Fly Fishing Blog

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Set Up a Fly Rod for Trout

You have your fly fishing outfit and you’re ready to set it up. Great! Before you begin make sure that you have the following…

Fly rod
Fly reel
Fly line
Backing (20 lb. Dacron)
Braided loop or 2’ .021 monofilament
1’ ¼” dowel (or a new pencil)
Small, sharp scissors (or nail clippers)
Flex-CH waterproof super glue (Zap-A-Gap)
2” length of hollow tubing (metal or plastic) – if using .021 monofilament

  1. Place the fly reel on the rod and make sure that it fits the reel seat properly. There should be enough of the reel seat foot covered to properly secure the reel to the rod. If not, stop here. You need to exchange the rod or reel for one that fits. There is nothing worse than losing your reel when fishing due to incompatibility.
  2. Remove the reel and make sure that it is set up for right- or left-hand wind. Most trout fisherman prefer left-hand wind. If you need to change the reel over, do so now according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Prepare to put the backing onto the reel. Unwind about two feet of backing from the spool, wind the backing around the reel arbor, and attach it to itself using an arbor knot: ( Make sure that you pull the finished knot very tight against the arbor and that both knots are jammed against each other.
  4. If you have a helper, ask her/him to hold the backing spool with the dowel through it and apply slight pressure to to the sides of the spool; if you’re by yourself you will need to hold the dowel between your knees while sitting down, applying pressure so it won’t fall and against the spool sides also. Make sure that the backing comes off the top of the spool and goes to the top of the arbor (with the reel foot down). Begin reeling (your hand travels toward you) until the spool is filled to within 5/8” of the top. (This may be too much and you will have to adjust later, but it is better than having too little backing on the spool and creating additional knots.) Cut the backing, leaving about two feet outside the reel.
  5. Carefully open the plastic spool containing the fly line and carefully remove the chenille or other ties from around the line, then replace the line on the spool and close it, making sure that the line isn’t pinched between the two halves. Identify the end of the line to attach to the backing (usually labeled with a small sticker) and pull out about two feet of line slowly. Attach the backing to the line using an Albright knot (
  6. Using the same helper/self technique as before, making sure the fly line feeds off the top of the spool to the top of the reel. Wind the fly line onto the reel using very little pressure; you don’t want the line coils on the spool digging into each other. Continue winding until the line is about ¼” from the outer edge of the reel spool.
  7. If you have fly line remaining on the spool, that is okay, but you still have some work to do; if the 5/8” space estimate was right, go to the next step. If not, unwind the fly line, piling it loosely on the floor or wind it back onto the spool by turning the spool – do not wrap it by hand! – until you reach the arbor knot. Cut the fly line right at the knot and remove backing to reduce the diameter of that already wound onto the reel by about ¼” (or as much as you guess you had overfilled). Retie the arbor knot and wind the fly line back onto the reel. If you still have more backing to remove when you’re done, repeat this step. (I know this is arduous, but it’s sometimes trial-and-error to get it just right.)
  8. The last step is to put a loop at the end of your fly line so that you can change leaders easily as fishing conditions dictate. There are two choices here: a braided loop or a monofilament loop. I prefer the former because it’s easier to install and is lighter. With a braided loop, make sure that there is a ½” of flexible tubing over the loop end, then thread the line into the opening and “inchworm” the line down until it reaches the loop. Holding the loop firmly (putting a short nail through the loop helps) slowly slide the tubing to just over the end of the loop material. (If you go beyond the end, remove the loop and start over.) Put a small drop of Flex-CH glue on each end of the tubing. Capillary action will cause it to flow under the tubing, locking everything in place. If you want to use a monofilament loop, you must use a nail knot ( to attach a 1’ length to the end of the line. I recommend only four turns instead of five and you must make absolutely sure that the monofilament digs into the fly line coating. I recommend using a thin coating Flex-CH glue over the knot after you’ve trimmed the end of the monofilament closely. Finally, you must put a perfection loop ( in the end of the monofilament, leaving about 6” total.


At October 28, 2008 6:33 PM , Anonymous Menora said...

Good words.


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