How To Spool A Fly Reel | Step By Step Guide For Beginners

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Fly fishing is the best way to test patience. From spooling to fishing, it exacts a lot of attention from the fisherman. And it’s inconceivable to go fly fishing without knowing how to spool a fly reel.

My friend is a passionate angler. Once, he invited me on one of his fishing trips.  As a naive, I consented. But with no words, I can explain the three hours of silent sitting I had with him.

Story apart; if you are into fishing, then here’s a guideline on how to spool a fly reel at home. Are you ready?

How to spool a fly reel step by Step:

  • Select a fly reel
  • Choose fly line
  • Backing

Different Types of Fishing Knots:

Before starting, you should know the kinds of knots you require for spooling. As a beginner, it’s not feasible to learn all of them at once. However, you can start with the easy and traditional one.

Arbor Knot:

It is a simple yet effective way of tying backing to the reel. It ensures a secure connection to the line in case your fly reel gets overboard. Even if you somehow lose the rod, you can use the fishing line to pull it out.

Albright Knot:

I love it because of its ability to pass through guides smoothly. The Albright knot is perfect for joining lines of varying diameters. That is why you will mostly find it used for tying the fly line to the reel backing.

Nail Knot:

It has broad use in joining fishing lines. To tie backing to reel and fly line, and the fly line to leader. Nail knots are great for joining pieces of similar or different diameters; or even material. A less effective alternative for a nail knot is a loop-to-loop knot that allows easy changing of leaders from the fly line.

Surgeon’s Knot:

It’s an easy way to secure backing to fly reel without much effort. If you are in a hurry or difficult position, knowing how to use a surgeon’s knot will certainly come in handy.

Blood Knot:

As the name suggests, it requires a lot of effort to learn blood knots. It is the most reliable tie for connecting pieces of similar diameters. The slim knot will ensure your line glides through weeds without tangling.

Clinch Knot:

One of the quickest, strongest, and most stable knots for joining fly-to leader tippet. A Clinch knot is beneficial for easy set-up and a standard option for fastening the fly line to the reel.

Uni Knot:

This is the most versatile knot you can use in fishing. No wonder it earns its credibility among the fishermen as an effective knot for varying connections. From tying hooks to securing backing, one single knot can ensure a firm and reliable fly line for fishing.

Spool a Fly Reel

How Much Backing You Need:

Whether you need backing or not depends on the nature of the fish you are targeting. What it does is extend the length of the fly line. So if you wish to get some really nice trout or big catches, having backing will only secure your line and nothing less.

Typically you will get fly lines around 90 to 110 feet long. Which is adequate for freshwater fishing unless you are targeting big fish. As for salmon, carp, or other big fishes, you need backing on your spool. But how much backing do you need?

The flyline and size of your arbor will speak for it. But you must have at least 1/4th inch free-spinning space after you finish reeling. For a fly reel of 1 to 4 weight capacity, you don’t need backing. To cover that, you need to fill your spool with 80-200 yards of backing.

There are two kinds of backing you will find in the market; Darcon and Gel-spun poly. However, Darcon is the most budget-friendly option for you, which comes in 12 to 30 pounds load capacity.

How to Prepare a Fly Reel?

Backing is the first step of preparing your fly reel. Without proper backing, you won’t get enough volume on your spool, which will lead to slow retrieval during pulling.

So, how to set up a fly reel? Begin by choosing the retrieval style you want [left or right] and position the spool accordingly.

  • Now tie the backing to the spool. You can use an arbor knot or nail knot for that. As for the arbor knot, use the following steps:
    1. Use the tag end of the line to put an overhand knot around the arbor of the spool.
    2. Tie another one on the tag end, an inch or two farther away from the first one.
    3. Using the standing end, tighten the first knot down the spool just beside the later one.
    4. Finally, clip the tag end and shield the knot with tape.
  • Once you have your arbor knot around the spool; wrap the spool across the arbor breadth with backing. We have already discussed how much backing you may require. But you can use your judgment here. To keep your spool steady during reeling, you can use stick support.

Wind Your Reel With Fly Line:

Now you have completed backing, the next step is how to set up a fly line. For a straight and smooth line wrap, try to keep 3 things in mind during spooling.

  1. Wrap your reel with the fly line right from its original spool.
  2. Do not spool on the side of the fly reel.
  3. Ensure the standing end comes off the bottom rather than the top of the spool.

Some fly lines and leaders come with loops, but if yours don’t have one, you can make one. Here’s the step-by-step direction on how to spool a fly reel.

  • Tie the fly line with backing using an Albright or Uni knot. If you want to go for Albright knot then go through the following process:
    1. Create a small loop at the tag end of the fly line and pass the backing through it.
    2. Hold the backing away from the fly line. Using the standing part of the backing create at least 10 loops around the fly line and then pull back through the loop on the other side.
    3. When two sides of the backing come in parallel, pull firmly and secure the knot inside the loop.
  • Wind the fly reel with enough lines. Consider the tricks we mentioned earlier. And just like backing, you can use support during spooling.

Tips: If you think you have used more backing than needed, then there’s always the option to retract. Just unwind the fly line, cut off the excess backing, and redo the whole process.

Connect Leader to Fly Line:

It’s not hard to find a leader or tippet with a pre-tied loop for easy connectivity. That makes it more suitable for a loop-to-loop knot. But a Uni knot is also perfect for tying the leader to the fly line.

However, if you don’t find any pre-tied knot on your leader, you will have to create a nail knot before joining the line.


If you really love fly fishing and want to go for it on a boat or offshore, you should learn how to spool a fly reel with fly line and backing first.

Fishing has its own kind of excitement for the anglers. But to be the best, you need to exercise perseverance. And that’s not only during the long hours of sitting. It starts right from the beginning point of equipping.

Hopefully, our feature on how to spool a fly reel will prepare you for the long voyage.

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