Fisherreel is audience-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission that we use for site maintenance. Learn more


How to Spool a Fly Reel Perfectly: Step-by-Step Guide for the Anglers

how to spool a fly reel
Written by Immanuel Baranov
Last Update: June 10, 2022

The idea of spooling your own fly reel may sound complicated and daunting but really it’s very simple and doesn’t even take long at all. If you are planning to go to a fly fishing destination you must learn how to spool it beforehand. Here’s an easy to follow step by step guide that will tell you how to line a fly reel and have you lining your own reels in no time!

How to Spool a Fly Reel – What You Need

It’s important to make sure you have all the relevant components on hand before you begin learning how to spool a fly reel. Ensure you have the following:

  • The reel you wish to spool
  • A leader
  • The fly line
  • Enough backing line

Prep Steps!

Ensure the following has been done in preparation.

  • Tighten your drag so there is no give during the spooling
  • Place a bend in your backing
  • To ensure enough seat, run that bend a few times.
  • Make sure there is some tension when wrapping your backing. It should not be loose or have any slack at all.

All done? Good! Let’s get started with how to put line on a fly reel.

Step 1

Attaching the backing to your reel

You need to do all the actions detaching the reel from the fly rod or before installing it. First, attach your backing to the fly reel. Feed the end of the backing through the arbour of the reel and secure it. You can use an arbour knot to do this. “But I don’t know how to tie an arbour knot.” You say. Its ok, here’s what you need to know.

Once the backing has been fed through the arbour, tie an overhead knot on it. Then feed the knotted end between reel foot and arbour and bring it around the arbour and back out. When the knot is parallel to the backing, tie another overhead knot between the two. Then tug on the backing to tighten the knots around the reel. And there you have it, the arbour knot. Easy right?

Now wrap the backing around the reel and across the arbour breadth in even layers. Ensure there is no slack.

step 1

Step 2

Connect your backing to the fly line

If you find pleasure in fly fishing you should master the Albright knot as you will need to use this technique oftentimes. This is simple enough and can be done properly with precise instructions.

To tie an Albright knot, gather about a meter of a fly line. Fold the end of the fly line back to create a small loop in your left hand. Hold that securely.

Feed the backing through the loop with your free hand. 9 to 12 Inches is sufficient. Pin backing with the same hand that’s holding the loop. Now start wrapping the backing back around the fly line and backing. Make at least ten tight circles around the line from your finger toward the loop you’re holding.

Pull the backing you just winded back through the loop on the other side so both lengths come out of the small loop on the same side. Pull each side of the backing tightly.

Force the wrapped knot of the backing toward the loop and stop. Now with backing in one hand and fly line ends in the other, tug tightly. If there’s a bit extra on the line, snip it off. Bam! It’s done and dusted!

Now just wind this around your reel. Put something small through the reel hole to stop it from moving so you can ensure that the wraparounds are tight and even.

step 2

Step 3

Now let’s attach the line to a leader. The best knot for this would be the nail knot. It isn’t as simple as the other two but it’s not rocket science either.

To tie a nail knot, find a small tube such as that from a pen. It should, of course, be hollow and able to fit the fly line through twice.

Take the tube and fly line in your left hand. Leave a couple of inches between your fingers and the edge. Pull the leader over and make a two-loop. While holding the bigger ear of the loop, wrap the smaller ear back around five or six times. Pin this so it doesn’t unravel.

Now feed the end of the leader through the tube from the left. Pull gently on both ends of the leader but do not pull the fly line yet, or you’ll be starting again. Now remove the tube, ensuring not to disrupt the knot. Pull tightly in the leader ends so it clamps down on the fly line securely.

Now you can pull on the fly line and leader to ensure the knot sits and is solid. Snip any extra slack off the ends of both leader and fly line. And you now have a secure knot between line and leader!

step 3

Step 4

Pat yourself on the back, you now know how to spool a fly fishing reel!

Some Things to Be Cautious About

Knowing how to spool a fly reel will do no good if you don’t take the necessary precautionary measures. It’s easy to get caught up in it when you’re putting line on a fly reel and forget a few things but try to remember the following.

Mark the line you have spooled so you know what gauge of line is on your reel later.

If you’re spooling your fly fishing reel on site, don’t leave the line clippings or old line laying around, it’s hazardous to animals and doesn’t represent the fly fishing community well.

Ensure your reel does not get sand in it. Don’t leave it on the ground while spooling it or at any time. Those sand particles will be your undoing later. If you think you did something wrong or are not sure you nailed one of the steps, start again. Not doing so could cost you a fish, a reel, or both later.

And that’s that! Once you know how the specific knots are tied, spooling a fly reel is a piece of cake. You can do the same with any type of reel, including baitcasting reels! I hope this guide was helpful, and best of luck on your fishing adventures!


1. How much backing should my fly reel have?

Ans. The rule of thumb is to put around 100 to 125 yards of backing on a fly reel. You should still have clearance from the reel cage and room to spool on the line.

2. What color fly line is the best?

Ans. Clear fly lines such as lines with monofilament cores are the best for not spooking fish. They don’t serve the purpose well since trouts only see the leader in most cases.

Do I need waders for fly reel fishing?

Ans. Waders are not necessary but they help keep yourself dry when fishing from the water. Be aware of the sole when you use waders. Pick rubber soles over traditional felt soles since they are more environmentally friendly.

Does fly reel size matter?

Ans. Picking a reel size depends on the fish you plan to catch. Bigger reels can hold more backing. This makes them ideal to catch lightning-fast bonefish. Smaller reels are perfect for fishing small brookies.

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.

Leave a Comment