Reel Repair by Alan Tani

Fly Fishing => Rods, Fly Lines, Backing, Leaders & Knots => Topic started by: Rivverrat on August 02, 2020, 05:56:58 PM

Title: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: Rivverrat on August 02, 2020, 05:56:58 PM

       Could some one please take on the task of explaining, walking through the proper way to load line for a fresh water reel on a 5 - 6 rod ?  ... Jeff

Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: jurelometer on August 02, 2020, 07:45:47 PM
1.  Reel to backing.

Arbor knot or similar, same as a conventional. Braided  Dacron is the classic backing and will be fine in freshwater.    For Dacron, 20 lb below 8 weight is typical.  30 lb for 8 and above.

For gelspun, no lighter than 30.  In saltwater, no heavier than 65.

2. Backing to fly line.   

The important thing is to make sure that the transition from fly line to backing is smooth so  that the thick end of the fly line will not catch in the guides.  Ideally the knot will be strong enough that the fly line breaks before the knot. 

 So Now you have some choices.

I like to make it easy to change fly lines.  So I go loop to loop.  I tie a Bimini loop in the backing, and the double up the loop with a double surgeons knot.  The double loop makes it easier to undo the loop  after it digs into the fly line coating on a big fish.  The loop in the backing should be longe enough that it can loop around the reel or a coiled fly line.

Fly lines often come with welded loops on both ends.  First generation welded loops were unreliable.  The new ones are pretty good.  I wouldn't trust some guy at a fly shop counter to do an on-site weld. I also  not believe in home weld techniques using heat or solvents.

If the fly line does not come with a back end loop, you can simply double over the fly line, tie a couple nail knots and whip the end with some thread coated with a soft adhesive, like something you would use for wader repair (e.g. Pliobond, Aquaseal). 

Or even better,  make a double catch loop in some hollow braided mono (30lb for under 8wt,  50 for 8 and over).   slide about 6 inches up the back ( can get by with 3 or 4 inches on trout gear), nail knot (only one) with 6 lb mono, and coat with adhesive as above. Folks are starting to use hollow gelspun, but I have not tried that yet.  Gelspun will not have as much of a finger trap grip on the fly line compared to mono.

Looping the fly line is more important than looping the backing.  If you don't change line a lot and are not going for big fish, you can simply tie the backing to the fly line loop with your knot of choice (clinch, San Diego, etc.). 

3.  Fly line to leader.

I still do a loop to loop.  Doubled over fly line, or even better braided loop.   With a loop, you can replace the entire leader setup as needed.  Keep the loop as small as possible,  no bigger than 1/4inch ID. On the fly line side, no more than about 5/8 on the leader.

Loops in the leader end of the fly line horrify trout and some saltwater flats purists.  They believe that the loop screws up the layout of the cast (don't think so),  and makes more of a splash on landing and can  change the drift angle (mebbe true, but pretty trivial). 
If you want to avoid a lecture from a local trout guru, nail knot the thick butt section of the leader to the fly line (no loop).   The butt should be at least a foot long, so that you can tie on fresh leaders several times without replacing the butt.  For some reason, some trout gurus approve a tying a loop in the mono butt ???   Use a nonslip loop here.

4.  Leader construction.

For knots -  nonslip loop at the butt end.   Section to section of similar diameter, use a blood knot.   It takes me some experimentation to find a the right knot for a specific combination, but a slim beauty and RP are often used by me. 

In terms of leader section length/diameter formula, Too much to get into here,  but it can be quite simple.  For 90% of my fishing, I just use a straight shot of mono of the final tippet strength.  For tapered leaders, I am of the belief that less is more.  Three sections are usually plenty, with the first  section being about half the overall length.    If you get into one of those ridiculous situations where you supposedly need a super long leader, just add more tippet.

For freshwater stream fishing, especially starting out, it can be easier just to buy a a couple tapered leaders and a spool or two of tippet material.  Just tie on more tippet as you use up the tip tying on new flies, or if you need to change tippet size or length.

5. Tippet to fly.

For any fly that is supposed to have an action, there has to be a loop.  I use a nonslip loop.  For dry flies (not poppers) that are supposed to layout straight with the tippet, use a specialty knot so that the fly is tied straight and not skewed (there are better knots than a clinch for this, but not my knowledge area).

