Setting Up Your Fly Fishing Rod, Reel and Line
Okay. So now you’ve done what you were curious about and purchased your first fly rod. Like I said, to start it doesn’t have to be fancy. But you’ve brought it home and you are ready to take it out of the box. You sit there, maybe anticipating your first casts. But you have to set-up this contraption. Hopefully, I can help you here.
Chances are if you bought a ready to go combination you won’t have to worry about utilizing different knots. This is because in 95% of the cases that I’ve seen the backing is attached to the reel, the backing to the fly line and leader (what you attach the fly to) attached to it. But what if there simply isn’t any attachments already made? Let’s first discuss the anatomy of the rod… in layman’s terms.
Reel – This is obvious. Unlike spinning rods where the fighting of the fish is done with the reel and rod for leverage. This is half true in most cases on the fly. More often than not you fight the fish by stripping (pull in or take line out with free hand) the line in and applying pressure to the rod. There are times though when you will hook into a big bruiser like a Steelhead and it will take you into the backing and then you’re using the reel like you would for a spinning outfit. They don’t need to be real fancy… but do try to get a reel with a disc-drag. There are different drag types… disc-drag and pawl-click are the most common. The rod and reel combo pictured left was my first disc-drag reel.
One last thing on reels. You’ll hear the term arbor. The arbor is the part of the reel that the line sits on. There are standard arbors which are small and large arbors. Large arbors pick up (reel in) the line in much faster and also the line will not coil as easily which leads or can lead to tangles.
*For knot tying instruction please click on link below
Backing – This is usually made of a material called Dacron. It has a break point of somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds in most cases. Lot’s of backing will be beneficial in the event of a large fish. To attach the line to the reel use an “Arbor Knot”. Detach the cartridge (spool) from the reel body. Usually there is a silver tab or something similar. Press it down and pull off the spool.
Fly Line – If you’re going to spend extra money eventually, use it on good fly line. But if you purchased a combination for the time being the line that came with the rod will be sufficient. To attach this to the backing use a “Nail Knot” I remember the first time I pulled off a nail knot to perfection. It was in my sleep during a dream last July. I dreamed that I was in Algonquin setting up at the water. At the end it was a perfect nail knot. It was ironic because the next day I was there with a new 8 wt combination that I purchased. It went just like the dream.
Leader – Sometimes fly lines come with pre-made loops. When this happens attaching the leader to fly line is a snap… especially if the leader has a pre-made loop. All that you do is place the loop of the leader through the loop of the fly line… take the other end (called a tag) and slide it through the loop of the leader… and pull. If the leader or fly line doesn’t have pre-made loops than use a “Nail Knot”. Since I’m talking about nail knots there are some tools that you can buy that make tying a nail knot a breeze. Personally, I use one manufactured by Sierra Stream and Mountain. It’s called the “Tie-Fast”. It does as advertised. The dexterity in my hands is poor due to bad health. This thing allows handling the tool and line to be a thing of relative ease. Here is a website for this product www.tie-fast.com . In my words, here are instructions on how to tie a nail knot… using a tool or nail.
- Take the end of leader (8″) and wrap it around the tool or nail tightly about 8 times.
- Slide fly line through coils in step 1 and hold them together in one hand.
- Take end of leader and take it up and over and back through.
- Pull both ends of leader.
- Snip fly line and leader close.
Tippet – The last thing before the fly is a thinner piece of leader material called tippet. Tippet is important (in general) but even moreso when you’re trying to catch resident trout and the water is clean. The lighter the tippet the better, trout are a bit spooky. There are a lot of brands on the market and they come in fluorocarbon (which has a faster sink rate) or monofilament (basic line basically). Fluorocarbon is more expensive than monofilament. My go to brand is Maxima (either Ultragreen or Chameleon). To attach the tippet I use an easy knot called a “Double Surgeon’s”. There are others like a “Blood Knot” but to be honest I haven’t bothered as the Double Surgeon’s has always held up. To explain this knot basically here are the steps… as I describe them…
- Take roughly 4″ of leader and tippet.
- Overlap the two pieces.
- Twist over each other twice (like tying up a shoe)
- Moisten with saliva
- Pull together
- Snip long ends.
Attaching the Fly – okay you’re almost ready to fish. Just use a “Clinch Knot” to attach the fly. There are other knots but I always. It’s quick and simple, especially when your hands are cold. To make this knot in my terms…
- Slide end (remember it’s called a tag) through the eye of the hook.
- Twist end (tag) over line about 5 times.
- There will be a loop above the eye. Place the tag through the loop.
- You will have made another loop… slip tag (end) through this loops and pull.
- Moisten with saliva and pull on end. Voila… you’re all set.
It sounds like a lot but it really isn’t. With practice you’ll be doing this in your sleep… literally.
Knot Tying Resource: http://www.animatedknots.com/
Alex Toth writes for his website at: http://newtoflyfishing.blogspot.com/