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So you’ve just bought your first fly reel, backing, and fly line, and it’s time to set it up. You’re probably asking yourself, where do I begin? Not to worry - we’ve created a simple guide that walks you through setting up your fly reel, step by step. This is an easy process, and you’ll learn a couple of cool knots along the way. Enjoy this guide, and more importantly, enjoy fishing with your new reel!

What You’ll Need:

1. Fly reel

2. Fly line

3. Fly line backing

4. Leader

5. A pen

6. Nippers or scissors

7. A buddy to help

Step 1: Attach Your Backing

The first thing you’ll need to do is attach your backing to your fly reel. If you’re unsure what backing is, or why it's used, check out this Blog Post.

Start by removing the spool of your reel, and tying the backing on using an arbor knot. Snip the excess tag end once you’ve tied the knot. Now put the reel spool back onto the reel.

Arbor Knot

Next, put your pen through the backing spool, and hand it to your buddy. You will now reel the backing onto your reel while your buddy holds the backing spool steady, applying slight pressure to create tension as you wind.


Not sure how much backing to spool onto your reel? Check your reel’s specifications first. Most reels have a chart on the box or an informational booklet that tells you how much backing to spool onto the reel. If you can’t find this information, here’s a general guideline:

3-4wt reel: 50-75 yards of backing
5-6wt reel: 100 yards of backing
7wt+ reel: 150-200 yards of backing

Step 2: Attach Your Fly Line

Now that you’ve spooled your new reel with the proper amount of backing, it's time to attach your fly line. If you’re unsure what a fly line is, or why it’s used, check out this Blog Post.

First, you’ll need to tie a surgeon’s loop in the end of your backing. Tie the loop large, allowing room for the fly line spool to pass through.

Surgeon's Loop

Next, pass the backing loop through the welded loop on your fly line, and then pass the fly line spool through the backing loop, creating a strong loop-to-loop connection.

Loop-to-loop connection

Now it's time to wind the fly line onto your reel. Have your buddy hold the fly line spool, using a pen as a spindle. Ensure the fly line spool is oriented so that the fly line is coming off the bottom of the spool, and onto the bottom of the reel. This ensures that the fly line’s natural coils will be maintained, and will prevent frustrating tangles. Now begin winding the entire fly line onto your reel.

Step 3: Attach Your Leader

Loop-to-loop connection

The final step is to attach a leader to your fly line.

Start by taking a fresh leader out of the package, and carefully uncoiling it. Once you’ve got it unwound, it’s a good idea to stretch the leader with your hands to remove any excess coils.

Next, pass the welded loop of your fly line through the loop of your leader, and then pass the terminal end of your leader through the welded loop of your fly line. Voila, another loop-to-loop connection!

Now you’re ready to tie on a fly and hit the water. We told you it would be easy.

If you found this guide helpful, be sure to check out our beginner series of Blogs, where we cover all kinds of topics related to fly fishing and gear.


Give us a call at 888-413-5211, or email us at [email protected] for expert advice on all things fly fishing.