Buying the right fly reel and rod isn’t the only thing you need to do before going on a fishing trip. Setting up a fly reel is the step you cannot avoid. It involves some tricks and techniques that may be overwhelming to someone doing it for the first time.
So if you are also a beginner, this article will take you through the whole process of setting up a fly reel with simple explanations of the common terminologies. So gather the supplies and get started!
You can check our guide on how to choose a fly reel.
Setting Up A Fly Reel – What You’ll Need.
Talking of supplies, here’s a list of things you’ll need for your fly reel setup:
- Fly fishing reel, duh! 4-5 size is good to start with
- A fly rod of matching weight (4-6)
- Suitable fly fishing line (more on this ahead)
- 100-150 yards fly line backing
- Seven and a half foot of 4X or 5X tapered line leader
- Small spool of 5X tippet
- A variety of flies
- Scissors or clippers
The above list contains only the absolute essentials. There are plenty of optional fancy items but can make the fly fishing reel setup straightforward and quicker. You can do your research on the internet for them.
If you need a guide on selecting the right fly reel, I’ve done a post about that as well.
For now, I’ll start with the types of fly lines and how to choose one.
A Brief Guide On Fly Fishing Lines
Types Of Fly Lines
There are two basic types;
- A floating line that floats
- A sinking line that sinks
Floating lines are more common.
Taper Of The Fly Lines
The taper is the gradual distribution of the fly line’s weight across its length.
There are two common types:
- The weight forward that has the thickest or the heaviest part of the line in a forward position
- The double taper, in which the heaviest section is in the middle
The weight-forward taper is most common.
How To Set Up A Fly Fishing Reel
After learning the basics about fly lines and other necessary equipment, it’s time to get started with your actual job, setting up a fly reel. This fly line setup diagram will help explain the process briefly:
Here I’ll be walking you through how I do it. You may find tons of other methods online on how to line a fly reel, but I’ll tell you the one I find the simplest. It gives the perfect fly fishing line setup for trout and other fish. However, you are free to improvise and modify it wherever you like.
1. Load The Backing
The first thing that goes in a fly reel is backing. Loading it is the first step of fly fishing rig setup. The length of the backing can vary according to your circumstances. You can check the manual that comes with your fly reel to see for any recommendations, if there are any. If not, 100-150 yards is a good length to start with. You’ll learn to adjust as you gain experience.
One rule, though, after loading the backing, there should be enough room left for the fly line without getting too tight and touching the reel’s framework.
Wind it around the reel arbor once to attach the backing and secure the end with an arbor knot.
Trim away any excess line. Next, start rotating the arbor very slowly with minimal tension on the line to will ensure no line slippage. Once it has started to wrap, you can increase the pressure. Also, you need to make sure that the backing sits uniformly across the spool. Here’s a video on how to spool a fly reel:
Lastly, trim the end with a scissor.
2. Attach The Backing And The Line
After spooling the backing, the next step of setting up a fishing pole is attaching your line with it. Nowadays, most fly lines come with labeled ends to quickly determine which one to connect with the backing. If that’s not the case with your fly line, the thinner end goes with the backing. The opposite end is thicker and with a taper.
Also, most lines usually have loops on both sides for easy connection. Simply tie the backing with a clinch knot and cut away the excess.
Now, reel the line just as you did with backing. The lines should evenly spread and not touch the top rod across the spools. If it does, unwind the fly line and cut off some backing.
3. Attach The Fly Line And The Leader
The last piece to go in your reel is the leader. If your line and leader both have welded loops, attaching them is simple. Put the leader’s loop through the fly line and then take the free end of the leader through the fly line’s loop, just like you thread a needle. Pull both lines, and voila! You have a tight connection that won’t hinder when you’re casting.
If you have a leader without a loop, you can do the job with an easy clinch knot.
Whereas, if you’re unfortunate enough to have no loops on either, you can try making one yourself. All you have to do is take a three-inch-long piece of monofilament and attach it to the fly line with the help of a nail or an Albright knot.
And on the other end, you can have a permanent DIY loop on your fly line with the help of a perfection loop. Now, tie the leader just like above, and you’ve finished the job.
4. Attach The Leader And The Tippet
Usually, anglers use the last part of the leader as the tippet. But that part wears off after you have changed the flies three or more times. Attaching a separate tippet saves up on the more expensive leader.
The best way of attaching the tippet to the leader is with a Double Surgeon’s knot. Once you’ve tied it, you’re down to the last part of setting up your fly reel.
5. Attach The Fly To The Tippet
After so many knots and lines, you are down to the last part of setting up your fly reel, attaching the fly to the tippet. The fly comes with a hook that can be tied to the tippet using a simple Clinch knot again.
And finally, you are ready to hit the water! The fly reel is all set and loaded, and all you have to do now is attach it to your fly rod and fish. And if you are having trouble mounting the reel on the rod, I’ll explain that too. If you want to know how to rig a fly rod, I’ll share a link for setting up a fly rod as well.
How To Attach Fly Reel To Rod
Setting up a fly reel doesn’t end here. You need to know how to set up a fly rod and attach a fly reel to rod.
The broad base of the fly reel is called its foot. It is the part that sits on top of the fly rod. Similarly, the part of the rod that receives the reel is known as the seat.
Before assembling your rod and reel, keep in mind your hand orientation. You will be casting with your right hand and reeling with the left if you are right-handed. It will be vice versa for lefties.
The top part of the reel seat has a small cut out near the cork. It is called the fixed hood, where one end of the reel foot goes in. While doing so, be mindful of the orientation of the cranking handle.
Now, seal the other end of the foot with the movable hood by sliding or screwing it until the reel secures in place.
And your fly fish line setup is all done and dusted!
Maintaining The Fly Line
I don’t think an article about fly fishing rod and reel setup can be complete without the instructions on how to care for your fly lines. The method is pretty simple. All you need is some soap, clean water, and two soft cloth or towel pieces.
- Put your fly lines in a bucket full of soapy water
- Let them soak for a few minutes and then take them out
- Now clean the lines throughout their length with a small piece of cloth
- Next, rinse the lines with clean water
- Finally, dry them by running a dry piece of towel from one end to another
Setting up a fly reel may seem daunting at first, but it is a relatively simple task that needs to be done only once with the proper guidance and techniques. After your reel is all rigged, you can use it again and again with a bit of maintenance.
image references from 101knots