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Frequently Asked Questions on Fly Fishing Line Backing
Fly line backing is a fly fishing term for the thin yet strong part of the line secured directly onto the fly reel arbor and the rear end of a fly line.
It is to offer some sort of insurance policy on the angler’s limited tackle while hooking, playing, or landing a strong or bolting fish.
Game species such as bonefish, permit, steelhead and tarpon take off aggressively.
They can go for long distances, even after securely hooking them with your fly.
Permit and bonefish are the saltwater speedsters in the flats.
These species can run as far as 200 yards and more during a battle with an angler.
Most fly fishing lines are only 100 feet long.
It makes an adequate and reliable backing strategy crucial in the angler’s tackle.
Most trout fly fishing needs 50 yards of 20lbs Dacron backing on average.
Steelhead fly fishers will use more in the areas of 175-200 yards of 20lbs Dacron backing.
It can be slightly less if you are using a stronger 30lb test.
Fly fishers chasing permit, tarpon bonefish, and monster blue water game species look in the neighborhoods of 200 to 250+ yards of 30lb backing.
Such anglers lean more towards gel-spun backing than the standard Dacron options for extra capacity.
Here are some common questions anglers as on fly line backing:
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- Can You Use Braid as Fly Line Backing?
- How Do You Attach Backing to Fly Line?
- How Much Backing Line Should a Fly Reel Have?
- How Do You Tie Backing on a Fly Reel?
- What Can I Use for Backing on a Fly Reel?
- How Often Should You Replace Fly Line Backing?
- Does Fly Backing Color Matter?
- Can I Use Monofilament as Fly Line Backing?
- Does Fly Line Backing Matter?
- How Do You Attach Running Line to Backing?
- How Do You Set Up a Fly Reel Backing?
- How Do You Tie Mono Backing to Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for a 3-Weight Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for a 4-Weight Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for a 5-Weight Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for a 6-Weight Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for a 7-Weight Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for an 8-Weight Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for a 7/8 Fly Reel?
- Do You Need Backing Line on a Fly Reel?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for Trout Fly Fishing?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for Bass Fly Fishing?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for Salmon Fly Fishing?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for Permit Fly Fishing?
- How Much Backing Do I Need for Bonefish Fly Fishing?
- How Often Should You Change Fly Line Backing?
- Is Backing and Fly Line the Same?
- Is Fly Line Backing Necessary?
- Should I Use Braid as Fly Line Backing?
- What Is Gel Spun Fly Line Backing?
- Do I Need to Replace Fly Line Backing?
- How Long Does Fly Line Backing Last?
- What Can I Use for Backing on a Fly Reel?
- What Is Fly Line Backing Made of?
- What Is Fly Backing Purpose?
- What are the Advantages of Dacron Backing?
- What are the Pros of Gel Spun Poly Backing?
- When Should You Use a Dacron Backing?
- When Should You Use a Gel Spun Poly Backing?
- Can You Use a Substitute for a Fly Line Backing?
- Is There a Difference between the Real Fly Line and Backing?
- How Do You Choose the Right Fly Line Backing?
- Who Needs to Use Fly Line Backing?
- What are the Differences between Dacron and Gel-Spun Backing?
- What are Some of the Saltwater and Freshwater Backing Choices?
- What are the Common Mistakes with Fly Line Backing?
Can You Use Braid as Fly Line Backing?
Yes, you can use braid as fly line backing. A 20 to 50-lb braided fly fishing line is perfect for backing your reel.
If angling in saltwater, guides recommend using a 30 to 50-lb braided range.
Freshwater anglers can scale the range down to 20 to 40lbs.
But, there are some concerns anglers have with using braid as fly line backing.
Of course, there isn’t a primary issue why you shouldn’t use braid as fly line backing.
But, it depends on the fly reel’s capacity.
In some instances, you might have to use an awful amount of braid to back up well over the traditional Dacron, which might prove costly.
To some anglers, the braid is quite abrasive on rod rings and fingers.
If you have been run out into braided backing it is best to keep fingers out of the way.
Otherwise, the casualty department awaits you.
How Do You Attach Backing to Fly Line?
You should attach backing directly onto the arbor of the reel’s spool using the arbor knot.
Wind the correct amount of backing onto your fly reel with motorized rigging equipment of a manual fly line winder.
If rigging a spool or fly reel with the gel-spun fly line backing, it is vital to wind the backing evenly around the arbor.
You want to counter any instances of seizures of slipping of the backing in long runs that might cause heavy friction in the spooled material.
Once you securely attach the backing and evenly wind it on the spool, the rear end of the line is attached to the backing’s tag end.
A Bimini twist and double nail knotted braided loop form the tightest connection between the backing and fly line.
The connection preserves almost 100% of every line’s breaking strength.
It allows the angler to easily and quickly switch the fly lines without retying knots.
How Much Backing Line Should a Fly Reel Have?
The amount of backing you need to have on your reel will depend on the species you want to catch.
The amount of backing the reel can hold is also another consideration.
Pro anglers advise against loading your reel with plenty of fly line to avoid it touching the reel’s frame.
You might have to do a few trials before getting the correct amount.
It is recommended to leave a quarter of an inch of clearance after loading the backing and fly line on the spool.
It prevents any of the lines from slipping off and reduces the chances of tangles.
Anglers, through trial, have identified the amount of backing to have on a fly reel depending on the fish species you are chasing.
Small trout and panfish need the backing of 25 to 50 yards of 12-pound backing.
Bring 50 to 100 yards of a 20-pound backing for normal trout – a good example is the Scientific Anglers Backing Fly Line.
Salmon requires backing of 250 yards of 30-pound backing.
Big trout and steelhead reels will take over 150 yards of 20-pound backing.
Guides recommend 250 yards of a 30-pound backing for bonefish and large carp – usually, gel-spun backing is a perfect choice.
Tarpons and larger species need over 300 yards of 30-pound backing.
How Do You Tie Backing on a Fly Reel?
To attach fly line backing to a reel, take several feet of your line off your backing spool.
