how_to_set_up_your_fly_line

How to Spool a Fly Reel in Steps.

Now that you have hopefully bought your rod, reel and line you will need to know how to set up your fly line and put it all together so you can go fly fishing.

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Fly fishing is a sport involving many skills, fly casting, river craft, entomology and knot tying among others. To be considered a proficient fly fishing angler you need to be able to be accomplish these with good precision. In this post we will walk through the task of setting up a fly rod so we can go fly fishing.


There are several steps to doing this task including;

a) Attaching the backing line to the reel

b) Joining the fly line to the backing

c) Adding the leader to the front taper of the fly line

d) Putting on our flies

e) Add water and go fly fishing.


What materials you will need is;

1 The Fly Reel, either a large arbor or regular spool reel.

2 Fly Fishing Line, in our case a weight forward WF5 floating line.

3 Spool of backing line at least 100ft

4 Braided Loop

5 Optional tube of Stormsure or Aquasure

6 Leader material

7 Flies


The first thing to do is load the reel with the fly fishing line unless you have purchased a kit with it already spooled on. The backing line is the first to be added to the fly reel. and is used to,

1) bulk up the fly reel to keep the fly line even and close to the top of the reel so it can be easily spooled on and off.

2) Its main purpose however is to allow the fish to take you on long runs if it chooses to do so. It’s important in your fishing line setup that you have this in place so you don’t loose fish.


How much line can you put on a fly reel?

A fly fishing line is normally 30 yards long and many fish species will want to run further than that so it is advisable to add as much backing line as your reel will allow.

If you are following the recommended start up kit here and purchased a 5 weight reel you will be able to spool on about 100ft of regular fly fishing backing.

I say regular as there are with all aspects of fly fishing many variations and these come in different dimensions. As thinner lines are more expensive I would recommend the basic backing line made from woven Dacron or braided monofilament which are more affordable.


Advanced Tip!

A good way to see exactly how much line you can hold on your reel is to first spool on the fly line and tie the backing to it with a simple knot and wind as much as you can until the line is close to but not touching the outer rim.

Then take it back off by either winding on to another reel or the spool it came from making sure you have cut the line at the required end. It takes a bit of back and forth but this means you will have the reel full to capacity.

Remember that you need to reverse the line before winding back on the reel and well worth the effort to get a reel to its optimum level.

What I do is reel it all onto the reel I’m using then off onto a spare spool then again onto another spare spool so it is now turned and ready to be wound onto the reel it’s intended for again.

To be clear there is a right way and a wrong way to spool fly line on and off a reel. If you hold the fly line on the spool it came with you will see it is wound a certain direction around the spool.

You need to unwind and direct that line onto a reel in the opposite direction so it winds around the spool neatly and not against itself. So if you are looking at both the reel and spool connected together the line is flowing nicely from one to the other without becoming twisted.


Whats the Best Knot for Attaching your Backing to the Fly Reel?

Arbor Knot

Once you have the line reversed you can start to add it in the correct order backing first followed by fly line.  The backing to reel knot that I prefer is the arbor knot. This knot is very simple to do and very safe.

Once tied on wind the backing on in even turns laying it down flat on the reel as best you can. If you take your time you will get it to lie flat and neat. If you are using the more expensive backing lines these are thin and really easy to wind on without much effort.


Next we have to know how to attach fly line to backing. This is where we need to be careful as a badly tied knot will not only loose the fish but possibly the fly line as it goes flying off the reel into the water and away after your prize fish. The knot regularly used here is the nail knot.

Nail Knot

It has great strength and when mastered correctly will sit nice and flat on the line. Hywel Morgan has also a handy tip in the video for connecting braid to fly line, I have used it successfully on a fly fishing trout setup but not so sure about salmon or larger target species.

Tip! Get some fly tying thread and run consecutive turns over the nail knot connection and run a couple of layers of quick drying varnish to form a very smooth finish.

Important when you are targeting species that will take you into backing line regularly you don’t want to have a huge knot bumping through your rings as it will break at some point.


OK now that is done and you’re sure of its connection wind the fly line onto the reel. Take your time and wind the line in even rows on the fly reel spool. This makes for easy stripping of the line for casting and for fish playing.

Now you will have come to the end taper of the line where we need to attach our leader. An easy way to do this is put on a braided loop on to the fly line which leaves the end with a nice loop so leaders can be attached whenever we go fishing easily with a loop to loop connection.

How to tie leader to fly line will become a regular task when going to fly fish so learning how to do this consistently and well is very important. As I have said before in other posts the weakest part of any fly fishing line setup is the knot so get it right.



The other way to do it is a simple hand over knot on the end which has been used successfully down the years before braided loop was developed. The braided loop does leave the line a lot smoother.

One thing to consider if you are targeting easily spooked species like wild brown trout the braided loop can cause tiny air bubbles to be released from the end of the fly line when retrieved and this can put them off. In cases like that I would use a nail knot to attach the leader.  For most cases the braided loop is fine.



Braided Loop

Braided Loop

Another Tip! When the loop is attached use some