gel-spun backing- whats the deal? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: gel-spun backing- whats the deal?

04-05-2006, 09:01 PM
I've read various reports saying that with gel spun backing, you can fit twice the backing on a reel than with standard dacron backing.

Theoretically, this might mean I could take my trout reel that normally handles 5-7 wt line, that only has 150 yards of backing, and put enough backing on it to handle (smaller) bonefish situations, where even with smaller bonefish they recommend around 175-200 yards (so "they" say)

So what is the downside to gel spun backing? why isn't it used more on the idea that a little bit more backing never hurt? The only downside the guy at the fly shop told me was that it is so thin it can cut you when a bonefish runs on you!

04-06-2006, 12:41 AM
GS definitely increases capacity but it's thin as you know and it can cut easier if you get your fingers in the way. I do use it for bones and steelhead with fat Spey lines and have gotten used to it.

It can't compare to a nice 30# dacron in terms of feel in the fingers and it takes forever to reel in after a hot running fish with such small diameter but once you're accustomed to it it's a great solution to the capacity problem and lasts forever.

04-06-2006, 11:47 AM
There is much in the archives here. A search will answer many questions.
The main downside is expense. Most people don't get gel spun because they don't think it is worth the cost. Most fish don't get too deep into the backing.
I use it on many of my reels because I like the increased capacity on some large arbor reels. On long runs, the diameter changes less with thinner backing, and the drag is more consitant. gsp enhances the possitive attributes of a LA reel.
I don't think that gsp is well suited to turning a trout reel into a bonefishing reeel. This only decreases the working diameter, crowds the line on the reel and there would be a big spike in drag from line in to line out.
I have never heard of any one getting injured by gsp backing while fly fishing. I suppose it is possible.

04-06-2006, 01:14 PM
Also consider the smaller diameter will have much less drag in the water compared to the dacron, for the most part that's no big deal on stripers and blues but it's a bonus on anything that can get you deep into the backing.

I had some gel spun on a jigging rod - 1st generation stuff I think it was Powerpro, it was rough on the thumb just laying the line back on the spool. A few years back I respooled and it seems to have a coating now. It's much smoother on the fingers and doesn't tend to cut into itself on the spool as long as you make sure it's wound on tight.

04-06-2006, 09:20 PM
Jim , Power Pro does have a slippery coating now, as with most gelspuns. I use gelspun on conventionals and spinning reels and always "back it" with mono or dacron braid to prevent it from spinning on the spool due to the its slippery nature.. I have never heard of anyone that uses it on flyreels that says they back it to prevent slip...I wonder why not seeing that it is common wisdom among the other two types of fishing?

04-07-2006, 05:45 AM
Grant -

Great reply. However I have a couple of questions / comments.

How does thin diameter increase rate of retrieve? My spey belly comes in a lot faster than my running line for instance because the effective diameter increases so much with each wind. Is it because the initial revolutions are using a smaller diameter... but would that not also depend on the increase of diameter over the total turns (length of line wound line)?

IMHO "Tarpon guys" go outfitted for big fish with big reels that are designed on the drawing board to accomodate real backing. Weekend warriors like me will put GSP on a smaller reel in order to cope with the potential of big runs on bonefish reels. It's possible that this just indicates that people buy at a different level when expressly targeting tarpon rather than being a direct indicator of GSP's application. Serious tarpon guys buy tarpon reels and use standard fly lines thus do not need to play backing capacity games. That assumption is a bit of a stretch for me.

For instance, serious tarpon guys use tarpon flies that have a reputation to be tarpon flies. Anyone who has targeted them knows that these flies have little to do with hooking and landing tarpon and are all about tradition and word of mouth.

For anyone who is planning on using it I recommend a large double surgeon's loop to mate with a kevlar or well constructed nylon loop connector on the fly line. Surgeon's loops are as close to 100% as one can get and easy as pie.

Also I have had no problems with slippage on the arbor. I use a multi-wrap arbor knot to get things started and with miles of backing on the spool if a fish ever gets that far down it's earned it. :)

04-07-2006, 03:06 PM
Good reply and discussion.

However if retrieve is a function of spool diameter, and that is a function of line diameter, then your argument doesn't hold water. It certainly makes for a more consistent retrieve rate from start to finish, but the larger the diameter of the wound material the more increase you will experience as the line comes onto the spool and thus the assumption is faulty.

An obvious metric would be the guy with the gelspun only (no line) winding next to the guy winding 30# dacron only (no line). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know who would win given the same reel and crank speed.

Your acknowledgement of the taper of the spey line is loosely confirming this, however the taper is simply an increase in diameter and it's not the taper that increases the retrieve rate but the resultant diameter of the effective spool as you yourself mentioned.