Tie a uni knot or arbor knot around your reel’s arbor.
Both types of knots are extremely strong and excellent for this since they do not slip especially if using gel-spun backing.
Ensure to wrap your fly line backing around the reel spool twice before tying either of the knots.
You want them to maintain their strength.
Novices can use arbor knots since they are easy to tie.
Have a towel and a pen or a pencil.
Hand the spool of backing to a friend and give them the pencil to pass through the spool’s center hole.
Allow it to spin and apply pressure using the towel.
Take the reel and begin winding the backing onto it.
Use your thumb to neatly guide it as your friend exerts equal pressure in the entire process.
You want all the lines to go tightly on the reel.
Soft backing bits into itself and breaks as you battle the fish.
Wind on 250-yards of backing or thereabout while leaving enough space for the fly line.
What Can I Use for Backing on a Fly Reel?
You can use Dacron or gel-spun backing on your fly reel but most options for freshwater anglers are braided Dacron.
Braided Dacron boasts low stretch, rot, and abrasion resistance.
Other proprietary fly line backing materials are emerging like Micron.
Still, they have Dacron as their base material.
Remember Dacron degrades after prolonged use but it lasts long.
Pro anglers recommend checking the strength of your backings first 20 to 50 feet yearly.
The commonest strength of fly line backing on fly reels is 20.
But, because of the environment and species in saltwater areas, the strength increases to 30.
The braided polyethylene in Spectra and gel-spun backing is stronger and small in diameter than Dacron.
You can use Micron if you don’t want to use the common Dacron or gel-spun backing.
As a Dacron-based alternative, it is a tight and round braid.
Micron is stronger and less susceptible to tangles than flat braids.
Another option is Hatch’s PE braid backing.
It boasts the feel and touch of Dacron with a blend of the reduced diameter and strength of gel-spun backing.
Hatch braid lines don’t hurt your fingers easily as gel spun backings do.
Their concern is the higher price, but most fly fishers agree that it is worth the money.
How Often Should You Replace Fly Line Backing?
Guides and pro anglers advise fly fishers to replace their line backing after 100 to 250 uses.
However, this depends on so many factors.
Like any other fly fishing gear, proper care and maintenance go a long way into the longevity of backing.
I saw a comment online from an angler who said he had never in 60 years changed his backing.
He must have been one of those buddies that go out to cast once in a season.
Backing doesn’t last forever.
It deteriorates like other fly fishing gear.
Some anglers don’t even remember when they wound their backing on the fly reels they use.
If you fall in this category, do the damn thing now.
You wouldn’t want embarrassments and disappointments when a big fish surprises you and rolls out your backing and it bolts with it because it was worn out from two seasons ago.
Sometimes, you might have to replace your backing before the recommended time.
Check the backing for rot or black mold.
You can easily see this if you use clear or light-colored backing.
Abrasion and nicks are another sign to dump that thing and get a new one.
Backing just like the fly line can twist beyond repair, causing tangles.
How long will you untangle the mess?
And if you do, I hope you are cautious not to cause weak points on the backing.
All the above are signs that you should replace your backing ASAP.
Does Fly Backing Color Matter?
Fly line backing is available in various colors
The color of fly backing an angler chooses doesn’t matter.
When using bigger reels that take up several hundred yards of backing, some anglers prefer having certain color to differentiate the line from the backing so that they see if they use it.
You can choose orange for the first 100 or so yards and keep white for the remaining amount.
Anglers who do this want to see how far a fish is out.
The knot used to join the two colors should be stronger.
Some anglers prefer loop-to-loop knots with dual perfection loops.
Anglers who are partial to brighter backing colors use it for visibility and not the aesthetic.
Fly fishers can be fancy and choose brighter colors to use on ported reels for class and style.
If you see this while fishing when you have clear or white backing on the same ported reel, don’t feel inferior.
There is no functionality your backing reels lack that your neighbor has.
Have you heard about colored backing staining fly lines?
It happens and anglers who have experienced this stick to clear or white options to avoid this.
You can have colored backing and white fly line and get the back end of the line absorbing the backing’s color.
Can I Use Monofilament as Fly Line Backing?
You can use monofilament as fly line backing but it isn’t as efficient as Dacron or gel spun backing.
It is quite stretchy and easily gets affected by UV light which weakens it.
Monofilament tends to cut in and will burry itself slightly.
The coiling in monofilament lines never happens in Dacron or braid.
You don’t want to be worrying about such issues and other potential problems.
Most people choose monofilament lines to replace backing because these are cheaper.
It might not be an issue but Dacron and gel spun alternatives work better.
You can avoid digging in of the monofilament line by fingering or spreading the line from one side to the other while winding it onto the reel’s spool.
Use this method when retrieving the line to counter nasty bumps coming about by quick spooling.
Tangles from the mono line being left at the banks or being stripped in when casting for distance is another reason why most anglers don’t use it as backing.
You can unpick braid or Dacron easily without affecting the strength.
Mono will crimp and kink when knots tighten.
Does Fly Line Backing Matter?
Overall, fly backing matters if you are fishing anything bigger than little fish and if you are a solely saline water angler.
It is crucial to give you backup or something of this sort when you hook, play, and land certain fish species known for bolting long distances or stronger game fish.
Certain game species like bonefish, steelhead, tarpon, and permit can show you flames.
These fish can take off for long distances even with hooks in their mouths.
Your fly line will definitely unwind from your spool faster than ever.
In the saline flats, you will meet marathoners like permit and bonefish.
These can go past 200 yards during a battle.
As earlier said, most fly lines measure 100 feet.
You already see that this isn’t enough for such species.
That is my you need an insurance policy like that you take for your car or house.
Not literally, but that is why a fly line backing matters.
Different species will need different amounts of backing.
It is better to be slightly above your estimate than below.
Some species only need 50 yards of backing while others go past 300 yards of 30-pound backing.
How Do You Attach Running Line to Backing?
The Albright knot is considered the best option for joining the backing to the running line.
