Fly line backing is a must have on your fly reel regardless of the species you fish for or the method you use.
As a fishing tackle store owner and guide, I’ve been able to test out many of the top fly line backings and these are the ones I recommend.
Fly line backing is the section of the line that goes between your reel and your fly line, and there are three types that you should consider when spooling up your reel.
Our Teams Top 4 Fly Line Backing Picks
There are a bunch of different fly line backings available, and they all have their pros and cons. However, I know some of you are in a rush, so here are my top picks for fly line backing.
- The Best Dacron Backing: Rio Dacron Fly Line Backing
- The Best Gel Spun Backing: Cortland Gel Spun
- The Best Fly Line Backing For Trout: Rio Dacron Fly Line backing
- The Best Fly Line Backing For Steelhead: PowerPro Hollow Ace backing
What Is Fly Line Backing and Why Do You Need It?
Fly line backing is a type of super thin braided fishing line that goes between your reel and your fly line. I always have good fly line backing on all my fly reels.
Why Use Fly Line Backing?
Fly line backing has two purposes. It is used to fill some space on the spool of your reel so that the reel is full after you add the fly line and leader. This increases the uptake of your fly line when you reel it in.
The second thing fly line backing does, since most fly lines are only 90 feet long, the backing adds a safety buffer which means it allows big fish to run an extra distance when fighting larger gamefish such as salmon and steelhead, or saltwater fish.
These large fish can sometimes make runs of 200+ feet, and without the fly line backing, you could lose your very expensive fly line.
The Two Types Of Fly Line Backing
There are two main types of fly line backing that I use and recommend.
Dacron: Pros and Cons
Dacron is the traditional fly-line backing material that has been used for over 35 years. It is usually made from a combination of polyethylene and cotton.
It is strong, durable, and abrasion-resistant, and it usually last over 10 years.
Some anglers claim that the drawback to Dacron is that it can absorb water rather quickly, which could add extra weight to your setup if you dunk your reel. However, my clients and I have done this many times and the extra weight is almost unnoticeable.
The only reel issue with absorbing water is when saltwater fishing since salt water has a tendency to damage things.
A pro and a con to Dacron is it is a bit thicker than other backings.
The pro to this is you don’t need as much to fill up the spool, which is great when dealing with smaller fish that won’t make huge long runs.
The con to this is when dealing with big fish, you want as much backing on the reel as possible.
A key advantage of Dacron is that it offers more stretch than other materials, making it a great choice for newer anglers who haven’t yet learned the proper technique of fitting big fish and setting fly reel drag properly.
Additionally, due to its durability and abrasion resistance, Dacron will last longer than most other materials.
Gel Spun Backing: Pros and Cons
Gel spun backing is a newer fly line backing made from an ultra-strong, ultra-light material. It has a much higher breaking strength than Dacron and is also less likely to absorb water, making it ideal for use in saltwater conditions.
The major drawback to gel spun backing is that it can be more expensive than Dacron and tends to be less abrasion-resistant.
A major advantage is it is thinner so you are able to pack on a lot more backing onto your reel which is great when fighting big fish that can run more than 200 feet.
Another benefit is because it is so thin, it does not cause as much drag under the water when a fish is running far or when a current is involved. The extra drag can create more tension and potentially break your tippet.
How Much Backing Should Go On A Fly Reel?
The amount of backing you should put on a fly fishing reel depends largely on the size of the reel. I’ve heard anglers say things like for freshwater applications, about 150 yards of 20-pound Dacron is sufficient, and for saltwater fishing, 250 yards or more of 30-pound Dacron is recommended.
However, I don’t agree with general lengths since you might only get 50 years on a 3-weight reel and 300 yards on a 9-weight reel. So for me, I stand by recommending putting on the maximum amount the reel with take.
Just be sure you leave enough room so that the fly line and the fly leader are able to fit on the reel. When everything is on the reel, the reel should be full, but not so full that it impedes the turning of the reel.
When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific reel you are using.
Additionally, the type of fly line you use can also impact how much backing should go on your reel; for instance, floating lines require more backing than sink tip lines. Some fly lines, such as Spey lines which are thicker so less backing might be required.
The Best Dacron Backing
These are my recommended fly-line backings based on my 37 years of experience using fly line backing.
