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Step-By-Step: Rig A Fly Reel

How I Rig a Fly Reel from Arbor to Fly Line
Author: Josh Idol | October 2023
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging
Ready to go.

Materials

Rigging a fly reel can be about as simple or as complicated as your care to make it. Most fly reels are still rigged with 20 or 30lb backing from arbor to fly line with a variety of different knots but there’s a better option available to saltwater fly anglers today. I use a combination of dacron and hollow-core braid with splicing techniques borrowed from modern billfish and tuna conventional rigging to create an easy, reliable, knot-free setup with many advantages over traditional setups.

I use 16-strand hollow-core braid when I rig my fly reels because it’s thinner in diameter and offers more abrasion resistance than dacron of a similar breaking strength while maintaining the same properties that make dacron a popular backing material and avoiding the rough handling of solid core four or eight-strand braids. The 40lb Diamond Braid Hollow Core I’m using in this step-by-step has a diameter of about .33mm while 30lb Cortland Micron, one of the thinnest dacron backings, is about 40% larger at .48mm. This strength-to-diameter advantage of hollow-core braid allows for increased backing capacity but more importantly that thinner diameter gives you a larger effective arbor when fighting a fish that takes you in to your backing.

I minimize braid’s two main drawbacks, slickness and price, by combining it with a short run of dacron. By using dacron next to the spool arbor I eliminate the possibility of the slicker braid spinning on the spool while under pressure. And on larger capacity reels where the cost of hollow-core braid can be significant I can use a longer run of the cheaper dacron to help fill the spool. In the following steps I’ll show you how I set up my personal reels but you can use any ratio of dacron to braid that you choose.

Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging
What you’ll need.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging
What you’ll need.

Materials

Rigging a fly reel can be about as simple or as complicated as your care to make it. Most fly reels are still rigged with 20 or 30lb backing from arbor to fly line with a variety of different knots but there’s a better option available to saltwater fly anglers today. I use a combination of dacron and hollow-core braid with splicing techniques borrowed from modern billfish and tuna conventional rigging to create an easy, reliable, knot-free setup with many advantages over traditional setups.

I use 16-strand hollow-core braid when I rig my fly reels because it’s thinner in diameter and offers more abrasion resistance than dacron of a similar breaking strength while maintaining the same properties that make dacron a popular backing material and avoiding the rough handling of solid core four or eight-strand braids. The 40lb Diamond Braid Hollow Core I’m using in this step-by-step has a diameter of about .33mm while 30lb Cortland Micron, one of the thinnest dacron backings, is about 40% larger at .48mm. This strength-to-diameter advantage of hollow-core braid allows for increased backing capacity but more importantly that thinner diameter gives you a larger effective arbor when fighting a fish that takes you in to your backing.

I minimize braid’s two main drawbacks, slickness and price, by combining it with a short run of dacron. By using dacron next to the spool arbor I eliminate the possibility of the slicker braid spinning on the spool while under pressure. And on larger capacity reels where the cost of hollow-core braid can be significant I can use a longer run of the cheaper dacron to help fill the spool. In the following steps I’ll show you how I set up my personal reels but you can use any ratio of dacron to braid that you choose.

Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging-Step-One
Step 1: start your 30lb dacron layer with a uni knot.

Step One

I start my 30lb dacron layer by wrapping the arbor four times before finishing with a 5 turn Uni knot. Tighten the knot snuggly against the arbor and trim the tag.

Step Two

Wind on just enough 30lb dacron to cover your arbor. I wind backing on by hand running the line through a paper towel to achieve proper tension (a trick I learned from Jose Wejebe’s Spanish Fly many years ago) but you can use a line winder if you have access to one.

Note: if you’re rigging a very large fly reel with a lot of backing capacity and want to save some money you can use dacron to fill part of the spool in this step. As an example, when I rig a Tibor Pacific I wind about 200yds of 30lb dacron on before I move on to step three.

Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging-Step-Two
Step 2: wind on just enough 30lb dacron to cover your arbor.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging-Step-Two
Step 2: wind on just enough 30lb dacron to cover your arbor.

Step Two

Wind on just enough 30lb dacron to cover your arbor. I wind backing on by hand running the line through a paper towel to achieve proper tension (a trick I learned from Jose Wejebe’s Spanish Fly many years ago) but you can use a line winder if you have access to one.

Note: if you’re rigging a very large fly reel with a lot of backing capacity and want to save some money you can use dacron to fill part of the spool in this step. As an example, when I rig a Tibor Pacific I wind about 200yds of 30lb dacron on before I move on to step three.

Step 3: Add a reverse blind splice to your dacron layer.

Step Three

Now it’s time to create a reverse blind splice in the free end of the dacron. A reverse blind splice creates a 100% strength loop of any size. Watch this video from Rio to learn how to create a reverse blind splice if you’ve never done it before. We’ll be using this splice in each end of our hollow-core braid as well and using loop-to-loop connections to create one, nearly-seemless connection from arbor to fly line.

Step Four

Now it’s time to create another reverse blind splice in the end of your hollow core backing and attach it to your dacron layer with a loop-to-loop connection. I like to pass the loops through each other at least three times on each side to create a triple “cat’s paw” knot. This loop-to-loop connection is 100% and passes through the guides smoothly and silently.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging-Step-Four
Step 4: loop-to-loop connection between dacron and braid.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging-Step-Four
Step 4: loop-to-loop connection between dacron and braid.

Step Four

Now it’s time to create another reverse blind splice in the end of your hollow core backing and attach it to your dacron layer with a loop-to-loop connection. I like to pass the loops through each other at least three times on each side to create a triple “cat’s paw” knot. This loop-to-loop connection is 100% and passes through the guides smoothly and silently.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Fly-Reel-Rigging-Step-Five
Step 5: fill the spool with braid and finish with another reverse blind splice.

Step Five

Fill your spool with hollow-core braid and finish with another reverse blind splice in the end of the braid. Now you’re ready to connect your braid to your fly line using another loop-to-loop connection to the loop in your fly line. I pass the braid loop through the fly line loop three or four times to create another “cat’s paw” knot. If you’re using the welded loop that comes on the end of most fly lines for this connection I recommend adding a pair of nail knots made with 12lb mono to the welded section of fly line to reinforce this potential weak spot.
So there you have it: a smooth, durable, 100% connection from arbor knot to fly line with all of the advantages of both dacron and hollow-core braid. I’ve rigged fly reels many different ways over the years but this is the only setup that I have complete confidence in. If you have any questions or if you’re local to South Florida and need a hand getting set up properly shoot me an email, I’d be happy to help.

Josh

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