Anglers love it since it slides through guides when you get species that pull too much to get into your backing.
Create a loop on your fly line and pass 10 to 12’’ of the backing through this loop.
Hold all three sections of the fly line between your index finger and thumb.
Wrap your backing over itself and the two strands of the loop from the fly line.
Create 8 to 10 tighter wraps using the backing.
Pass the tag end back to go through the loop.
Exit this loop on the exact side you entered it through.
Hold the two ends of the fly fishing line.
Slide all the wraps off your backing to the far end of the loop of the line.
Pull your backing to make it tighter.
Properly trim the tag closer to your knot.
Some anglers never use knots and loops.
They use a backing threader and waterproof super glue as part of their tools.
Aquasure is applied over the whipping and left to dry overnight.
Those who use this shortcut say that the joining lasts longer and slips well through the rod’s rings.
How Do You Set Up a Fly Reel Backing?
One of the most crucial things you need to know as an angler is attaching the fly line backing to your spool.
The first thing is to get some feet of the line off your spool and tie a uni or arbor knot around the reel’s arbor.
The two knots are both extremely strong and excellent for the task since they don’t slip even on gel spun backing that is known to be slippery.
Wrap your backing around the reel spool twice before tying.
Starters can use the arbor knot because it is the easiest to toe.
You need a helping hand, a towel, a pen or a pencil.
Hand the spool of backing to your friends and let them pass the pencil through the spool’s center hole.
It should spin.
Use your towel to exert more pressure.
Take the reel and wind the backing onto it with the help of your thumb as a guide as the other person exerts equal pressure through the entire process.
You want the line to go on well and tightly.
Soft backings bite into themselves and break as you battle a fish.
Wind on enough backing for the fish you intend to catch and as per the reel’s capacity while leaving enough space for the fly line.
How Do You Tie Mono Backing to Reel?
Most anglers will hardly have their backing knots tested for strength.
Getting it spooled is quite rare.
But, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need a properly tied and strong knot.
You want a tiny knot that doesn’t impair casting.
Some anglers will advise using the FG knot for its strength for backing.
Isn’t this ridiculous?
The FG knot is quite long and it would be off to have it on the arbor.
Its design is around the slender braid and fluorocarbon or fat mono.
You don’t want such a setup when winding backing on the spool.
Double Uni is the best knot for tying mono backing to the reel because you have the same diameter backing.
It is an easier knot to learn and tie.
Double uni knots are shorter and slender to avoid causing any trouble.
It is made from two opposing knots that increase the integrity of the two lines.
Both lines should be side by side as the first step.
Use one line’s tag end to loop around the two lines and repeat the procedure three or four times.
It is basically duplicating the standard Uni but instead of doubling the primary line, you wrap both lines you want to join.
Avoid tightening it down.
Loop the second tag end around the two lines and repeat four times without tightening it.
Wet the knots and cinch them carefully.
How Much Backing Do I Need for a 3-Weight Fly Reel?
3-weight fly reels are among the tiniest sizes of fly reels.
Most anglers use them for chasing smaller trout and panfish.
3-weight fly reels will take a backing of 25-50 yards of 12lbs backing.
Such small setups are ideal for fly fishing in mountain streams.
They perform well when throwing tiny dry flies to catch brookies and terrestrials to get panfish.
Some anglers have succeeded in catching smaller bass using 3-weight reels in the farm ponds.
Did you know that these are fantastic nymphing tools?
You can see that you won’t be going after anything big.
It is advisable though to have some backing for security in case these small buddies decide to play with you.
Beginners mostly need such setups to learn how to reel in a fish that tries to run and see how the backing can come in handy when chasing medium to trophy-sized fish.
How Much Backing Do I Need for a 4-Weight Fly Reel?
I know you want to know the amount of support to expect on normal 4-weight trout reels.
Most 4-weight fly reels can hold the conventional 100 yards of 20lbs backing apart from a few like the Echo Ion but the commonest range is 50 to 75 yards of 20lbs backing.
Most modern reels in this size are designed with large arbors.
The spools are thicker and more solid to get the line back quicker or get a monster trout to a net successfully without overplaying these buddies.
Overall, such reels catch trout, panfish, bass, perch, and other tiny species.
How Much Backing Do I Need for a 5-Weight Fly Reel?
5-weight fly reels are the most recommended for trout and will take 50-100 yards of 20lbs backing.
I have noticed that it all goes down to the anglers’ preferences when it comes to backing for 5-weight fly reels.
Some anglers go for large arbor options loaded with 100 to 125 yards of backing and finish with a 5-weight fly line.
If you are going to use this reel for bigger fish or pairing with larger outfits, it is advisable to scale to 30lbs backing.
Most large arbor reels accommodate such setups and the spooled up reel’s weight balances well with new lighter rods o the market which is vital when you want to cast for distance.
Fly reel manufacturers have charts under each reel showing the capacities of different sizes.
If you are buying a brand new reel or getting any with its original box, there should be similar information on it.
You can confirm there the amount of backing to have on your reel size to avoid overloading the spool.
How Much Backing Do I Need for a 6-Weight Fly Reel?
6-weight fly reels will need 50 to 150 yards of 20lbs backing.
These reel sizes aren’t very different from 5-weight options and the amounts of backing can be similar or exceed by 50 yards.
Six-weight fly rods are versatile and allow you to throw large bass flies and small dries and nymphs to trout.
How Much Backing Do I Need for a 7-Weight Fly Reel?
7-weight fly reels are excellent for steelhead and monster trout and will take slightly over 150 yards of 20lb backing.
Anglers use this reel size for targeting bass, salmon, steelhead, and larger trout.
It is a common reel among saltwater anglers.
Here, there is more potential for some species bolting and getting into your backing.
Often you will be fishing in larger water bodies and in the open where fish have more space to play with you.
There is high potential to throw bigger streamers and flies to haul in monsters.
The size is bigger than the standard 5-weight reel which is considered conventional and versatile.
How Much Backing Do I Need for an 8-Weight Fly Reel?
