Fly fishing, Smooth Drag, Backing Capacity & Arbor Size




Fly fishing, Smooth Drag, Backing Capacity & Arbor Size

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a specialized angling method that involves using an artificial fly to catch fish. It is distinct from other forms of fishing in that it relies on the weight of the fly line to cast the nearly weightless fly. This method is often associated with targeting freshwater and saltwater species such as trout, salmon, bass, and various saltwater game fish. Fly fishing is enjoyed in rivers, streams, lakes and saltwater flats.

Some key aspects of fly fishing:

Fly Casting: a fundamental skill in fly fishing. Unlike traditional baitcasting or spinning techniques, fly casting involves using the weight of the fly line to propel the fly forward. The angler uses a fly rod to cast the line, requiring a specific casting technique that includes a backcast and forward cast.

Fly Line and Backing: The fly line is a crucial component in fly fishing. It is typically thicker and heavier than the leader and tippet sections and is specifically designed for casting. The line is attached to a backing, a thin, strong line that provides additional length and acts as a reserve when large fish make long runs.

Artificial Flies: Instead of using live bait or lures, fly fishing relies on artificial flies. These flies are typically made from various materials such as feathers, fur, and synthetic materials, designed to imitate natural insect prey or other aquatic organisms. Fly patterns vary widely to match different fishing situations.

Fly Reel: a specialized type of fishing reel designed to hold the fly line and backing. While the reel is not used for casting the fly, it plays a crucial role in managing the line during the fight with a fish. Some reels have a drag system to provide resistance when a fish runs.

Leaders and Tippets: sections of clear monofilament or fluorocarbon line that connect the fly line to the fly. The leader tapers down from thicker to thinner, providing a smooth transition from the fly line to the fly. The tippet is the thinnest section and is attached to the fly.

Successful fly fishing involves presenting the fly in a manner that mimics the natural behavior of insects or other prey. Anglers use various techniques to entice fish, such as dead-drifting, stripping, or swinging the fly through the water.

Many fly anglers practice catch-and-release, releasing the fish back into the water after catching them. Conservation is often emphasized in fly fishing to ensure the sustainability of fish populations.

Fly fishing is not only a method of catching fish but also a form of outdoor recreation appreciated for its connection to nature, the artistry of fly tying, and the skill required in casting. It has a rich history and is enjoyed by anglers around the world.

What's a Smooth Drag System?

In fly fishing, the drag system refers to the mechanism in a fly reel that controls the amount of resistance or friction applied to the revolving spool when a fish makes a run. A smooth drag system is essential for several reasons, primarily to protect the tippet (the fine line attached to the fly) and prevent it from breaking during a fish's powerful run.

Here's how a smooth drag system works and why it's important:

Preventing Line Breaks: When a fish takes the fly and makes a run, it can exert a tremendous amount of force on the line. If the drag is too tight or jerky, it can result in a sudden increase in tension, potentially causing the tippet or the main fly line to break. A smooth drag system allows for gradual and consistent resistance, reducing the risk of a break.

Tiring the Fish: A well-designed drag system helps tire the fish by applying consistent pressure. This is particularly important when dealing with larger or stronger fish that may make multiple runs during a fight. A smooth drag allows the angler to exert control over the fish's movements without putting excessive stress on the fishing line.

Protecting the Reel and Rod: In addition to safeguarding the line, a smooth drag system protects the reel and rod from the shock and stress of sudden, jerky movements. This contributes to the overall durability and longevity of fly fishing gear.

Adjustability: A good drag system is adjustable, allowing anglers to set the desired amount of resistance based on the size and strength of the fish being targeted. This adjustability ensures that the drag is suitable for different fishing situations.

Consistency: A smooth drag system provides consistent resistance throughout the entire range of the drag. This consistency is crucial for maintaining control over the fish and making the fight more predictable.

The different types of drag systems, include click-and-pawl drags, spring-and-pawl drags, and disc drags. 

Disc drags are common in modern fly reels and offer the smoothest and most adjustable drag systems. These systems use a series of discs (usually made of various materials like cork, carbon, or Teflon) to control the amount of friction on the spool.

When selecting a fly reel, especially for targeting larger or more powerful fish, consider the quality and design of the drag system to ensure it provides the smooth and consistent performance needed for successful fly fishing.

