What Is Fly Line Backing?Fly line backing is used to describe the thin, strong, braided line that connects to the arbor of a fly reel. When your fly line already runs out of its length, the backing would come in handy, as it starts from the back end of the fly line. So what is the purpose of this item? Imagine that you manage to detect a bite. But the fish turns out to be super aggressive and tries to escape before getting properly hooked with the lure. As it swims further and further away from where you are standing, the limited fishing line would make it impossible for you to rein in the catch. Even worse, the force exerted by the fish can stretch the line beyond its limits, break it in half and ruin your entire trip. That is definitely something you want to avoid as much as possible, right? Worry not, because this is when backing proves its usefulness. The extra line would extend the capacity of your reel, providing you with an opportunity to catch up with the fish and land it successfully. All in all, you can regard backing as some sort of a backup option. It is not mandatory to have backed with your fly reel. But without one, you may find yourself in an emergency if the standard fly line is not enough.
Do You Need Fly Line Backing?As stated above, fly line backing is by no means a must-have for the fishing gear. However, in most circumstances, you are recommended to have backing based on the following reasons.
- The fly line is not endless: Typically, a fly line is only 100 feet in length, an equivalent of roughly 30 meters. While this number sounds like a lot, it would not be sufficient for that intent on fly fishing in vast areas. Popular locations like Madison river or Missouri river are huge, and bringing one single spool is simply underprepared.
- Fish can put up a fight: Multiple species like permit, salmon, bonefish, or steelhead are capable of running up to 100 feet and more, especially if the water conditions are favorable. There is no guarantee that you can secure the catch to the hook the moment it takes a bite. When a fish struggles to escape, it can easily outrun your fly line.
How Much Fly Line Backing Should I Use?How much backing fly reel you need depends on many factors, including the length of the fly line, the type of fish you are aiming at, and your fishing spot (on a moving boat or on a deck). If your fly line has the standard 100-feet length, it is recommended that you have another 100 feet in backing, just to be sure. This way, the arbor has plenty of room for rotating and flipping more lines into each cast. But for fly lines that are extra long, you might want to dial down a bit on the backing. If you get too much, the reel may end up getting overwhelmed and you cannot fit the entire line neatly around the spool. Some species are more resistant than others, so you might want to learn a bit more about the strength and fighting habits of fish. For example, catching a trout would require a backing of around 150 feet made from 20lbs Dacron. But catching steelhead is much more of a challenge, as it calls for at least 500 feet of 20lbs Dacron backing. In another scenario, when confronted with water game fish like permit or bonefish, you may need up to 600 feet and beyond of gel-spun poly backing. The last element to take into account is where you stand throughout the entire fishing trip. If you do not move around much and remain mostly static, it is better to have longer backing to reach further distance effortlessly. On the other hand, for those standing on a boat and are rather flexible in their maneuver, the length of backing can be reduced, since you can compensate by moving closer to the fish.
ConclusionWhile fly line backing is more of insurance rather than a mandatory part of your fly reel, having it alongside can prove to be advantageous when the time comes. Thus, you should always consider adding backing to your tool kit. That being said, measuring how much backing fly reel is necessary for each fishing trip is not always easy. The number can vary significantly based on both your preferences and other external factors. Therefore, it never kills to understand the working mechanism of a fly reel and its components, the characteristics of each fly line backing, and apply the knowledge to real life. Once you grasp the concept, getting fully prepared for fly fishing is a piece of cake!
Born in Lakeland, Florida, Daniel has started fishing since he was just a tiny little kid. His father was a real good fisherman, as he taught Daniel tricks and tips to catch the fish better. From those childhood memories, Daniel has built up his love for fishing. Until now, he has been participating in several bass tournaments and currently serves as the Chief Editor of fishingonsunday.com to share his precious knowledge and experiences with many more people.