8-weight fly rods need about 250 yards of 30lbs backing while leaving enough space for fly line spooling.
It is the best size for monster carp and other larger species.
The amount of backing for an eight-weight fly reel gives an angler more edge when haunting bigger aggressive gamefish like steelhead and salmon.
It won’t be sloppy going after such fish because they can give you a run for your money and time.
Most modern 8-weight reels are built with large arbors to counter tired hands and exhausted arms.
How Much Backing Do I Need for a 7/8 Fly Reel?
7/8 weight fly reels are rated for 7 and 8 weight fly lines and the backing could be 150 yards of 20lbs backing or 250 yards of 30lbs backing for monster species.
You can load them with either of the two lines with their respective amounts of backing.
The challenge that comes when loading heavier fly lines on such reels is that it reduces the amount of backing you can put on the reel.
Heavier fly lines mean you can’t fit a lot of backing on a reel.
Such reels can catch monster carp, trout, steelhead, smallmouth, and largemouth bass among other larger species.
Do You Need Backing Line on a Fly Reel?
A few things determine if you need backing on a fly fishing reel or can do without it.
The size and type of fish you are going after are a primary influence.
Typical fly fishing lines will measure between 90 and 110 feet long.
Some anglers might cast only 40 feet of the fly line and have 50 feet left on the spool.
The remaining amount of fly line should help you fight a fish in case it stages a battle.
Some fish species don’t require you to have the backing.
For instance, if you are going to catch a small trout or panfish, 50 feet of the remaining line is too much.
If you are the medium to trophy size chaser, you will be safer using backing than without.
Such sizes can take your breath and heart out of your body and dunk them in the water before you realize it.
You want a little bit of safety when it comes to gear preparedness.
Let your skill and technique fail you but not have the backing to battle a might trout.
Species like salmon, steelhead, and carp often pull out chunks of the line and can have you need your backing.
It is easy for a fish to bolt out with hundred feet of the fly line especially when you are fishing in the river currents.
Boat anglers will tell you that it can be very unsafe to stop near a fish for your safety.
These waters have bends, rocks, and trees that can be primary obstructions.
It would be better to get a perfect spot to halt.
All this while, the water friend is still pulling your line off your reel.
How Much Backing Do I Need for Trout Fly Fishing?
It can be tricky to know the amount of backing to spool on a trout reel.
Most trout anglers spool their reels with more backing they can have while allowing enough space for the fly line.
The approach is to increase the arbor size, speeding up the retrieve and reducing line memory.
You don’t need to over-spool your fly reel for trout.
Most of them can’t take the length of a football pitch worth of fly line in a battle.
And if you get some that do, most trout streams don’t have much space for this type of play.
100 to 125 yards of backing for a 5-weight fly line is the best amount for trout on average.
Small trout will need 25 to 50 yards of 20-pound backing.
Normal trout is 50 to 100 yards of 20-pound backing while monsters will stretch it to 100 to 150 yards.
Most large arbor fly reels will allow for such setups.
The weight of the reel after spooling balances well with new lightweight fly rods in the market, a crucial factor that allows for longer casts.
Always research the manufacturer’s recommended line capacities for reel models you want to use for trout fly fishing.
You will see line capacity tables on their websites or on the reel boxes.
The tables have a column with the amount of fly line backing the reel needs for different line weights.
How Much Backing Do I Need for Bass Fly Fishing?
100 yards of 50lb of saltwater-proof backing is more than enough to tackle monster bass.
The reel doesn’t need to hold four or five hundred feet of backing for this species.
Bass are considered solid fighters.
Usually, they will give the angler good accounts of themselves but will hardly bolt for long distances.
Fly fishers often hook bass at closer quarters therefore, they rarely see and use the backing.
As a result, the fly reels don’t have to be top-tier models suitable for tough saline water species known to run into huge chunks of backing.
The crucial thing with bass reels is resistance to saltwater effects and brutality from knocks and drops on rocks.
Wide arbor reels are the best and most useful for catching other saltwater fish.
One you would use for King Salmon, Big Redfish, and Permit is recommended.
It is advisable to strip your fly line and backing periodically to clean under running tap water.
Warm temperatures are the best.
Some types of bass can however take you on long scorching bolts, especially in the open waters over spawning beds.
They often make short yet powerful runs attempting to return to their covers where they think they are safe.
How Much Backing Do I Need for Salmon Fly Fishing?
The general rule of thumb when getting backing is that the species you are going after is the primary determinant of the length to get.
Anglers who target salmon and steelhead often use 175 yards of 20 to 30-pound backing.
This amount is more than most trout fly fishers need.
You might be adventuring streams with stronger currents.
Bring backing as long as 250 yards if you want success catching salmon in such streams.
Most of the time, you will be fishing this species in the current and they can keep going until they decide to halt.
Larger capacity spools are mandatory and the thicker Dacron backing is best since it will be easier on your hands.
Experienced guides advise not having a fly reel that is almost half empty when chasing salmon.
It is best to fill the reel up to ¾ full if not entirely.
For eight-weights with reels with a lot of capacity, 30lb backing is the best.
This fills up your fly reel faster and you might not need to pay expensively.
It is advantageous too if you hook a monster salmon.
200 yards should be enough and fill your spool nicely.
How Much Backing Do I Need for Permit Fly Fishing?
Backing capacity is vital when chasing permits in deeper or Bluewater areas.
These environments give these species a lot of room to bolt.
When fly fishing for permits on the flats, get a reel that can take about 200 yards of backing with a 20lbs pound test.
It would be ideal to add a WF10F fly line.
Permit are fighters but not as much as tarpon, sailfish, or tuna.
It means you should bring a high-quality fly reel built for saline areas with a stable disc drag.
Some manufacturers have specialty lines for fishing tarpon and these work well.
You will be making long casts to target this species.
One trick beginners should master is stripping out more fly line than they think they need.
An angler can get up and strip off 4 or 5 pulls of the fly line past what they think they can cast.
When you get a fire shot at a good permit, you wouldn’t want to come 4 feet short because of lacking enough fly line out.
