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Thread: How Much Backing?

  1. Default How Much Backing?

    My lovely wife bought me a new Cabelas Traditions II 4wt Fly Rod and Reel Combo for valentines day. It came with fly line and a 100 yards of backing. I only plan on using this rod for small streams and was wondering how much backing do I need? Is it really nessacary to put backing/flyline on a reel all the way to the top?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Pinedale, WY
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: How Much Backing?

    With small streams you won't need much backing, but if the reel will handle all of the backing then I would put it on (you might want to try larger streams down the road), but if it overloads the reel where the line is rubbing the guides then I would go back and remove some of the backing so the reel runs smoothly with everything loaded on (no rubbing).

    I had a nine weight Orvis rod when I was in AK that had a Battenkill reel on it and I overloaded the backing. I wanted the maximum amount of backing for fishing salmon and I think I fished with it like that for an entire season before I finally took it apart and removed some of the backing. Everytime I reeled everything back on the reel it was always rubbing the reel guides, a real pain.


  3. #3

    Default Re: How Much Backing?

    I put 75 yards of 20 lb backing with WF4F on a small SA reel and have a good 1/4 inch of clearance from the guides. I would bet you can put the full 100 on without an issue.


  4. Default Re: How Much Backing?

    Remember out on the water you will likely not reel back on perfectly so if you filled it with very little tolerance you will likely...rub.

    Unless you know for sure rather than guess...seems most folks that care will put the line on first then fill with backing to where they want it .....then reverse the whole process....kind of a pain but worth it.

  5. Default Re: How Much Backing?

    I have always put on as much as would fit............but I am always rubbing my line on the reel.
    My new resolution this year is to put on like 20 or 30 feet less than the max so I will never have to worry about my line rubbing!!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Upper Mojave Desert

    Default Re: How Much Backing?

    The instructions with my fly line or reel (can't remember which) said fly line +backing to 1/8 inch below the top of reel spool.
    A member on here posted a great tip. Put fly line on your reel and then backing to 1/8 inch below top (that determines right amount of backing); take it off and reverse it.

  7. Default Re: How Much Backing?

    You guys seem to know what you're talking about. I'm begging and I'm trying to set up my pole for moderate trout fly fishing in rivers. I'm wondering how much backing, how much fly line, and how much for a leader. It's a 4/5 rod. If I missed anything, please post.

  8. #8

    Default Re: How Much Backing?

    Reels generally have recommendations for how much backing to put on, usually referred to as 'capacity'. Some reels just give one suggestion, like 100yards/20lbs, meaning 100 yards of 20 lb dacron backing. Others will give multiple suggestions depending on what line weight you are using, such as WF3F: 125, WF4F: 100, WF5F 75, meaning if you use a 3wt weight forward floating line you can use 125 yards, if a 4wt then only 100 yards, etc etc. Did you real come with any instructions like this?

    I did a quick check on Cabela's website and didn't see the Traditions II combo. Is your reel called a Traditions II or does it have a different name? The cabelas website lists backing recommendations for many of their reels. Without knowing the recommendations and not knowing what reel it is, it's hard to recommend specific yards of backing, but if you can give the reel name, we might be able to help.

    However, if they included 100 yards and you don't have any more info included, then 100 yards is a good place to start. Worst case scenario is, you get better tying nail knots.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    quiet corner, ct

    Default Re: How Much Backing?

    Quote Originally Posted by redraiders101 View Post
    You guys seem to know what you're talking about. I'm begging and I'm trying to set up my pole for moderate trout fly fishing in rivers. I'm wondering how much backing, how much fly line, and how much for a leader. It's a 4/5 rod. If I missed anything, please post.
    Fly lines are generally 90' and you use the whole thing. They're designed with a weighted taper that makes casting more efficient and for the most part you don't want to mess with that. There are exceptions.
    For the backing, you use as much as will fit on the spool under the line. Clear as mud I know, but that's how it is. Backing serves 2 purposes, as extra line for when a fish "runs", but mostly you'll find that it's just there to fill up space on the spool.
    Leaders as a rule of thumb can be about as long as the rod, but specialty leaders can range from 2 to over 14 feet, depending on what you're trying to accomplish. If you stick with a leader that's around the rod's length or a bit shorter you'll be fine most of the time. Leaders come in different diameters (lb test) and that matters maybe even more than the length.
    You should visit the FAQs sub-forum for more "gems"
    Frequently Asked Questions - The North American Fly Fishing Forum
    Last edited by Rip Tide; 09-24-2012 at 08:10 AM.
    The simpler the outfit, the more skill it takes to manage it, and the more pleasure one gets in his achievements.” --- Horace Kephart

  10. #10

    Default Re: How Much Backing?

    Backing serves two purposes. It allows you to stay connected to the fish when it takes all the fly line out.

    However, in your case, the main purpose will be to fill the "extra space" on the reel so that the fly line "fills the spool". If you put just the fly line on the reel, each wind of the reel will retrieve less line and the line will be in tighter coils that will be a problem in colder weather.

    One problem you will need to solve is how much backing you need to use. Too much and the fly line and leader will rub on the reel cage when you wind the reel after and during fishing. Too little and the fly line will be in tighter coils and you will gain less line as you wind the reel. You want to be able to gain the maximum amount of line with each turn of the reel but not have so much line on the reel that you trap the line against the reel cage.

    The best way to determine how much backing is needed is to first put the fly line and backing on the reel backwards, ie., fly line first. Set up the reel so it is correct for whether you wind with your right or left hand. Then remove the spool, noting vey carefully which direction the spool rotates when you are winding line onto the reel.

    Next take the front end of the fly line and pull the tip through the reel cage where the fly line would normally exit the reel. Then take the fly line to the spool, and wind in the direction the spool would turn on the reel when winding on the line. Wind enough fly line so that the tip is trapped under the following wraps so you can tug on the line and it is tight against the spool.

    Then reassemble the reel by putting the spool back on the reel. Be careful not to trap the fly line between the reel cage and the spool edge. Once you get the spool back onto the reel, the fly line will exit the reel as it should. Now you can put the reel on the butt section of the fly rod, if that will make it easier for you to wind the line and backing onto the reel. Otherwise, just hold the reel in your hand and wind with your other hand.

    Wind the fly line onto the spool taking the line across the spool evenly so that it does not form a lump in one spot. When you get to the butt end of the fly line, leave about 2 feet of it out of the spool.

    Onto the end of the line, tie on the backing. Then wind this on evenly over the fly line on the spool. Wind the backing on until it is 1/4 inch from filling the spool. This 1/4 inch of "head space" allows you to put on the leader and still leave plenty of space for sloppy winding when you are fishing and you won't jamb the line against the reel cage.

    If the side of the spool is ventilated (it has holes drilled), you can use the holes to determine how full the spool is. The first set of holes from the edge of the spool edge will probably be about 1/4 inch from the spool edge.

    Cut the backing once the spool is filled to within 1/4 inch from the edge. Now remove all the backing and fly line and reverse the backing and line by tieing the backing to the spool and winding it and the fly line on to the reel. It should be the perfect 1/4 inch distance from the edge of the spool. Add the leader and you are ready to fish.


    "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought"..........Szent-Gyorgy

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