Rio Dacron Fly Line backing
Rio Dacron Fly Line is a great choice because it is strong and abrasion-resistant, perfect for saltwater fishing conditions.
It also has incredible knot strength and seems to last forever, which allows a fly fisherman to put it on and forget about it.
Lastly, the bright color ensures that you can easily see the transition when it comes out, and it helps with locating it when it’s in the water.
Guide Tip: Your fly line is expensive, make sure you use the right knot to attach the backing to the fly reel and the backing to the fly line. And, if a large fish takes all your fly line out and you are getting close to the end of your backing, tighten the drag so the fish doesn’t take your entire fly line and backing.
The Best Gel Spun Backing is Cortland Gell Spun Backing
I think I bought my first spool of Cortlands fly line backing the year it came out. I found it to be much thinner than dacron, and I was able to get a lot more of it on steelhead and salmon reels.
The unique composition of the Cortland Gel Spun line makes it the perfect backing for fly fishing large fish.
Its low-diameter core gives you more line capacity and reduces drag when it’s in the water, enabling you to fight large fish better.
Plus, it offers superior knot strength, which helps ensure your connections are secure.
Additionally, its abrasion resistance is ideal when fishing rivers with lots of rocks.
The lower stretch factor also means that you can feel the fish better however, with lower stretch, there is more of a chance of breaking tippets.
All these features make this line ideal for anglers who want maximum reliability and performance in their setup.
One downside that I have noticed is that because it is so thin, when the fish is running fast it can cut your fingers or even burn your fingers. Therefore I tell my clients to keep their hands off the line when the fish are running.
Cortland Overall Fly Backing is available in 30, 50, and 80 lb weights. The gel spin fibers are super high strength. The high-visibility white, yellow, pink, and blue colors give you plenty of options to choose from.
Orvis Gel Spun backing is another good option that I have been testing and liking.
The Best Fly Line Backing For Trout Is Rio Dacron Fly Line Backing
Rio Dacron Fly Line Backing is an excellent choice for trout fishing due to its durability and strength. It’s a versatile and strong line well suited for freshwater trout fishing.
Since trout do not pull out a lot of backing, you don’t need as much on the reel, and Dacron feels the reel faster. For this reason, all my trout reels have Rio Dacron or Orvis Dacron on them.
I like that it has the right amount of stretch so you can use it to make blind splice loops.
Also, the line’s low memory and remarkable strength-to-diameter ratio make it easier to spool without getting tangled or knotted.
Another great thing about this fly line backing is the sheer amount of colors to choose from! I like the vibrant chartreuse that helps me see my line. You can choose from 100-yards, 200-yards, or 300-yard spools, but that’s it as far as the lengths go.
All these features, combined with its great value for money, makes Rio Dacron fly line backing an ideal choice for trout anglers. For a full specification of this product, please visit.
The Best Fly Line Backing For Steelhead Is Power Pro Ace
I’ve recently started using PowerPro HollowAce backing because another guide recommended it. I’m still testing this out since it is a relatively new product and new to me but so far so good.
PowerPro Hollow Ace fly line backing features an ultra-thin microfiber construction that enables to put more on a larger capacity spool while keeping weight to a minimum. The ultra-long 500-yard capacity means you can outfish even the strongest fights.
The 40 lb weight tolerance is great for handling the biggest fish.
Its white color is great for most light conditions. Overall, I think it’s a solid choice.
The Best Fly Line Backing For Salmon
When I’m fishing for salmon, I now find myself returning to the Powerpro Hollowace Backing time and time again.
Because it comes in such large spools, I can get more on my large fly reels.
The Best Fly Line For SaltWater Fishing and Big Fish
PowerPro Hollow Ace backing is the perfect choice for saltwater fishing and catching powerful fish such as tarpon, bonefish, and whatever else bites your line in the ocean.
Its braid construction increases abrasion resistance, while its hollow core design provides extra strength and durability.
The line is made with Enhanced Body Technology, which has an outstanding strength-to-diameter ratio.
And best of all, it doesn’t absorb much water it lasts in salt water!
Best Fly Line Backing Q&A
Hey guys, that wraps up this article, but if you have any questions, comments, or advice regarding the best fly line backing, let us know in the comments section below.