Even if it means getting into your backing when this guy runs, do it.
How Much Backing Do I Need for Bonefish Fly Fishing?
Before the backing, fly reels for bonefish are crucial like the fly rods are.
A bonefish fly reel needs a capacity to take up at least 175 yards to 200 yards.
The backing test should be 30 pounds.
Most anglers lean towards large arbor fly reels.
First, they want faster retrieves for bonefish fly fishing compared to conventional options.
Bonefish can make the first run and continue swimming quickly back towards you.
You want a large arbor reel with enough backing to maintain the tightness of the fly line and put more pressure on the bonefish.
If the line has slack, it will be easier for this fish to wrap your leader around the coral heads and other obstructions.
I have been fly fishing for a long time and I tend to think bonefish do this knowingly.
You need to maintain a tighter line and put more pressure on the bonefish to allow you to lead it away from objects like mangrove shoots.
It is hard to forget the first bonefish you hook.
Mostly, after the first run, it will swim towards you and novices might not feel the bonefish.
If you are using a conventional reel, you will be tempted to frantically crank and later realize you have been fighting your line all through and not the bonefish.
You want to avoid long-distance release of your catch by using large arbor reels instead of conventional ones.
How Often Should You Change Fly Line Backing?
Guides recommend changing the fly line backing after 100 to 250 uses.
But, other factors will influence this duration to make it longer to the maximum of 250 uses or shorter to 100 uses or slightly less.
Some anglers have reported in online forums having used the same backing for about 10 years and others even 15.
If the backing isn’t strong enough to last this long, the angler doesn’t catch big fish that gets them to use their backing.
The frequency of use will determine how often you will change the backing.
Also, how much certain elements get into contact with it adds impact to the duration.
Freshwater anglers targeting smaller species might not need to change backing as often even if they are regular anglers.
But, laxity in drying the backing after each reel dunk makes the tightly wound backing on the spool rot.
Even if you don’t see the rot when you unwind the backing, you will notice some weaker sections.
You might not need to change backing often, especially if you take care of it properly.
The backing is the cheapest component of a fly fishing combo and you can change it however and whenever you want.
Even before you exhaust the 100-250 uses guides and manufacturers recommend, check out for warning signs.
These red lights are signs that it is time to change the backing even if you are within the recommended number of uses.
Look out for mold, abrasion and nicks, twists, and tangles beyond repair.
Also, if you have had the current backing for a long time and can’t remember when you changed it, maybe you should do it now.
Is Backing and Fly Line the Same?
No, these are two different things.
The backing is the little amount of extra line you wrap around the spool that later extends the reach of the fly line you choose to add to it.
A high-grade fly line is one of the crucial components of a fly angling system.
Most fly lines measure over 100 feet in length and are available in different styles and colors.
For instance, 6-weight lines are for 6-weight fly rods.
The general rule of thumb is to remember that your fly line always matches the fly rod weight it is designed for.
Overall, the type and length of backing often reflect the species you are targeting.
It is crucial for larger species and saltwater fish that like making longer and consistent runs.
The backing is available in weight categories for line support and the catch’s expected size.
If the food a certain species eats is under the water, especially in March or April, you might want to buy a sinking fly line to get your flies down to where the fish are feeding.
Fish strike at flies near or on the water surface in the warmer months.
It would be best to get a floating line to present flies on the water surface delicately.
Is Fly Line Backing Necessary?
The rule of thumb when adding backing to your combo is 100 yards on average.
You want to add a lot of extra size to your arbor to increase the line retrieve rates.
It is also not always that the reel is over spooled and your fly line can’t comfortably fit on the spool.
Are 100 yards enough?
Before this bothers you almost to death, remember that 100 yards are a whole length of a football pitch.
Imagine all these extra line on the reel.
Some trout species and sizes can never take you deeper into the backing that you end up needing over 100 yards of it.
If this often happens to you, reach me as I would love to adventure with you.
100 yards is excellent on average.
You can spool the backing on your reel if you know how to.
Some anglers think that the amount of backing is guesswork.
They tie about 50 yards to their lines and wind on hoping for miracles.
You can go to 125 yards if you are a skeptical novice trying out the salt flats.
Pro anglers will spool their fly reels with more backing to increase the effectiveness of the arbor size.
You want to increase the retrieve rates and reduce line memory to the minimum.
Apart from fishing monster freshwater species such as big lake trout, musky or salmon, there are low chances that the fish will bolt far enough to unwind a huge chunk of backing.
But sometimes, you will find times when you look at the backing and wonder, especially if you catch a massive rainbow on a big lake or river.
Sometimes, even the toughest of fish can take you a third way into the backing which isn’t much.
Should I Use Braid as Fly Line Backing?
Yes, and no.
Fly fishing isn’t like spinning where braid works effectively because of its immense strength to the diameter ratio in that technique.
I know some anglers who use braid lines like the Airflo Micro which is fairly supple and with a low diameter.
For salmon spools, you need quite a bunch of braided backing to fill them.
Some anglers consider it as it doesn’t cost a fortune if going down that lane.
If the braided line you are using is cheaper to make it worthwhile, it might be stiffer in the end and get prone to tangles.
You will likely see an unsightly bird’s nest from your spool heading to the tip ring if you catch a 35-lb buddy.
Would you still be proud that you saved some bucks?
The reel capacity will dictate if you can use braid as fly line backing.
You might need an awful amount of braid before correctly backing up over the standard Dacron.
Braid can be extremely aggressive on your fingers and rod rings too.
Most anglers are never keen when guiding their backing evenly over their spools.
But, if you don’t have enough space on your reel, a braid can be an alternative, only if you will always remember to be careful with your fingers.
What Is Gel Spun Fly Line Backing?
Opinions of types of material for backing are multi-flavored like those for fly rods.
For the same reason, different casting styles favor one product over another.
Sometimes, it is difficult to recommend the gel spun backing over its cousin the Dacron.
Gel spun backing is made from polyethylene gel.
