How to Set Up a Fly Reel (Full)

This full-length video from The Itinerant Angler,, will show you how to set up a fly reel (for trout) from the arbor knot on the reel all the way to the leader. Learn the Double Surgeon’s Loop, the Nail Knot, the Perfection Loop, and the Loop-to-Loop Knot, and how and where to use them to set your fly reel and line up from scratch.

24 Responses to “How to Set Up a Fly Reel (Full)”

  1. teamshady04 says:

    And on the perfection loop just pinch it make a loop wrap the loop around a finger then put the loop through the two loops… way faster and easier.

  2. francetonomor says:

    Is this good for salt water fishing because im a beginner

  3. Bonecollector621 says:

    if i have a 7/8 weight reel could i use 6 weight line?

  4. ZachMatthews1 says:

    Backing is the thinner, cheaper string that fills the fly reel behind the thick, expensive fly line. Yes, you can use this same exact system to set up a 7/8 reel, you just need heavier grade line. Yes, this is also good for salt water. At some point soon I’ll post a different knot system meant for heavier gamefish like stripers or tarpon.

  5. ZachMatthews1 says:

    You could certainly; you’d just need to fill more of the space up with backing. That reel is likely to be a little heavy for a 6 weight *rod*, but not catastrophically bad. If budget is an issue, go for it. Otherwise, try to match your tackle by weight.

  6. ZachMatthews1 says:

    This system will work for light saltwater up to bonefish and permit-strength fish. Certainly fine for marsh redfish, surf fishing for blues or jacks, or most flats.  I would not use this for tarpon, tuna, or anything requiring lots of lifting as the nail knot can slip if you’re dead-lifting a large weight. I’m going to make a video soon breaking down a heavy rig for stripers or tarpon. Those rigs are not as stealthy because the knots are larger but they won’t fail.

  7. Pickering1977 says:

    Thank you for your videos. I’m new to the game and your videos have been
    The best ones that I have found so far. And the trick you show with the nail knot is awesome. Other then I’m still having a little trouble with the tag end not coming all the way threw. But I am working on it. Agin I thank you.

  8. ZachMatthews1 says:

    Try using a monofilament that is quite a bit heavier than the material you are actually making the nail knot with. That will ensure that the hole the doubled-over loop and tag have to pass through is as big as possible. For example, if you were using 20# test mono for the actual nail knot, try 30# for the “pull loop.”

  9. thedogthatyos says:

    how much backing should i put on it?

  10. KBFF says:

    how much fly line should I use?

  11. ZachMatthews1 says:

    Fly lines come in standard lengths, usually of 90 feet for a freshwater reel. You should always use the WHOLE fly line. They are “tapered” to make them easier to cast, and if you start cutting into that taper, you can make them very difficult to actually fish with. So unlike in conventional fishing, we don’t treat fly line like a spool of level material, because it gets thicker and thinner along its length to make it easier to cast.

  12. ZachMatthews1 says:

    That depends on the size of your reel. For most trout reels, 100 yards is about right. For saltwater applications, for instance on 8 weight reels for redfish or bonefish, 200-300 yards is more normal. The best way to get that much backing is to go to a fly shop where they have a huge spools and can load up the exact amount your reel can take. Typically this only costs $15 or so, and if you buy a line they may throw the backing in for free.

  13. 1122jbone says:

    Fantastic video! I just used it to set up a new spool I got for xmas with backing and a sinking fly line. Very helpful. Also, I always used to pass leader through leader on that last step…whoops! Doing that correctly from now on should help me a lot.

  14. velvethammer26 says:

    why do i need the red (monophilament) line. cant i just connect my fly line and my leader using a nail knot ?

  15. ZachMatthews1 says:

    You certainly can, but the little section of mono with the loop-to-loop connector lets you easily switch leaders. Almost all leaders come out of the packet with a loop in the butt end for this reason.

  16. 357mag1977 says:


  17. xxxRed9654xxx says:

    should my fly reel have a drag system on it or does it matter for fishing trout and bass?

  18. whatsbelowyou says:

    Why can’t u use double surgeon knot/loop instead of perfection knot/loop?

  19. ZachMatthews1 says:

    It’s a bigger knot. The stuff we tied with in the video is all pretty heavy, like 30# Amnesia and 25# butt end mono, so you could see it. For trout fishing you want those knots to be as small as possible for both stealth and so they don’t sink your fly line tip.

  20. ZachMatthews1 says:

    For trout and bass a drag is simply a luxury and not a necessity.

  21. SoundHead420 says:

    grreat video! Im totally new to the fly fishing world but I am really loving it so far. thanks for this very informational and well done video

  22. Josh Beasley says:

    Really appreciate this video!  I’ve watched several setup videos, and this is by far the best I’ve seen in my opinion, both in the knots you advise typing, your explanations, and you would have thought a black background would have been obvious to all these others folks. Just set my 3/4 rod / reel up for the first time, heading out in a day or two for some trout. Thanks!

  23. numinut says:

    Thanks a bunch.

  24. arsin29 says:

    Thank you for this video! I’m getting ready to buy my first fly rod and this will really help me get my line on the water faster! I thought it was a very informative video and I appreciate it when you went back over some of the knots and mistakes as well!!

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