6.  Alternate approaches.

There are some more complicated methods that involve stripping off coating,  jamming leader or backing inside the coating, DIY solvent or heat welds, etc.  These can provide a smooth transition, and may work well for the folks that use them, but you will generally be giving up some strength and durability, which could end up biting you in the a**, or not, depending on the type of fishing that you are doing.   So not a good match for the type of fishing that I do.

Always more than one "right way" to do things.  I am curious to see what the other fly folks here do.

Clear as mud?


Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: wfjord on August 02, 2020, 09:21:40 PM
Well, since J has covered this pretty well, I'm not sure I've got much more to add here, if anything.

Methods usually vary a bit due to personal preferences for backing types, knots, and various types of loop to loop connections, i.e., mono, welded loops or braided loops, etc.. but for basic freshwater fishing here's what I do.

For reels 3 to 6 weight (for trout, bass, panfish, etc) I prefer 20 lb Dacron backing. Put on enough Dacron backing to build up the arbor as much as possible and still have room for the fly line. A double taper (DT) line takes up considerably more space on the spool than a weight forward (WF) line, but initially the DT will be easier to cast since it's heavier and loads the rod noticeably better. Ultimately, though, a WF line will allow farther casting distance.

1--Tying the backing to the arbor -- I use a uni knot and wind on the desired amount of backing. Wind the Dacron or braid backing on tightly so it won't slip and doesn't feel soft or spongy.

2--Tying the backing to the butt end of the fly line -- use an Albright knot or Nail knot. Heavier weight lines 6 and up I use an Albright.  I've only used the Bimini loop connection to a loop from a doubled 3 turn surgeons knot with 8 & 9wt lines --it seems unnecessary with lighter tackle, and even with heavier lines it's quicker for me to just tie the backing directly to the fly line with a good Albright knot as I'm not going to be taking a fly line off a spool while on the water. I have extra spools for that.

3--Fly line to leader -- as mentioned above, some fly lines have built in end loops for loop-to-loop connectinons with the leader; and some people prefer welded or braided loops. I've used them, too, but I keep reverting back to my original method...
for a loop-to-loop connection, I tend to prefer tying a short piece of mono to the front end of the fly line with an Albright or Nail knot and then tying a perfection loop in the other end of the mono as a "semi permanent" connection loop for a leader.

4--For tying a light trout tippet to the end of a leader, I use a double surgeon's knot.

5--Trout tippet to fly connection -- use your own favorite terminal tackle knot.  I tend to use a plain old uni knot mostly.
   Re: Tippets for trout -- I have small spools of tippet material in a range of sizes from 4x to 7x, in mono and fluoro.

For trout I sometimes tie my own leaders (blood knots, with a uni knots connection for the last section), and since I'm sometimes lazy, I usually have a few store-bought tapered leaders on hand and add lighter tippet material.
For bass and other warm water species I might use a single level piece of mono, or a two or three piece leader of my own making with the point of having a weak spot there in case of a hang up and the need to break off.
For schoolie stripers up to five or so pounds, a 5 or 6-wt outfit with a small thin 2 or 3 inch streamer can be huge fun, same leader setup as for bass.
For larger stripers I carry a heavier rod for lines sometimes in the 7wt, but mostly 8wt range, and maybe even a 9wt, depending on where I'm fishing and the probability of larger fish.

Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: Rivverrat on August 02, 2020, 10:01:45 PM
  Yes, keep this coming. I'm at a place of starting over with fly rods. I've turned down far to many request to build them in the past.  Simply put my skill level with fly rod in hand is that of a drunk monkey with a crayon vs.
  Norman Rockwell... Jeff

Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: happyhooker on August 03, 2020, 02:32:19 AM
One suggestion to what has already been said.

Put the leader on the reel 1st (don't tie to spool), then the fly line tied to the leader, then the proper amount of backing tied to the line.  Then, take it all off, perhaps to an empty line spool.  This will leave you with the backing on top.  Then, replace everything back onto the reel.  Purpose:  to get the proper amount of backing without having to guess, as you would have to if you put the backing on the reel at the outset of things.


Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: jurelometer on August 03, 2020, 04:27:59 AM

4--For tying a light trout tippet to the end of a leader, I use a double surgeon's knot.

I changed my mind.   I think this is better than a blood knot when the leader is thin enough.  A double (or triple) surgeon's is a bit bulkier, but it is stronger and very fast to tie.  No reason to futz with a blood knot to tie on a fresh chunk of tippet when out on the stream.