They could be in the form of fused parallel strands or braided strands.
Some manufacturers treat these lines with different lubricants like Teflon and silicone.
Others coat them with extra plastic or treat them with heat.
Some manufacturers combine the plastic and heat methods in the finishing procedure.
A Holland-based firm, DSM high-performance fibers invented this backing in the 1990s.
Initially, it was called Dyneema.
It got licensing in Toyobo Japan and the Allied Signal was in the USA.
Allied gave the gel spun backing the name Spectra.
All in all, it is the same thing.
It is the characteristics of this backing that dictates how anglers can use it.
Also, this will determine if you will choose gel spun over the typical Dacron backing.
Gel spun is known for its smaller diameter.
It increases the reel’s capacity to hold more backing than it would when using the standard options.
Reels with such backing have more of it and the strength is higher.
You can have more gel spun backing on a fly reel because it is thinner and more fits on the spool.
Anglers enjoy faster retrieve rates when a fish bolts with quite a big chunk of the line.
The fly fisher has a larger arbor as they battle their soon-to-be catch, especially if it is a species that takes long runs.
While trying to catch up with the run, the drag pressure remains consistent, thanks to the spool diameter that only changes slightly.
There are so many issues when it comes to tying knots on gel spun backing.
Most of them revolve around the high modulus material, leading to low stretch and brittleness.
Some knots weaken these lines easier than they would a Dacron backing.
Gel spun backing twists as you tie because of the low stretch.
It is difficult to perfectly tie some like the Bimini twist.
This backing boasts greater abrasion resistance because it is thinner, slicker, and stronger.
Manufacturers and pro anglers are still perfecting the backing to fly line connections.
Stronger and thinner gel spun backing has higher chances of cutting through the fly line than Dacron.
Gel spun backing doesn’t hold dye but some lines such as the Power Pro easily lose their dyes more than the Bionic braid and the likes.
Thanks to the smaller diameter, this backing has less water drag, a crucial aspect in big game fly angling.
Use reasonable pressure to wound gel spun backing on your spool because of the small diameter.
Do I Need to Replace Fly Line Backing?
Yes, you might need to replace your fly line backing at least at some point in your fishing journey (for as long as you keep indulging in the sport).
Fly line backing will never last forever – bust, we wish it could!
Thousands of anglers rig up for tough fighting fish from king salmon and steelhead to bonefish.
Such species can send your backing to zip out of the fly rod guides.
You might pay top coins for rods, reels, and lines but you will most definitely forget about the backing.
The backing can rot, break or coil up until you can’t use it again.
Anglers going after freshwater species like trout and bass around their home waters rarely see the backing.
It makes regularly changing it or ever doing it not as important.
Most anglers never have time to fully dry out the backing after each time they dunk the reel.
The backing becomes tight on the spool and since it is unused, it rots thus reducing the breaking strength.
It isn’t a doubt that backing can last a very long while if you take care of it well.
You need to replace it if you see signs of rot or black mold (it is advantageous when using white or light-colored backing).
Abrasion and nicks are signs you shouldn’t ignore.
Your backing can twist beyond unraveling or repair.
Avoid struggling with the tangles as you might weaken the backing.
If you can’t remember when last you replaced your backing, the universe is signaling you.
If you are packing your gear for a fly fishing trip soon, save yourself the stress, embarrassment, and inconvenience by replacing your backing.
How Long Does Fly Line Backing Last?
Fly line backing should last 250 use days on the maximum.
Some anglers give it a range from 100 to 250 uses.
But, remember that the life span of a fly line backing is dependent on the use.
Use, grim, storage, and the sun are factors that degrade backing.
For full-time guides and anglers, the duration is estimated as one or two seasons.
Occasional anglers will have this for a decade or more.
Fly angling for an entire day can be termed a single-use day.
The quality and price here might influence the duration your backing lasts but not always.
We have seen cheap backing that lasts about 200 use days and that isn’t bad at all.
But, most guides say that premium backing lasts longer.
The technologies that go into such backing are what make them last 860% longer than other options.
Because modern backing has high-grade material, it improves flexibility and prevents degrading if stored well when not in use.
If you buy a backing made five decades ago and still have its original packaging unopened, it should be fine.
You need to do regular inspections by stretching the backing to eliminate coil loops.
I know you will ask if backing has a shelf life.
It all depends on how the packaging and storage when on the shelf.
But most modern options have UV stabilizers to minimize UV degradation.
It is advisable to buy backing without broken seals to increase the chances of getting the most out of your purchase.
What Can I Use for Backing on a Fly Reel?
Two types of backing exist in the fly fishing sector that you can use on your fly reel.
These are Dacron and gel spun backing.
The two materials are great for the backing but each differs from the other a little and I will explain this in a bit.
Backing comes in all colors you can think of but pro anglers suggest buying those that are easier to see as per your vision.
You need to see where the catch is at the end of your setup.
It should also alert you if there are obstacles like rocks, fallen trees, branches, or coral that can affect your ability to land a fish.
Dacron backing is the most typical among anglers and is cost-effective.
The material is common in clothes but if braided together forms an excellent fly line backing.
This one is strong with the low stretch ability for an extra feel and anglers love it because it is abrasion resistant.
It makes it ideal to have on your fly reel.
Manufacturers design this for trout and other small freshwater angling thanks to its slight thickness and its ability to consume the extra space on the spool.
Dacron is hollow and you can splice it and connect it to the fly line.
Gel spun backing is another option from high-grade braided polyethylene.
It boasts a smaller diameter than Dacron and is stronger.
You can wound more yards of this backing on your reel’s arbor compared to Dacron.
It is handy when fishing in saltwater for species like tarpon and sailfish that can reel out over 200 yards into the backing in a minute.
Be careful because the tiny diameter can be deadly to your fingers as it jets out of the reel.
Micron is another backing type whose popularity is growing.
It is a Dacron-based substitute.
Micron backing braids the Dacron strands into a round tight braid that is strong and less susceptible to tangles than flat braids.
