How to put line on a fly fishing reel

Written by anthony potenza
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How to put line on a fly fishing reel
Fly fishing reel (fishing reel image by Brett Bouwer from

To put line on a fly fishing reel requires joining two lines of different diameter together, a backing line and the fly line. The backing is a thin, braided Dacron line attached to the spool of the reel. It adds volume to the reel and acts as a reserve if you are lucky enough to hook into a large fish that manages to pull out all the fly line from your reel.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 250 yards of 20-pound test Dacron backing
  • Fly line
  • Pencil or thin ballpoint pen
  • 3-inch nail
  • Clippers

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  1. 1

    Attach the fly reel to the fly rod using only the butt section of the rod if it is two pieces or more. Take the tag end of the backing and run it through the rod guides and attach it to the reel spool or arbor with the appropriately named arbor knot. To do this, first make a basic overhand knot around the line. Then tie a second overhand knot which will keep the line from slipping through the first knot. Moisten the knots and pull the line tight around the arbor. Cut off the excess.

  2. 2

    Run a pencil or pen through the centre hole of the backing spool. If you can, enlist the help of someone to hold both ends of the pencil or pen to allow the spool to spin freely. Apply tension to the line with your fingers and evenly spool approximately 250 yards of backing onto the reel. When finished, trim the end and leave the line in the rod guides.

  3. 3

    You now need to attach the end of the backing to the end of the fly line. The best way to do this is to use the nail knot. Start by placing a 3-inch nail between the fly line and the backing. Wrap the backing back towards the end of your fly line around six times. Pass the end of the backing through the loops that were just made. After the line is through, pull on both ends of the fly line and backing, making sure the loops don't cross each other. Holding with your fingers, remove the nail and pull both ends away from each other. Clip the excess backing and fly line close to the formed knot.

  4. 4

    Repeat Step 2 to spool the fly line onto the reel.

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