important to choose a backing that fits your budget while still meeting your needs.

Some anglers choose to use cheaper backing for freshwater fishing, as the fish are generally smaller and less likely to break the line. However, it is important to remember that using lower quality backing can increase the risk of line breakage and lost fish. For saltwater fishing, it is generally recommended to invest in higher quality backing to ensure that you are able to land larger, stronger fish.

Overall, choosing the right backing for your fly fishing setup is crucial for success on the water. By considering factors such as the type of water you will be fishing in, the use of a line winder, and cost considerations, you can make an informed decision and select the backing that is right for you.

Conclusion

In conclusion, fly line backing is an essential component of fly fishing, and it plays a crucial role in helping anglers land big fish. Backing provides additional length to the line, allowing anglers to cast farther and reach deeper waters. It also helps to prevent the fly line from breaking if a fish runs too far.

When selecting fly line backing, anglers should consider the strength, thickness, and length of the line. A thinner line with a higher pound test will provide more backing on the reel without adding too much bulk. The length of the line will depend on the type of fishing and the size of the fish being targeted.

There are many different types of fly line backing available on the market, and each has its own unique properties. Anglers should choose a backing that is strong, durable, and able to withstand the elements. They should also consider the color of the backing, as it can affect the visibility of the line in the water.

Overall, fly line backing is an important investment for any angler who wants to improve their chances of landing big fish. By choosing the right backing and using it correctly, anglers can enjoy a more successful and rewarding fly fishing experience.

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