Backing

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Tony Ong
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Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:18 pm

Backing

Post by Tony Ong » Sun May 03, 2020 3:01 pm

This is a topic that comes up quite often with guys buying new reels. I’ve summarised up top for those that don’t have the inclination to wade through the whole post, and just want to know what to use.
Couple of points to consider.
Fill the reel with as much backing as you can fit. A full reel gives you a bigger diameter, which equates to less turns of the handle.
Pack the backing on as tight as you can. You don’t want the backing to dig into itself if it is wound onto the reel too loosely.
Be realistic about what you are going to use the reel for. This will dictate how much backing you will need on different outfits. Below is a suggestion of how much backing I would like on different outfits.
6 weight and under. 200 meters of 30 pound (PE2) braid.
7 & 8 weight. 250 meters of 30 (PE2) to 50 pound (PE4) braid.
9 to 12 weight. 300 meters + of 50 pound (PE4) braid.
For the budget minded, the following brands are braids that I have used and am familiar with. I would happily use these for backing. Choose a bright colour, as it is easier to keep track of when fighting fish. Diawa J braid x4, Fins, and Power Pro.
Braid as backing will last forever, if you look after it. I have fly reels that are 20 years old that still have the original backing on there. As such, I’m happy to spend more on what I feel are better quality braids. These braids are smoother, and as such, are easier on the hands when you have a lot of backing out. I like guiding backing onto the reel, so it doesn’t bunch in one corner. Braids that I prefer to run as backing are YGK Castman and Varivas Avani. These are both 8 weave, PE braids.

Tony Ong
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Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:18 pm

Re: Backing

Post by Tony Ong » Sun May 03, 2020 3:01 pm

Here’s more information to help you make a decision on what backing to use, for different situations.
Monofilament nylon. Ie normal fishing line. Never, ever, be tempted to use for fly backing.
Mono has up to 30% stretch. Just spooling a reel under reasonable tension may cause the spool to deform. Dacron and braid still have stretch. They have a lot less stretch ie around 5%, compared to mono line.
Dacron, Micron. We’ll lump these in the same category.
Dacron was the main material used for backing before braids became commonly available. Reels designed 20+ years ago all were small arbor to accommodate backing material of the time.
Today, dacron is ok for light outfits, and where you are unlikely to hook anything that is likely to run deep into backing. Small stream trout fishing, you’re never going to see much backing out of the reel. Bread and butter species that we commonly fish for around Perth and south west region, you aren’t likely to see backing. Dacron’s big advantage is that it’s cheap, compared to braid. It’s disadvantage is that it is thick for stated breaking strain, when compared with braid. Braid is roughly half the diameter of dacron. If you are intending to target bonefish on light weight outfits, then it may be prudent to use braid as backing.
Braid/Gelspun (For our exercise, they are more or less the same thing)
Once we start getting to heavier weight rods (8 weight and heavier), and we expect to target larger fish, we need to have the line capacity. Braid is roughly half the thickness of dacron. This allows us the ability to carry more meterage of backing, heavier backing, or a combination of both.
Not all braids are manufactured the same way. For what we are talking about, we can split into fused and woven braids.
Fused braids like Fireline and Spider Wire, have a flat profile. Main advantage of fused braid is that they are very thin for breaking strain. The disadvantage is that fused braids are very slick/slippery. Makes handling hard as far as fly line backing goes. It’s prone to dig into itself under pressure on the spool. For me, it’s not great to use for fly reel backing.
Woven braids have a round profile. This is the stuff that we want for backing. Woven braids can be further split into 4 weave (x4) and 8 weave (x8). There’s more than these two weaves on the market, but you’ll get the idea.
x4 braids are cheaper than x8. Basically, this is 4 strands of the braid material woven together. 4x braids are perfectly acceptable for fly line backing, and what goes on probably 80% of saltwater fly outfits as backing. Lots of different brands, so pick you poison.
x8 braids feel smoother and softer compared to x4 braids. For me, they are nicer to handle when fighting fish. x8 braids are slightly thicker than comparable x4 braid.
Diameter and breaking strain of braids as published by manufacturers is quite subjective. Take with a pinch of salt what is stated on the packaging.
PE braids
Some of the better braids also have a PE rating. PE rating is an industry standard diameter rating for braid. I find it is more reliable using PE rating to work out how much braid I can fit on a reel.
Hollow braids
I haven’t used a lot of hollow braids so can’t comment on them. The big advantage is it’s possible to splice, so no need for knots, and potentially 100% knot strength because of no knots.
Colours
Braids come in a huge range of colours. Bright colours are easier to see, especially when the fish has taken you deep into backing. When on a boat, it’s also easier for the skipper to keep track of where your fish is, as well as where your line is. Some of the bright colours available are chartreuse, yellow, orange.
Dark braids are a nightmare to track. Ie dark gren, dark grey, black. They blend into the water and background. You really have to strain hard to keep an eye on the line.
There are multi coloured lines that are marked every 10 meters. These are were initially more targeted for the deep water jigging market. These are handy to keep track of how much line you have out. In practice, I find it hard to keep track of how much backing I have out when fighting a fish. A lot of these multi coloured markings are dark, so hard to see when fighting fish.
I’ve settled on using white backing. One of my pet peeves is the backing colour bleeding into the fly line. It really doesn’t affect anything, as it’s usually the last few meters of the fly line, but it really irritates me. Having said all this, braid technology has come a long way in 20 years, and a lot of the new braids are colour fast. White is also easy to track when fighting fish.
Breaking Strain
The main consideration here is how heavy a tippet are we expecting to fish. What is the weakest point between the fly and the reel. We really don’t want that weak point towards the reel end. So, where possible, we try to use backing that is rated to break higher than our tippet. Ideally, that weak point is the tippet near the fly.
How much backing do I need on a reel?
Below is a guide of how much backing I feel is a minimum amount I would like of different outfits.
6 weight and under. 200 meters of 30 pound (PE2) braid.
7 & 8 weight. 250 meters of 30 (PE2) to 50 pound (PE4) braid. May need to fiddle with size of backing to fit meterage needed.
9 to 12 weight. 300 meters + of 50 pound (PE4) braid. The + part of this equation is if you are going to target large pelagic fish that like to run a long way. You’ll know when you will need more backing, if you specifically target these species.
Modern designed reels have taken the above into consideration, and will fit those suggestions quite comfortably. In fact, you won’t find too many reels that will accommodate much more than the above. More backing usually equates to more weight.
It’s hard work, but I prefer winding on backing by hand. You learn very quickly how much pressure you need to apply to pack backing on tightly. Before any backing even comes close to the reel, it gets a pre service. A little extra grease and oil where needed. Manufacturers usually ship reels lightly greased. They don’t want an oily mess to greet customers when they pull a new reel out of the box. I also treat the whole reel with a spray of Lanolin. Let the reel sit in lanolin for a few hours in the sun, then wipe excess off. Lanolin will leave a light film over the reel to protect against corrosion. Load line onto reel under tension. If backing feels spongy on the reel, it’s hasn’t been loaded on tight enough. There shouldn’t be much give when you press into the backing. Make sure that the backing won’t bite down into itself when pulling line off the reel. A good test is set the drag at max and try and pull some line off the reel. If the braid digs into itself, you have an issue. Braid needs to be packed on tighter.
When setting up a reel, take into account how much space the fly line will need. Floating lines are thicker than intermediate lines. Fast sink lines are thinner again than intermediate lines. As a general guide, load backing till it is half way up the screw on the handle. Thick floating lines may need less backing. Thin fast sink lines, you may be able to fit more backing. If the reel is going to have different lines on it at different times, make sure that it can accommodate the thickest line you are likely to use.
When we get to reels 10 weight and larger, we can often fit more backing on these reels. Here, we have a trade-off. Do we use a thicker/heavier backing (easier to handle, less winding), or is it more important that we get as many meters of backing onto the reel as possible? This all comes down to what you intend to target.
Take the example of a 12 weight outfit. With this outfit, likely targets could be Giant Trevally or Sailfish. Very rarely will a GT get you 200 meters into backing. Sailfish, on the other hand, are line burners. This is where you want as much backing on the reel as possible. My view on this is I have as much meters of backing I can fit on those large reels, as you never know when you will need the extra backing. In practical terms, you can’t really put a lot of pressure on the fish until the fly line is back on the reel. 50 pound braid as backing is more than ample. You will never see that much pressure put through a fly rod.