There is the Hatch’s braided backing that blends the feel and touch of Dacron and the reduced diameter and strength of the gel spun backing.
This one doesn’t cut your fingers like the gel spun would easily do.
It is quite costly but anglers who use it swear by its function.
What Is Fly Line Backing Made of?
Fly line backing is available in two major varieties – gel-spun and Dacron.
Dacron is the conventional type made from high-grade tough polyester often called polyethylene terephthalate.
PETE is a synthetic resin used in designing some of the typical plastics you see today.
The material is found on spinnaker sails of advanced contest racing boats and soda bottles.
Dacron is considered a trading name, though, associated with PETE.
You can spool it in longer strands to form tough synthetic lines with reduced coefficient friction.
It makes it the perfect option for fly line backing.
Dacron is mostly available in 20 to 30-pound tests.
Some anglers are preferring gel-spun fly line backing because of the extra capacity.
Gel-spun is made from a polymer known as high-modulus polyethylene.
HMPE is a material for use in ultra-safe bungee and climbing ropes, body armor, and high-grade sailing lines.
Gel-spun material has polymer chains that give it its higher breaking strength.
It is also responsible for the decreased diameter.
The above aspect gives it one of its primary advantages over conventional Dacron backing – gel-spun backing holds 75% more capacity than its sister.
It is like an angler buying a massive insurance policy on species that can run the furthest in the ocean.
What Is Fly Backing Purpose?
Some anglers think that they don’t need backing at the beginning of their lines while fishing.
The purpose of backing and its uses generously outweigh the duration taken to add it onto the fly reel.
One of the primary purposes of fly line backing is the additional strength and length to the fly line.
You might be reeling in a monster or a species that understands the battling ground.
Backing comes in to help you maintain the fish on your line.
You need to allow big fish to run a little while fighting them.
A typical fly fishing line measures about 75 to 100 feet.
Fish take off faster in a fight than they go about their usual business.
If you aren’t careful, it is easy to run out of line.
Fly fishing line can be costlier than other line types and you don’t want to risk having no line from losing it to a monster species.
The backing gives your fly fishing line a solid anchor to your reel and what should break is only the leader in case a battle between you and the species turns sour.
The backing helps to fill up the fly line more than the line would on its own.
Most novices don’t understand the importance of filling up the reel more.
Usually, the fuller your fly reel, the faster, you can reel in the fly line.
If you have the fly line only on the reel, the reel’s open space has a tiny diameter and will need more reeling to get a short distance of the fly line in.
Overall, the primary reason for fly line backing is to give the angler a dependable insurance policy during long and harder battles.
Freshwater anglers might not require backing as much but it is crucial for the saltwater fisherman.
What are the Advantages of Dacron Backing?
Dacron backing offers insurance for drag blistering run sessions of bonefish, steelhead, and most freshwater species.
Anglers use it on chars, trout, rainbow, cutthroat, and salmon.
Dacron backing is from high-grade polyester and blends with other fibers to boost durability and strength.
It means it will not break at the time you need it the most.
The best quality is considered abrasion-resistant and quite sensitive, you catch become easier than before.
The diameter of the Dacron backing is thin, making it flexible to influence your casting distance.
Because of its abrasion resistance and strength, it holds up pretty well in heavy cover, brush, or rocks.
It has proven to hold up well under pressure from most species and can withstand extreme weather like cold and hot temperatures without being brittle.
Another fantastic advantage of Dacron backing is that it doesn’t absorb water with ease.
There is no need to worry about this backing wetting your hands as you reel in the fish.
What are the Pros of Gel Spun Poly Backing?
There are so many pros of gel spun poly backing that influence its use.
These factors will help you determine if you will drop your Dacron backing for it.
Gel spun backing has a smaller diameter to increase the capacity of a fly reel to hold the backing.
You can put over double the backing amount on a fly reel while doubling the strength.
Since you can put more of this backing on the reel, it is easier to maintain a fast recovery rate in case a chunk of the line is reeled out by a racing species.
In short, you have a larger arbor as you battle long-running species.
While at it the drag pressure is consistent thanks to the spool diameter.
These boast more abrasion resistance.
Gel spun backing is thinner, slicker, and stronger and abrasion isn’t an issue but the high modulus can make it susceptible to weakening if nicked.
Pro guides are still perfecting backing to fly line connections to maintain strength.
These have smaller diameters thus creating minimal water drag, a crucial factor in big game fly angling.
When Should You Use a Dacron Backing?
Dacron backing is the most typical type among most anglers.
You will need this if you are looking for durability and backing that stretches 10 to 15% to balance fish fighting abilities and the shock that comes with it.
It is perfect for the fly fisher in need of an affordable material to increase their fly line length.
Pro anglers advise using the Dacron backing when not worrying about overburdening your fly reel.
It is ideal for fish species that aren’t swimming over 300 feet.
It is pretty much the most fish you can catch when casting using a fly rod.
Even though freshwater anglers hardly use backing, this is an option you will find amongst a few in these areas.
It is recommended for trout fly fishing and catching smaller freshwater species.
You will love it if you want a relatively thick backing that takes up the extra space on your spool.
When Should You Use a Gel Spun Poly Backing?
Gel spun ploy backing is sometimes referred to as spectra or PE backing.
You will need this for saltwater areas.
This type of backing is used by fly fishers with limited line capacities when catching species that bolt for over 300 feet.
Gel spun backing material is quite thin allowing anglers to load longer lengths of fly lines on their reels.
These are perfect for big game angling because of their high capacity.
Gel spun backing has 60% more capacity compared to Dacron options hence its preference among big game anglers.
It is braided from high-grade gel spun polyethylene making it ten times stronger and more durable than steel in the same diameters.
Tiny diameters for more yardage on fly reels mean slow spool r/ms on faster pickups and runs.
These virtually don’t have any stretch and are more abrasion-resistant.
Gel backing has a lower friction coefficient and won’t damage fly rod guides.
They retain all their strength when in water.
Most importantly, they are resistant to detergent, salt, oil, gas, and UV.
