Fly Line Backing
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What you need to know about backing:
Backing has a few jobs on your fly reel. First of all, it's an insurance policy that if you have a fish run more line out than your fly line length. For most freshwater fly fishing this is a non-issue but for saltwater fly fishing it is an important factor due to long running fish. Second, the backing takes up space on your reel that the fly line isn't long enough to fill, keeping your fly line from forming memory coils. For instance, a large reel used for bass fishing on an 8 weight rod needs to be big to weight the outfit for proper balance. In bass fishing though, you may never have a fish run out enough line to see your backing in the water. You still want to fill the spool properly to keep out memory coils and backing is an inexpensive way of doing this. A properly filled spool also increases the diameter of the reel arbor that the line is wound on. This, like the gears of a 10-speed bike, makes for quicker line retrieval when cranking on the fly reel.
Dacron vs Gel Spun Backing
Backing is available in 2 types of material. Dacron, which is standard and Gel Spun which is a polypropylene product. Most applications work fine with Dacron. Gel Spun is used when, because of its thinner diameter, trying to add more capacity to your reel. Gel Spun comes with some disadvantages. It is a lot more expensive than Dacron and the fact that you can get a lot more on adds even more to the price. Gel Spun can easily cut fingers trying to control backing on hard and fast running fish. Unless you need to really add a lot of backing for some special scenario we suggest sticking with Dacron. It will also last quite a while on your reel.
One last thought on backing. Never, ever use monofilament line for backing. Wound on a fly reel, mono will compress under the pressure of winding it on the reel. Its memory will decompress allowing it to expand and warp your fly reel spool. This doesn't happen on spinning and casting reels because the line has room to expand. We have seen some very expensive spools ruined using mono.