Fly fishermen obsess over gear. Rods, reels, nets, boots, waders, vest, chest packs, sling packs, glasses, nippers, forceps…well you get the point. All of those things are important on some level, but if you don’t maintain a solid connection with the fish it is all moot. When the rubber meets the road, your line is the most important aspect of your gear. Your fly line and leader are an important aspect of the cast and presentation, and if anything from the backing to the tippet fails during the fight you will not land the fish. Here are a few tips on choosing backing and fly line.
The first component is your backing, which is just a thin strand of heavy line. Backing usually only costs a few bucks, and you put it on before the fly line. If a fish runs out all of your fly line, backing allows you to keep playing the fish. I personally fish a lot of small streams where there is no risk of hooking into a fish that will run 90’ or more, so I don’t put backing on my 3wt outfit. I’m also very careful not to use that outfit anywhere that there is a remote chance of hooking into a big fish. In 99% of fly fishing applications, backing is the least important aspect of your gear. But when you hook the fish of a lifetime, your backing may be the difference between success and failure.
The backing connects to the fly line, which is the most expensive part of the reel-to-fish connection. Fly line comes in a variety of styles and can be a bit overwhelming to a beginner. For most trout fishing applications you can forget about sinking, sink tip, and intermediate lines. These lines certainly have their place, but as a beginner you probably won’t be needing them for a while. The key to buying fly line is to understand the label code. For example, my small stream outfit has a DT3F line. What does that mean? Well the first two letters signify the taper, with DT (Double Taper) and WF (Weight Forward) being the most common. Either style will serve you well for trout fishing. Weight forward is a little better for casts over 30’, and double taper lines are a little better for presentations and short casts. The number following the taper signifies the line weight. For example, the DT3F fly line on my small stream outfit is a 3wt line. This aspect of choosing a line is easy, simply pick the line that corresponds with the rod you are fishing. The final letter signifies the line type (floating, sinking, sink tip etc.). Most trout fishing is done with a simple WF5F fly line on a 8’ 6” or 9’ 5wt rod.
Next comes the leader, tippet, and fly. We will address the leader and tippet in a future blog post, but picking flies is very simple! Check out our Match the Hatch Subscription and become a member of the Monthly Fly Team! We will send you the right flies, at the right time, to catch fish in your local waters.