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Setting Up a Fly Fishing Reel the Right Ways – Know from Experts

setting up a fly reel
Written by Immanuel Baranov
Last Update: July 24, 2023

Setting up a fly reel is easy to do, but for first-timers, everything has complications. If it has been a long time since you have been fly fishing, we might need to give you a refresher. Once you set up the fishing outings, everything is facile from them on.

There are different methods of rigging a reel. However, we are going to be laying down an essential way to rig the fly fishing reel. The method we will be presenting here is the standard one hand rod, and for basic fly casting for catches like the bass, trout, pinfish and things like them.

Setting Up a Fly Reel – The Appropriate Way

The ways we will be discussing below don’t need to be the only way to cast a reel. However, we recommend this if you have not been fly fishing before or if you are randomly searching the internet for more ideas. This data is also going to be information-based. So if you don t have a fly fishing reel, read this for when you have.

Things You Will Need

  1. A Fly Reel
  2. Backing
  3. Fly Fishing Line
  4. Leader
  5. Scissors

All of these types of equipment are all you will need. Trust me if you do not have any of these you are not ready, do not be discouraged. You can get them in stores nationwide.

Attaching the Backing to Your Reel

What we want to do when setting up a reel is to tie the support. The amount of the backing that you will need is ultimately based on the reel; this isn’t straightforward; however simple it seems to be. You would have to research the specific reel that you have to find the recommendation for the amount of backing that you want to use for your particular reel. A coil can take around 100 – 125 yards of backing and should handle a few wiggle room.

You do not want too much backing because your fly line has to fit comfortably on the reel and should not be rubbing against each other. So you have to leave room for space to avoid any cramping. If you notice cramps, you can always go back to remove the excess backings.

In attaching the backing, roll the tip around the center of the reel and then tie an arbor knot. After you have finished dying the, trim the tag rim carefully.

Now that the arbor knot is secure. We have to wind up the backing. When you start the reeling, it is not uncommon for the backing to slip around the center of your reel as you turn. Fixing this is simple, it is recommended that you start reeling very slowly and patiently trying to avoid any form of tension. As soon as the backing catches, when it is beginning to wind up, this is when you add more pressure, this is the tension that you will be using throughout the spooling process. When you reel, always make sure that you spread the backing right across the spindle to avoid it building up in excess on a single strip.

After spooling, you can now cut it with scissors. As I have said that if you find out later that you have used too much backing, you can always come back and trim it farther back.

Attaching the Backing to the Fly Line

It is essential to note that before you continue with this step, you have to be aware of the side of the fly line has to be connected to the backing. Fly lines popularly come with a tag which will let you know which end is the lead or which others should stay behind. There are cases when the fly lines do not have a sticker or a label. You will now have to figure that out yourself. Just know that the end line is a long, thin, and usually uniform line which you will pick, while the other end should have a weighted paper.

Now that you know the end to use and the backing is spooled, it is time that we connect these two love birds. Depending on the fly line that you have, popularly fly lines should have welded loop on each end. If you have one of this then you do not have any problem—life is easy! In this case, all you have to do is to make a clinch knot and insert them through your loop that is with the backing, and you trim the tag rim.

In cases when your fly line doesn’t come with an already welded loop, your options are two, The nail knot and the Albright knot. They both work; however, the Albright is more comfortable with tying as per consensus.

After you have finished tying the knot that you prefer you have to remember that you have to cut the label end carefully. A friend lost a beautiful rainbow trout because the fish directed him into his backing and the knot that connects it was caught in one of his rod lead which popped the fish off.

Make sure that when you are done, you leave an excellent and clean knot.

Then you have to coil the line entirely the same way you twisted the backing. Make sure that as you reel you, the tension is maintained as the line is spread across your reel. As soon as you are done, the fly line should fill the gaps in the spindle and make sure that it doesn’t touch the line protector. If it is affecting the metal, you have to go back and get rid of some backing.

Wind the Fly Line onto Your Reel

After doing this, we can just go into the final stage of attaching the fishing line onto a spool. Setting this depends on whether your fishing line came with a loop already attached to it from the manufacturer, or is it one of those cut end.

Making a Loop for Connection

This is quite simple; all you have to do is put a loop over the top of the opposite circle then keep the tip of the lead across the inner loop. When you get here, you have reached the final step when putting the line on the fishing reel, when you have a loop already on the fly line.

Adding the Finishing Touches

To be through with adding the leader into your fly line. It can be done in different ways. Use the Albright knot or the nail knot. Because of the slimmer nature of the nail knot, they have the advantage. The nail knot can easily slide through the steers of the fly rod.

Tying the Nail Knot

Tying this knot can be a bit tricky, purchase the nail knot tying equipment to aid you. You can match the nail knot with a straw or with a similar object. With the right amount of practice put in, over time, it should become easier to make the nail knot without assisting yourself with other purposes. Don’t worry. There is usually something around to help yourself with.

There is good news! You likely would not have to make this knot as soon as the line is placed on the reel. It is recommended that you live parts of the former leader when it is time to change. This makes for easy attachment of the new lead to the former one with the loop to loop method or the blood knot.

Maintain Your Fly Reel

Below are the recommended steps to maintaining the fly reel and the fly line;

  1. If the old leader has been grazed by the sun, it is ok to throw it away
  2. Using Walton’s thumb, scissors or nail clippers. Cut 10-12 inches off the edge of the fly line.
  3. Get rid of this too. The reason is that this 10-12 inch is more beaten by the sun, so they will eventually breakaway
  4. use a tiny dab of superglue to protect the fishing line from water mess up the fishing
  5. now wrap the backing around something that is larger in circumference to your reel. For example, a coffee can or a jug, this way the line is left expanded so that the line will slide out of the reel with fewer knots
  6. the fly line will get dirty because of the water it comes into contact with. You can clean it up with an even CLR and water mixture. CLR is used because it is not a very harsh chemical. Rubbing down with alcohol is not farfetched.
  7. Lubricated the reel, using liquid lubrications will do, it helps to temporary alleviate bolts, but it will evaporate soon


You are all done, folks! The only thing that I left out is adding the tippet as you are going fishing. If you set up the fly reel correctly, trust me! You do not have to unspool your reel. Follow the steps of fly fishing setup to change the leader or even clean the fly line when necessary. And you have no problem fishing with this same method.

About the author

Immanuel Baranov

My life is pretty much defined by my avid outdoor activities. I’m generally obsessed with fishing, skiing and occasional hunting and whitewater paddling. I’ve been active since my early years. I inherited my passion for fishing from my father who made frequent family trips to the banks of Sacramento River. Growing up, I did a lot of fishing in the vicinity. Now that I have two sons, our weekends are full of fishing activities. I would say, you need good spots where you can go out a lot for the thing you love. I had the privilege to grow up near numerous water bodies and I’m proud to say that I made good use of them. It’s also great to do something with kids that helps them learn patience, endurance and preciseness.

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