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Hirdy
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Re: Backing

Post by Hirdy » Tue May 05, 2020 8:15 am

Hollow braids are the things I use, so I can talk a little on why I prefer them.

Splicing:
This is the main reason I use hollow braid. Splicing allows a 100% breaking strain join without any knots. That join can be a spliced end loop or it can be spliced line connection, joining two separate sections together.
  • The end splice loop lets me form a loop of any size without a knot. It's a very smooth transition through the guides.
  • The spliced line connection lets me add or remove backing as required.
  • The spliced line connection also lets me use backing of different thicknesses at one time. I have a "handling section" of ~50m of 100lb hollow braid joined to the fly line with the end splice loop. The handling section is in turn spliced into the main 60lb backing. The handling section is outside the tip most often (but not as often as I'd like :( ) so it's the part of the backing I want with the best characteristics. I obviously don't want to fill my spool with 100lb, so this system gives me the best of both worlds.
  • Hollow braid allows me to feed a few inches of braid inside the end loop to thicken that section alone. Doing so prevents the braid cutting into the fly line loop because I have a double thickness at the business end of the loop.
Handling:
The other thing I like about the line I use (Jerry Brown Hollow Braid) is the smoothness of it. There is minimal chance of it cutting into my skin if I accidentally touch it while a fish runs or if I'm levelling the line during a retrieve. I recommend the white one though, since there colours have a dye on them, making the splicing harder and reducing the silky smoothness.

Cheers,
Graeme

(PS. Info on splicing can be found here: http://www.bhptackle.com/pages.php?pageid=6)
IFFF Certified Casting Instructor

Tony Ong
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Posts: 865
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:18 pm

Re: Backing

Post by Tony Ong » Tue May 05, 2020 8:47 pm

Good info Graeme.

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