How much backing for bonefish? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: How much backing for bonefish?

05-07-2003, 01:14 AM
Anybody have any comments concerning how much backing I should have for bonefish?
Clearly, the answer is "as much as you fit on the reel," so I guess I'm looking for a minimum safe amount.
Here are some facts that might help:
8wt rod, tip-flex, 8 or 11 lbs tippet
most fish in the 2-4 lbs range, regularly in the 5-7 lbs range and a few 8+lbs.
Also, I've heard much talk of the gelspun backing. Can someone save me the hassle of searching the internet for hours and recommend a brand for me...Orvis, SA, Cortland, any others?

Many thanks!

Flyfishing Finn
05-07-2003, 05:12 AM
200 yds should be enough, unless you hook a +10lb bone.
For 2-4 pounders 100 yds is usually enough.

A large arbor reel makes retrieving that backing easier. Or you can fill a big standard reel first with dacron and put some gelspun on top so that your rate of retrieval stays adequate even with 150-200 yds out. The weight of the reel is not so important in bonefishing as you're not casting a lot.

I've only used Orvis and Lee Wulff gelspun and found both ok.

05-07-2003, 06:42 AM
A few of us "got into it" regarding backing last month (i.e. gel-spun vs. small-diameter dacron); regardless of what you choose, for an 8-wt. outfit I try to have around 200-yds. of 30-lb. backing when stalking on the flats. Granted, I've never hooked into anything that peeled off more than about 100-yds. of backing, but it's nice to know that if I need it, it's on the reel. Then again, the largest fish I've hooked on an 8-wt. was probably no more than 6-lbs.
As an aside, one thing I try and do and is purchase two colors of backing, and load half the backing capacity of each onto the spool; for example, on a spool that held 200-yds. of backing, I'd load 100-yds. of chartruese, yellow, or orange backing first, then load 100-yds. of white backing on top of that, followed by the fly line. In this manner, I know when to start worrying if the fish gets deep into the first layer of backing. FWIW...

05-07-2003, 07:03 PM
200 yards should be plenty. I've never lost a fish because of backing, so the composition of the line probably doesn't make that much difference, IMHO.

Marshall Cutchin
Midcurrent Weblog (

05-08-2003, 07:49 AM
I would go along with all of the above for 99% of the fish you likely to encounter 200 yards will be plenty.

Just remember that if you spend enough time on the flats you will one day encounter that 1% fish of a lifetime. Maybe a 50lb Permit that, on that particular day, cosmic forces have decreed with be the day it meets YOUR fly and says "yes". :smokin:

I carry as much backing on the largest large-arbor reel that will comfortably fit on my 9wt. That way I know I will be ready for Mr. "One Percent" should our paths ever cross ;)

05-08-2003, 07:55 AM
Good point, Adrian. I automatically assume everyone knows to fill up their reel with backing to the point where the flyline just fits on, but that's a broad assumption.