December 3rd, 2001

Fly-line Backing
By James Castwell


"What is the best line to use for backing?"

You might as well ask, "What's the secret of the universe?" There are far too many variables for there to be one best answer. Different conditions suggest different backing. For the most part it comes in two basic sizes, well, at least it used to. For years the choice was twenty pound or thirty pound, you sometimes had a choice of color.

Then the 'new' gel-spun stuff hit the market and the whole game seemed to change. No longer was the old standard twenty or thirty the right choice, it got complicated. Then add Teflon coating for use in saltwater to make it slip thru the guides and the water easier. Now 'micro' sizes are available as well. You choice can now become very difficult. Here are a few elements to enter into your equation for the right backing for you.

If you are just filling up a small trout-sized reel so the fly line will be at the top of the spool and not all buried down by the center spindle use anything except monofilament. Monofilament can distort the sides of your reel and bust it. Probably the twenty pound would be my choice. If you are going after some specie of fish that will pull hard but not swim real fast then thirty can be a good idea. If the fish has a tendency to come back at you fast and you might accidently wind a few loose turns of backing onto the spool then you will want the thirty. Because it is larger in diameter it won't jam itself into the coils and stop your reel dead when the fish decides to go back out. It is rare to find one of us who has not had something like that happen at least once.

There is more. Suppose the fish swims like a shot, a bonefish for instance. Fast and strong. Here you need backing that will not drag a lot in the water. The normal sized thirty will look like a clothes line dragging a big circle behind the fish and increasing the drag with every wag of Mr. Bonz' tail. Been there, got that hat. The smaller diameter twenty, or perhaps the micro stuff may be called for. I use the Micron Teflon coated twenty for those times. It is small enough and slick in the water and the guides and does not make a big circle behind a running fish.

The one kind I really do not like is the gel stuff, or spider-wire or whatever you like to call it. When I have a fish big enough to strip backing I do not want to take the chance of getting my fingers cut to the bone by my backing. It is one thing to have some fly line in control under my fingers but that skinny backing is deadly. It will cut into me or into itself on the spool if given any chance at all.

Now there will be some who will tell you they have used it for years without any problem. Good, glad they haven't had any problem . . . yet. There is no one who has not grabbed or pinched, or thought of grabbing or pinching the backing to stop a fish. Are there more opinions on backing? You bet, just ask at your favorite fly-shop or watering hole. You're probably reading this looking for answers and all you have now are more questions, sorry about that. If I had all the answers I would write a book or something. I have been at this a few years and I still have questions, guess that's why I keep trying.

Micron Backing

Will you, when armed with all the answers, always have the right backing on your reel when you go out? Probably not. How much does it matter? That's up to you. How much does it?

P.S. I use the Cortland Micron Teflon twenty for everything. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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