top of page

Fly Line and Backing - the Easiest Way

If you've ever gotten frustrated with complicated knots and methods when setting up a new reel or changing the backing and fly line on an existing one, this post is for you!

Click Here or on the image above to watch the video!

You've purchased your new fly rod from the local shop and they've set it up with your new backing and fly line... Awesome! But what happens when you buy a new spool for your reel? Or if your line and backing start rotting and falling apart? You can definitely head back to the fly shop to buy more lines and have them spool it for you, or...

You can easily spool it up yourself! I guarantee after you read this and watch the video above, you'll never again be intimidated by setting up your own reel. Let's be honest though... there are A LOT of knots to learn in the fly fishing game so who wants to learn even more??

And, it is really nice to have someone save you precious time by eliminating a step or two for you. Also, I'm all about supporting your local fly shop!

But what happens if you're in a pinch? You're leaving tomorrow before sun-up for that week-long steelhead or saltwater trip and you just noticed your line needs serious attention?

If you have some backing and spare line, there's no need to swing into the shop just to get spooled up. Or, if you have to stop in a shop on the way out, you don't have to wait around to have someone spool it for you... you can get back out on the road or head to the airport and get to fishing ASAP!


1. Know your retrieve: most reels are factory-set for left-hand retrieve. If you retrieve right, you'll have to look at your reel manufacturer's instructions to see how to switch the drag. NEVER JUST ASSUME YOU CAN SIMPLY TURN THE REEL AROUND!!! If you do, you'll be reeling against your drag and the fish will be pulling freely without any!

2. Pop/unscrew the spool out of the reel frame and set the frame aside for now.

3. Picture how the line will reel onto the spool when you're turning the reel handle. It should (when set up and fishing) enter the reel on the bottom and be pulled in, behind, and then up over the top of the spool (Clockwise for right-hand retrieve and counterclockwise for left-hand when looking at the handle side of the reel (usually opposite the drag knob)).

4. Run the tag end of the new backing line reverse of normal reel (reverse of step 2). Run the end of the backing line over the top of the spool, and down around the back of the spool. This will help keep the backing from slipping/spinning around your reel spool. End with a good 6 or 8 inches sticking out of the bottom and back toward the backing spool. Now, the running part of the backing (attached to the backing spool) and the end/tag part should be running parallel, running line on top of the reel spool and the tag end on the bottom. Put a small overhand knot at the (tag) end of the backing line and trim right against the knot so there's no extra tag. This is your stop knot.

5. Take the tag end of the backing line again and make a loose overhand knot over the backing running line (the top "leg" of this process...the line from the backing spool to the top of the reel spool). Tighten this knot down slowly up against the previous stop knot. Once secure, pull tight on the backing running line away from the reel spool to tighten the backing around the reel spool. Pull up and down to cinch the backing loop tightly around the base of the spool. Pop/screw the spool back into the reel frame.

6. Stick a pen or pencil into the hole in the center of the backing spool. Have someone hold the pen/pencil and add a touch of tension. You can also hold the pen/pencil with your feet if you're doing this solo! Make sure you don't reel the backing on too loose or too tight. As you reel the backing on, use your finger or move the reel slowly side to side to evenly lay the backing into the spool. You don't want to stack line on one side. Feed it across, back and forth, back and fort until you've added enough backing for the job. 50 yds for small trout, 100 yds for a lot of standard applications, and more (up to 200 yds) for big game/saltwater reels.

7. Don't reel all the backing on. Leave about 20" or so outside the reel. Double the backing over on itself making a loop big enough to fit over the reel. Tie an overhand knot using both the tag end and running line. The knot should be placed near the end of the tag end. Trim the tag right up against the knot.

8. Grab your fly line. Most will have a welded loop at the back of the line (the end that goes on the reel first. It will be the only end of the line you can see and it usually has a label that says something like "attach backing here" or "this end on the reel first." Pull off the label. Now, you're going to make a loop-to-loop connection here by pushing the backing loop (from step 6) through the fly line loop. Pull the backing loop through the fly line loop until there's enough room to pass the reel itself through the backing loop. After you do this, pull the backing loop tight down onto the fly line's end loop!

9. Reel the fly line onto the reel in a similar manner as the backing.

10. Done!

It looks and reads like a lot of steps but, I promise you, it's not. Watch the video for a visual aid and it'll make more sense to you! PLUS, there are 2 "hacks" in the video that, for the sake of this blog's brevity, are not included here.

Feel free to send any questions, tips, or tricks you use when spooling your reels!

Cheers and tight lines!


20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Life is Better on the Water

bottom of page