How to Set Up a Fly-Fishing Rod and Reel

How to Set Up a Fly-Fishing Rod and Reel
You have your new fly rod, reel and lines laid out on the dining room table. It looks really cool, and even though your credit card might need CPR, it will be well worth the cost. Put it all together and start practicing that fly cast. Ah, the head scratch indicates you may need a little assistance here. No worries; assembling a fly-fishing outfit is a simple process, and you will soon be practicing in the backyard and hooking everything in sight.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Matched fly rod and reel
  • Fly line backing
  • Fly line
  • Fly leader
  • Snips
Step 1
Connect the fly rod sections together by pushing the rod blank of one section into the ferrule of the other. Align the line guides of the sections and twist the blank slightly to lock it in place.
Step 2
Attach the fly reel to the reel seat of the fly rod. Position the reel so that the handle is on the left or right side, depending on your preference. Place the feet of the reel on the reel seat and secure in place with the locking rings.
Step 3
Wrap the free end of the fly line backing onto around the center of the spool so that 6 to 7 inches of line extends past the reel. Secure the backing line to the spool with an Arbor knot. Refer to the resource section for detailed information on tying the Arbor knot. Pull the knot down tightly and trim excess line with snips.
Step 4
Wind the backing onto the fly reel. Apply a small amount of tension to the backing as it is wound and guide the line so it lies flat and even across the face of the reel. Refer to the manufacturer's directions for the amount of backing to wind onto the reel. A rule of thumb is between 50 and 100 yards depending on the reel size and type of backing material being used.
Step 5
Attach the main fly line to the backing line with an Albright knot. Form a loop about 2 inches from the end of the main fly line. Pass the tag (free) end of the backing line through the loop of the main line. Begin wrapping the backing around the doubled main line and the backing line working up toward the loop. Make eight to 10 turns, and feed the backing line through the loop the same way it came in. Pull the knot tight and trim excess with snips.
Step 6
Wind all of the fly line onto the fly reel spool. Do not cut the line, as many fly lines might feature a taper or weight forward design that can be damaged by cutting. If there is too much line on the reel, remove the fly line, reduce the amount of backing and spool the main line back onto the reel.
Step 7
Tie the leader to the main fly line with a Surgeon's knot. Overlap the end of the main fly line and the leader for 6 to 7 inches. Form a loop with the doubled lines. Pass the leader and main line tag end through the loop and make three to four wraps around the loop. Pull the tag ends to tighten the knot and trim excess line with snips.
Step 8
Guide the tag end of the leader through the line guides of the fly rod. Lay the rod and reel on a flat surface and feed the line through the guides. Having the rod in a horizontal position will help prevent the line from sliding back down and out of the line guides.

Tips & Warnings

Determine the amount of fly line backing you need by winding all of the fly line onto the reel first. Use a permanent marker to make a small mark on the tag end extending from the reel to indicate this is the butt end of the line. Some lines might be weight forward or tapered and it is important to not mix up the ends. Wind backing onto the reel over the fly line to determine the amount of backing line needed. Remove the backing and the line and continue with the process with an accurate amount of backing line.

Article Written By Keith Dooley

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.

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