I also should point out that I went into a bit of detail on choices for a bunch of scenarios.  If you just want to go out and mess with some stream/pond trout or panfish, you won't even get into your backing. Just Albright the backing to the fly line as Wfjord suggested, nail knot a short chunk of 12-20 lb mono onto the the leader side of the flyline, loop to loop a a chunk of straight mono or a pre-made tapered leader and go fishing. 

If you are in smallmouth country- this is an excellent flyrod species. Tie on a slightly weighted fly.

Strip, strip, strip, pause.  Strip, strip pause... WHAM!

Good on you for doing a bit of fly fishing yourself before building rods for other folks.  Fly rods are the simplest type of rod to build.  Just have to keep the wraps light with as little epoxy as possible.  So you are actually over-prepared in the rod building skills department :)


Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: Tiddlerbasher on August 03, 2020, 11:02:17 AM
The only thing I do differently from what has already been said is the use of hollow core braid.
I wind on the flyline (no knots just sticky tape) - then 40/50 lb hollow braid to almost fill the reel.
I then unwind everything onto a kite reel like this:

Why a kite reel? - It really speeds up the whole process and you don't need a spare fly reel (not really a problem for most fly fishos :D)

I drill a hole through the middle of the handle and fix an 8mm longish bolt to act as an 'axle' that can be clamped in a vice or to a bench. The'axle' helps when it's time to wind the line onto the reel.

To secure the hollow core to the fly reel I wrap approx. 5 turns around the arbor - each wrap crisscrosses the previous one - then secure with an arbor knot (with a long tag end) - pulled up tight. I use this same method for all braid to whatever reel.

I then reel on the braid as tightly as possible - leaving the last couple of feet hanging.
Because I've had thin hollow core tear into welded loops I then blind splice 100/120lb hollow core section onto the end of the backing. Then blind splice a large loop onto the end. Why a large loop? When I need to change the fly line a large loop (4/5 in diameter) can be passed over a reel or flyline spool to facilitate a loop to loop connection.
If you are not interested in changing flylines you can splice the flyline into the hollow core using a ca or whipped splice - plentyof vids out there.

For leaders I only use tapered leaders with a perfection loop.
My fly lines usually come with welded loops (Rio by preference) otherwise I will weld loops at each end. Most factory loops are to big for me so I re-shape them to something a bit smaller/slimmer.
Welding loops is not too difficult BUT PRACTICE IS ESSENTIAL (save all those old flylines ;)) - as is the right kind of heat gun. I use one of these:

fitted with a specific nozzle that concentrates the heat in a very small area:

There are plenty of educational videos out there (Youtube etc.)
Rio have actually done a few - repairing loops, splicing lines etc. Just try and Identify what material type your line is generally PVC or Polyurethane as they require different welding temps.
I would advise AGAINST trying to use an ordinary paint stripping type of heat gun - you wont have the necessary control.
Havn't tried it yet but it should be possible to weld a loop in mono - another 'round toit' project ;D
I started doing this as a challenge - you learn new things as you progress, hopefully :-\ ;D

If this all seams too much agro just buy a ready looped flyline.

Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: oc1 on August 03, 2020, 08:10:11 PM
Wow Chris.  That's a great trick using the heat shrink to hold the line together and then peeling off the heat shrink after welding.  Lots to think about.  Let us know how it goes with the mono.  

Title: Re: Loading Reel From Backing To Tippet
Post by: jurelometer on August 03, 2020, 11:19:25 PM
Welding looks like fun!  Probably works well in the right situations.

I use welded loops when they come with my line, but I prefer braided mono.   The welded loops get chewed up at the loop to loop connection from the leader or backing when you pull hard (like on a big fish).  Braided loops last longer (I have taken them off of worn out fly lines and reused). A braided loop is more compact and passes through the guides easier than a weld (although a quality weld will pass through well enough).  A braided loop is always stronger than the fly line, and will not get weaker over time (at least it will always be stronger than the underlying fly line).

You can buy pre-made mono loops from all of the major fly line makers.  Here is one: (

Or you can make them yourself.

This Rio video shows the simplest method, but I don't like the use of CA glue, as it loses strength when submerged, and has a more limited lifespan. (

This is the method that I use: (

There is a version similar to the Blanton method, where the whole mess gets gets turned inside out before sliding onto the fly line.    I forgot why, but it is supposed to be an improvement on the Blanton method.  I haven't tried it.

I am on my last two feet of 50 lb Gudebrod Braided Butt (also labeled as hollow braided nylon).  If anybody runs into some 50 lb in clear/natural or dark brown, I would be greatly indebted for the help.