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What Do You need to Know about Fly Fishing Backing Line?

What is a fly fishing backing line? Fly fishing is a sport in which an artificial 'fly' is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line to entice fish such as trout. A type of fly used for this purpose is called 'nymphs.' The fly line itself may consist of monofilament (a single strand), braided (multiple strands woven together), or Fused Cloth lines made by fusing many microscopic fibers under heat and pressure. On the other side, the backing material acts as a reservoir to store an extra fly line that can be deployed when needed during the fight with the fish. The butt section at the end attaches to your main fishing rod while you are fighting your catch. There are different types of fly fishing lines: monofilament, braided, and fused Cloth lines. These can be used for both fresh and saltwater fishing.

There are basically two reasons why you need a backing line (also known as 'backing'): backing up the fly line to reduce its stretch in case it breaks; providing an extra monofilament line which is helpful when a very long cast is needed. 

What is a fly fishing backing?

A fly-casting backing serves two purposes: to take up slack during a fight with a fish and provide additional distance on long casts. The ability to back up your fly line comes from the properties of the material the floatation device called "the intermediate" is made of, which is usually some type of braided line. Fly casting backing is not only used when the fly line fails but it can also be used to gain more distance on long casts where you are just reaching the end of your backing. The term "backing" refers to monofilament, which goes behind the fly line.

Backing lines are typically made with braided Dacron lines because they have low stretch properties and high strength-to-diameter ratios. Other materials include Spectra or Kevlar in higher breaking strains. Another good choice for backup material is fluorocarbon leader material which has better abrasion resistance than Dacron; however, it has more stretch than Dron. The diameter of a fly fishing backing is important because it determines the amount of weight that the material can pull. A thinner fly line backing will result in a greater capacity than one with higher diameter.


Braided lines are usually either 100% polyester or a polyester core wrapped with another fiber such as Dyneema, Spectra, Vectran, Dacron, or Fluorocarbon. Braided lines provide better wear and abrasion resistance than monofilaments because they spread out any pressures over their entire cross-section, so the high points aren't being rubbed against each other as much. Another advantage is greater knot strength - no matter how strong your leader knots are, they won't hold if you try to use them to attach your fly line to your backing. The downside is that they are more expensive than monofilaments and tend not to float as well because of their hydrophobic nature. 

How much fly fishing backing material do I need?

Backing lines come in various diameters depending on the amount of weight required for your rod action; however, anything above 50lbs will require a specialist. For trout fishing with a 3-6lb line, you should be looking at about 200 meters (220 yards), while saltwater flats fishing ranges from 400m-800m (440yards - 875yards). In most cases, you'll find a fly shop happy to cut lines down to size for you, which minimizes waste and saves money. Most anglers don't need more than 10lb/4kg line backing, allowing for about 300m of capacity.

Another important thing to consider when purchasing fly fishing backing is that it should be slightly less in diameter than your fly line because if the two are too far apart, the chance of spooking fish increases significantly. For example, if you use a 4lb test with 6lb braided material, there will be a large amount of stretch between the two, which can cause problems when fighting large fish or even small ones. If you don't have the correct backing on your reel, get some - it's better to be safe than sorry.

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