5 Parts or Components of a Basic Fly Fishing Line Setup

Everglades guide discusses the 5 components that make up the core of a fly fishing rig

In some ways, fly fishing is simpler than its standard rod/reel counterpart – you only have one type of bait (…the fly) and the casting action seems simpler once you get used to it.

When you get into the thick of it though, a fly fishing rig can be more complicated, especially when it comes to its core parts, namely the line and the fly at the end of it. It’s easy to think that it’s as simple as the line around the spool with a fly attached to the end, but as we’ll explain below, it’s a little more involved than that.

Besides this different setup, the methods for delivering your bait to the water are much different.

Instead of casting or throwing your bait into the water and waiting for a bite, a fly fishing guide or angler in the Everglades will spot the fish from their boat before any casts are made. These major differences are one reason why many anglers do not pursue fly fishing – it would be too cumbersome and expensive to learn a completely new setup, methodology, etc.

With that said, and without further ado, we want to invite you to continue reading for a brief summary of the 5 parts or components of a basic fly fishing setup.

  1. Backing – Unlike your typical rod and reel, the “line” you put around the spool of your fly rod isn’t standard monofilament fishing line but rather a high strength material called dacron. This “backing” as it’s known will be the first thing you put on your reel. The backing serves two purposes – one, it fills up space so you will be able to reel your line in quickly, which is critical when trying to land a fish. Secondly, the backing ensures you won’t run out of line if you snag a ferocious Snook or Tarpon who takes off once they’re hooked. The backing helps ensure your line will not break if a fish pulls all of your line out of the reel.
  1. Fly line – Attached to your backing by way an albright or nail knot, the fly line is what you actually cast into the water. Before casting the fly, you will pull a certain amount of line out that is roughly the distance you want to cast. The fly line is weighted so it can go the distance it needs to – lighter lines are for shorter casts while heavier ones are made for longer ones. There are also four types of fly line: full-float, partial-float, sinking of differing rates and full-sinking. In saltwater and Everglades fly fishing, an experienced guide will usually recommend a heavier line.
  1. Butt section – The butt section is basically a thicker piece of line that attaches to your main fly line and is only a foot or two long. While not required, having a butt section on your rig means you only need to tie the albright knot once. Attaching your leader directly to a fly line means you will constantly be gnawing away at the end of your fly line each time you change the leader. As your Everglades fly fishing guide can attest, the line isn’t cheap, at least if you want quality that will not fail you in a jam.
  1. Leader – This part of your fly fishing rig helps ensure your line doesn’t bunch up over your fly once you cast it into the water. It consists of monofilament line that is thicker at the butt section and tapers to a thinner piece of line toward the end. The leader can range in weight from as low as 4 pound test to 40 pounds. Modern leaders are machine fabricated, but prior to these advances, the leader had to be tied one-by-one through a series of knots. The tapering allows the line to roll smoothly as you cast. Again, without a leader, all you’ll have is a tangled mess in the water.
  1. Tippet – This part of the fly fishing line setup isn’t always needed, but it’s nice to have. The tippet is approximately 2 feet long and the last piece before your actual fly. It isn’t as strong as your leader, but is meant to break off under a heavy load and thus protect your leader. The tippet also helps transfer energy from your fly line and helps trick the fish since they won’t be able see any line attached to your fly.
Everglades Fly Fishing - Line setup

Image courtesy of Browntrout.info via Troutster.com

If you’re new to fly fishing and a little bit confused, that’s okay. A good fly fishing guide in the Everglades or cold mountain stream will be able to explain what all of these components do. It isn’t necessary for you to know how to tie all of these together or even fully understand their function. What is necessary is to relax, listen to your guide and have fun spotting Redfish, Snook or Trout and casting directly to them.

Capt. Paul Nocifora is an Everglades fly fishing guide with many years of experience helping anglers of all levels enjoy fishing the waters around Chokoloskee, Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands. He is a big advocate of catch & release, and works tirelessly to ensure fish populations remain plentiful and healthy. Visit GladesFlyFishing.com to learn more or contact Capt. Nocifora to schedule your trip today.



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