Pro Tips: Setting Up a Fly Line, Backing, and Leader

Zach Matthews is the editor of The Itinerant Angler website, a fly-fishing writer, and a photographer. He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week. A while ago, he put together these two informative videos that will help beginning anglers get their fly-fishing set up ready for the first time. Since trout season is about to kick off for many of us in the northern part of the country, I figured that this is a good time for a primer on the topic. Even if you’ve fly-fished before, this primer will serve as a refresher.

In the video above, Zach demonstrates how you attach backing and the fly line to you reel. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • your trout reel
  • a spool of “backing” (for trout, 20 lb. test is typically plenty)
  • a fly line
  • some 20 lb. monofilament, and
  • a tapered leader.

In the second lesson, Zach explains how to add tippet to your leader, how to tie on a fly, how to add split shot, and how to attach a balloon strike indicator. In the process, you’ll learn the double surgeon’s knot, the clinch knot, and a mid-leader slip loop.

If you’re doing this for the first time, you’ll need the following items:

  • a knotless tapered leader
  • a spool of tippet material
  • a fly
  • some split shot, and
  • a small balloon or some Poly Yarn for an indicator

A few notes on the techniques described here:

1. Although Zach is correct in saying that the easiest way to squeeze a split shot is to use your teeth, I agree with a dentist I once guided, who asked, “What fish is worth a chipped tooth?” I use my hemostat to squeeze split shot now.

2. The method that Zach uses to attach the balloon indicator will also work with Poly Yarn. You simply thread a piece of yarn through the loop, and tighten up the knot at the center of the yarn.

5 thoughts on “Pro Tips: Setting Up a Fly Line, Backing, and Leader”

  1. Excellent, informative video. After 50+ years of fishing with spinning outfits I’m finally going to try fly fishing. This was very helpful. Well done!

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