Setting Up Your New Fly Fishing Gear

Congratulations and welcome to the addicting sport of Fly Fishing! You just bought your first fly fishing setup and are ready to hit the stream. If you did not purchase one of our pre setup fly rod packages, you will need to assemble your setup and make sure that it is all ready to go. This article will walk you through the basics of your new fly fishing gear and how to make sure that it is properly assembled.


Your fly rod will be the easiest part of your new gear to set up. Most fly rods come in 3-4 pieces depending on the length of your rod. All Bozeman FlyWorks fly rods and rod packages come in 4 piece rods packaged in a travel rod tube for easy, compact transportation in your car and on the plane. To assemble your fly rod, will take the individual pieces and insert the male section into the female section.  These are known as the fly rod ferrells.  Slide them into each other working your way to the butt end to ensure a snug fit.  While doing so, look down through the guides of the fly rod and ensure these are lined up all the way through the rod, from the tip to the butt section. Repeat this process through the entire rod until it is assembled.

Now it is time to set your fly reel up.  Personally, we recommend attaching the reel to the rod before setting up all the line as it is a bit easier to spool the reel up while simultaneously applying pressure to ensure the backing and line is tight on the spool. 

Most fly rods use a very simple reel seat using a threaded collar system to attach the reel to the rod. Here is a quick blog post regarding left hand vs. right hand retrieve to ensure you place your reel on the rod appropriately.   

Now it is time to attach the necessary Fly Line  components.

There are four different segments of your fly line setup. Those are the backing line, fly line, leader, and tippet.

The first step is attaching the backing line.  Generally, 20lb backing line will be appropriate for any rod size in 1wt through 8wt.  Larger rods in the 9wt+ range it is advisable to utilize a 30lb strength backing.  Utilize an arbor knot to connect your backing to the fly reel:

Once the backing is attached you want to spool the backing onto the reel. As you spool the line up, ensure you are putting adequate pressure on the line to ensure a tight fit.  Most fly reels will disclose the amount of backing the reel can accommodate either on the product packaging or website product information.  A good rule of thumb for each reel size is as follows:

3/4wt – 75 yards
5/6wt – 100 yards
7/8wt – 100 yards

9/10wt – 125 yards

Now that you have the backing spooled onto your reel it is time to attach your fly line. Most quality fly lines will have a tag on the end of the line that is to be connected to your backing. It is imperative that you attach the correct end of the fly line to the backing or else the weight of your line will be distributed incorrectly resulting in potential difficulties in casting. 

Additionally, most quality fly lines also come with a loop on both the running line section and weight forward section you can utilize.  To do this, tie a large loop in to the backing line, one that will fit completely over the reel.  Then, use a loop to loop connection to connect the backing to the running portion of the fly line. We have some more thorough instructions on spooling up our fly lines here.

Though we personally have not had any issues with the above mentioned loop to loop connection, some do advise to utilize a nail knot to attach the fly line to the backing.  To do this, first cut off the loop on the running line of the reel and follow the below:

Now that your line is connected to the backing, spool up the line while again applying adequate pressure to ensure a tight set up.  While applying this pressure move the fly line back and forth to cover the backing evenly across the reel.

Once you have the fly line spooled onto the reel it is time to attach the leader. As with the previous step there will likely be a loop at the end of your fly line, and if you were to purchase looped leaders, then you can simply pass the leader through the loop in order to attach them via  a loop to loop connection. However if you do not have a looped leader, or would like to remove the loops the same nail knot above can be used to attach the leader.

Now that your reel is fully lined it is time to attach your reel to your rod if you have not done so already. Once the reel is attached loosen the drag and pull on your tippet end and thread it through the guides until you have passed it through the tip. Once it is through the end pull on the line until the leader is all the way through the guides and the end of your fly line is exposed through the end of the tip.

With your rod and reel fully assembled it is time to grab some flies and hit the river. Your local fly shop should be a great reference point as to what flies to use each time of the year and even day.  Once you have selected the fly that the guy at the fly shop guaranteed will catch you a record breaking fish, you can attach it to your by passing the line through the eye of the hook and tying an improved clinch knot.

Some states allow you to use more than one fly (check your local regulations), in which case you will want to use your tippet to connect a secondary fly off of the first fly. To do so, it is time to grab your tippet.  Use a tippet size either the same or a slightly smaller diameter than the leader you are using.  If your first fly has a barbless hook, use the eye of said fly to attach the tippet via the above mentioned improved clinch knot tutorial.  If you are using barbed hooks, then tie the tippet off the hook of the first fly with an improved clinch knot. Generally for a double nymph setup, you will want about 16” between your first and second fly.  If you are using a dry dropper setup, the tippet length will vary based on the water you are fishing and the time of year.  Your local fly shop should be able to advise, otherwise give us a call.

In addition to connecting a second fly, tippet can be used to “re-grow” your leader.    As time goes and you change flies, or lose them to snags, you will effectively be shortening your leader from it’s original length.  As your leader shortens, grab tippet that is either the same size or smaller than your initial leader starting length and utilize a surgeons knot to add the desired length to your leader

As you develop your skills as an angler you will develop habits and idiosyncrasies on how you set up your gear, but the basic skills in this walkthrough will give you the ability to get started.

All of the knots discussed in this article can be learned through books and online, but keep an eye out for our upcoming blog about the most essential knots for any angler.

Give us a call anytime if you have questions or need some additional guidance!

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