Can You Use a Substitute for a Fly Line Backing?
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for fly line backing.
Some anglers use mono for a base but this isn’t ideal.
Others use bass fishing braids which are almost like gel spun backing.
There are no issues if using this thing.
However, ensure you aren’t over-tensioning the braid on small-weight reels.
Some anglers can be in a pinch and the only thing available is the monofilament or braided line.
These might work but as advised, they aren’t recommended.
Is There a Difference between the Real Fly Line and Backing?
Yes, the actual fly line differs from the backing.
The fly line is the real tapered line you attach to the leader and a fly.
The fly line is responsible for transferring energy the fly rod generates through to your fly.
It is what allows you to cast and get a little bit of distance.
The backing attaches to the end fly line’s butt end and the spool on the fly reel.
Backing gives an angler more line to play with when battling a fish.
It might not be imperative when casting in creeks and small streams.
But, the backing is definitely a must if going after bigger species.
What if you don’t use any backing on setup?
You will notice your fly line developing horrible fly line memory because it is wound on the spool in tighter loops.
The backing increases the arbor size resulting in the minimal line memory.
How Do You Choose the Right Fly Line Backing?
Getting the correct fly line backing creates the difference between hooking a species of a lifetime and losing your only chance.
Most freshwater anglers don’t get to see or use fly line backing often but it is the opposite for saline anglers.
First, you need to understand the functions of backing.
You want a backing that backs up your fly line’s length with extra distance when battling species that make longer runs.
It might be necessary for trout anglers but you will need it for roosterfish, permit, and other saline species like steelhead and salmon.
The material matters – you might need gel spun or Dacron backing depending on your needs.
Dacron backing is the most universal name for PETE-made polymer.
This backing is strong and has a lower coefficient of friction.
Dacron is available in 30 to 50lbs and is the standard choice of fly line backing.
Gel spun is a more modern polymer known as HMPE.
It is strong and has a smaller diameter.
Gel spun backing is for anglers who chase fish that run miles like bonefish, sailfish, GT, and tarpon.
How much backing you need is crucial.
Usually, 20lbs covers most freshwater applications while 30-50lbs will do for bigger saline species and escapades.
Who Needs to Use Fly Line Backing?
The need for fly line backing depends on the fish species you are after.
You might not need backing all the time.
Some anglers might have almost 130 feet of fly line on their rods with only their tippet, leader, and line.
You won’t need to fight much if you are going after small brookies and panfish.
It means that there might be no need for backing.
If you are casting out only 30 feet of the fly line, you will have over 60 feet to reel in fish.
This is most likely going to be enough.
It is recommended to have a little bit of backing when going after smaller fish.
You want to have the capabilities of casting or letting out all of the fly lines in occasional times when need be.
If fishing for monster species or casting in faster waters, you will want some amount of backing on the reel.
Insurance in this case doesn’t hurt one bit.
In freshwater areas, steelhead, salmon, and carp will pull off enough fly line to need backing.
Fishing in saline areas requires backing.
You also want to ensure that you have enough backing when in water with obstacles or hazards like large rocks, snags, and fallen logs.
It is recommended to have more fly line length to play with in such an environment.
What are the Differences between Dacron and Gel-Spun Backing?
If you are an old-school fly angler, you can remember when the only fly reel of choice was the Billy Pate Tarpon.
Despite its tremendous weight, it was more bulletproof.
The trick during those days was having a short yet wide fly reel for more capacity.
Most manufacturers designed smaller reels to reduce weight but capacity was a big issue.
Dacron was the best backing to use because of its bigger diameter to increase strength.
When trying out new material, the gel spun was thin for the pound test.
This stuff gave more capacity and solved the issue anglers had but there were still more pending things.
For some reels, arbors were tiny.
As you dump the backing on the reel, the arbor’s diameter goes down faster.
When fish stops bolting, you had to collect all your line on the spool that was the size of thread spools.
You could reel in the line frantically until the arbor was increased to collect more fly line per revolution.
Manufacturers improved the reel designs and Abel designed the 4N that was taller and narrower.
But came the flooding markets with large arbor reels.
Dacron backing is common on most modern reels.
Gel spun backing allows the angler to get better strength from a tiny diameter.
It means you can use lighter and smaller reels to execute the same task.
What are Some of the Saltwater and Freshwater Backing Choices?
Most buddies think of fly angling as a solely freshwater thing.
But, unless you try the technique in the saline areas, then the comparison might give you a migraine.
You can catch a wide variety of fish in saltwater through fly fishing.
However, fishing on a river or stream is very different from fly fishing in the estuary or ocean.
Apart from the water salinity being brutal on your fly angling gear, the fish eat different insets and patterns.
The water size is a primary determinant of whether you will change your angling technique from your usual lake or river to the ocean.
Both gel-spun and Dacron backing work well in saltwater areas.
The determining factor is the material’s performance.
For instance, the backing length is one of the crucial differences in saltwater.
The fly line, tippet, and leader can maintain the same length.
It means that you might need to use more backing.
Hence, gel-spun backing is the most popular in saltwater areas.
The small diameter allows you to load more onto the fly line.
What are the Common Mistakes with Fly Line Backing?
Anglers should avoid nail knots if using monofilament core lines.
Nail knots strip off the cores of these lines.
You will not love them when fishing heavy tippets.
Albright knots are the most suitable in such conditions.
However, both the Albright and nail knots don’t allow anglers to change their lines faster.
Fly fishers need to be extremely cautious when making knots using the gel-spun backing.
It is because the GSP backing is considered slippery and this contributes to the knot slippage, especially if you catch a bolting fish.
You will most likely see the buddy take off with the fly and line, which isn’t a great thing.
Stick to Albright knots if using this backing to be on the safe side.
It is crucial to carry out regular maintenance and checks.
Retying the backing to the reel occasionally before fishing is advisable.
Please remove the line after your trip if you intend to fish not so soon.
Clean your fly reel with clean soapy water.
Pro anglers advise soaking the backing and then air drying before winding the fly line back for storage.