What's Backing Capacity?

Backing capacity refers to the amount of backing line that a fly reel can accommodate. A thin, strong line that is attached to the fly reel before the fly line, it serves several important purposes:

Additional Line Length: Backing provides extra length to the fly line, allowing anglers to have more line on their reel. This can be crucial when a fish makes a long run or when casting in situations where a longer line is needed.

Backing Up the Fly Line: In situations where a large and powerful fish takes a substantial amount of line during a run, backing acts as a reserve. If the fish runs beyond the length of the fly line, the backing comes into play, preventing the fish from stripping all the line off the reel.

Absorbing Shock: Backing has some stretch, which can help absorb the shock created by a fish's sudden movements or runs. This elasticity can prevent the tippet or leader from breaking under the strain of a strong fish.

The backing capacity of a fly reel is usually expressed in terms of its capacity to hold a certain amount of backing line and a specific fly line. For example, a reel might be labeled as having a "backing capacity of 100 yards of 20lb backing and a WF7F fly line." This means that the reel can hold 100 yards of backing with a breaking strength of 20 pounds, plus a specific weight-forward (WF7F) fly line.

The amount of backing needed varies based on the type of fishing and the species being targeted. For trout fishing in freshwater, less backing may be needed compared to saltwater fishing for species that are known for long runs.

When selecting backing for your fly reel, consider factors such as the target species, the fishing environment, and the type of fly line you plan to use. Ensure that the fly reel's backing capacity is sufficient for your specific fishing needs. It' a good idea to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for backing capacity to ensure optimal performance and to avoid any issues during your fishing adventures.

What's Arbor Size

The arbor size of a fly fishing reel refers to the diameter of the reel's spool, and it plays a significant role in the reel's performance. Arbor size is categorized into three main types: large arbor, mid-arbor, and standard arbor. Arbor sizes affect the amount of backing a reel can hold. Each type of arbor has its own advantages and considerations, and the choice often depends on the angler's preferences and the specific fishing conditions. 

Here's an overview by size:

Large Arbor Reels


Line Retrieval: Large arbor reels have a greater spool diameter, allowing for faster line retrieval. This can be advantageous when a fish is running towards you, reducing the time it takes to retrieve slack line. Large arbor reels are often preferred for saltwater, big game, or situations where fast line retrieval is essential. Larger, more powerful fish may benefit from the increased backing capacity and quicker line retrieval of a large arbor reel.

Reduced Line Memory: The larger arbor helps minimize line memory, reducing coiling and improving overall casting performance.

Backing Capacity: Large arbor reels generally have more backing capacity, which can be beneficial when targeting large or powerful fish that make long runs.


Weight: Some large arbor reels may be slightly heavier than their counterparts with smaller arbors.

Bulkier Appearance: The larger spool size can make the reel appear bulkier.

Mid-Arbor Reels

Balanced Performance: Mid-arbor reels aim to strike a balance between the advantages of large and standard arbors.

Versatility: They are often considered versatile and suitable for various fishing conditions.

Moderate Line Retrieval: While not as fast as large arbors, mid-arbor reels offer a good compromise in terms of line retrieval speed.

Standard Arbor Reels

Traditional Design: Standard arbor reels have a smaller spool diameter, providing a more traditional appearance.

Line Control: These reels offer good line control, especially when fighting larger fish, as the smaller arbor allows for more precise control of the line.

Lighter Weight: Standard arbor reels tend to be lighter than large arbor reels.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Arbor Size:

Fishing Style: The type of fishing you plan to do can influence the arbor size you choose. For example, if you often target fast-swimming species that make long runs, a large arbor reel might be beneficial.

Fish Species: The size and behavior of the fish you target can impact your arbor size choice. Larger, more powerful fish may benefit from the increased backing capacity and faster retrieval of a large arbor reel.

Personal Preference: you may have a strong preference based on your casting style and the overall feel of the reel. Trying out different arbor sizes can help you determine your personal preference.

In recent years, many fly reels are designed with interchangeable spools, allowing you to switch between different arbor sizes based on your needs for specific fishing situations. This versatility provides flexibility and allows you to adapt your gear to different conditions.

Advancements in reel design have led to reels with hybrid arbors, combining features of different arbor sizes to offer a balance of line retrieval speed, capacity, and control.

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