So there are some slight ambiguities there, but your post provides much food for thought.

Your observation on tarpon guys is the chicken / egg principle as I see it - you are saying anglers avoid gelspun and I am saying they don't even think of it because they buy reels with the dacron capacity they need. I am biased from my years in the trade as a shop pro, guide and distributor etc. We may both be right.

As far as slippage, I find it interesting that you cite a 5% difference in knot strength of a stronger knot than a bimini and then worry about slippage on the arbor. I have never seen nor heard of that so it's hard to be concerned about it. Maybe it's the profile of the spools I have it wound on combined with the multiple wraps I use before cinching down the arbor knot (?). I am sure some spools are slipperier than others. The venting on the Danielsson spools (the only reels i have GSP on) create a series of chamfers that I think might prevent slipping, who knows.

Interesting to compare and contrast the perspectives we have gained over the years, in any case your rebuttal opens my mind to stay open to other possible concerns that I do not have at this time.

You seem to belittle the bonefish's fighting ability. Most of them are just fun and not worrisome - but anything over 10 pounds fished wading on your two feet will test the tackle class to the brink.

I think those who fish large pelagic species like sails and marlin on fly rods more than once or twice in a lifetime to experience it are indulging in a level of abuse for these fine species that I have no interest in engaging in.

Give me a 25-35 pound tarpon any day! :)

04-07-2006, 03:22 PM
Thanks Grant,

I see from your post that "top shotting" of GSP over standard backing is done in some circles. Is there a recommended knot for tying the standard backing to the GSP?

Also, have you heard any positive or negatives about using the Slim Beauty Knot for attaching doubled GSP to a flyline? I use the Slim Beauty for tying a mono leader to doubled GSP for conventional fishing and it has worked out well.

Juro, I think the ambiguity relating to backing diameter could be explained this way.. suppose you have a reel with standard backing and I one with GSP ( with a thinner diameter) . We have the same reel and flyline and each of our bonefish make a 100 yard run... When we begin our retrieve after the run I will be starting with a larger effective spool diameter than you will. So my retreive rate will be higher per turn of the spool..

04-07-2006, 04:41 PM
I have never heard of any one "cutting" themselves on gsp while fly fishing. How does it happen? I have "burned" my fingers clumsily strip setting the hook, but that was on fly line. When does a flyfisheman touch the backing while the line is going out? A sudden surge while level winding? Anything can happen but this seems so unlikely.

I fish for tarpon 10 days a year, and I like the gsp, but I have no idea what other tarpon anglers do. I use 50# gsp, so knot strength is a non issue with 20# test. I think it helps to maintain a consistent drag pressure a improves rate of retrieval. One of my buddies has a Tibor gulfstream w/30# dac. An an excellent tarpon reel by all accounts. He has never been spooled, but his reel has looked mighty empty a few times. There is no way that that reel holds 300yds. Maybe gsp is good for piece of mind?

04-07-2006, 04:43 PM
"divide and bludgeon" lives on

04-07-2006, 05:15 PM
The size of the Slim Beauty will be most likely dominated by how tightly I pull down the figure 8 in the flyline... I guess I will give it a shot and see how it works out with a few stripers before it gets stressed by some tuna later in the year.

Based on my experience and that of numerous others with the significant difference in manageability of the 65 # GSP over the 50# on conventionals, I think I will give 65 a shot that is:biggrin: :biggrin:

04-07-2006, 06:38 PM
Grant -

I think it may have been directed at me, and deservedly so. I did tend to pick apart things when folks are providing me with some new thinking and opened my eyes.

While it's obvious to me which of two guys with the same reel making 100 turns of the crank from the arbor would get more line, you raise a very good point about the rate of the thinner backing NOT reducing the effective diameter as much as a thicker line when a fish runs and thus retaining a larger spool in your hands.

I would maintain that if the backing was stripped to the arbor the dacron guy would fare much better, but in the average backing scenario the gelspun guy would fare much better at least in terms of line retrieval rate, until the diameter reduction hits a certain threshold of diminished size as a fish runs. In most cases this would indeed be an advantage to the thin backing user.

Thanks for enlightening me to this. It's good to know that we can step a little beyond the line of exchanging pleasantries and on occasion challenge each other in the name of good discussion.

Hey basser, tell me more about the slim beauty!

04-07-2006, 07:24 PM
I first saw the Slim Beauty when Chris Aubut used it to tie a short mono leader to some GSP on a spinning reel that we keep standing by for the "long range BFT":devil: Chris had been in Key West for the entire winter and came back with the knot.... I googled it and found out that it is a Key West origination and learned how to tie it from a few websites..

Basically we tie a figure eight knot in the mono first and then go up and through the figure eight with the GSP, tighten the eight, and then wrap the standing mono with a fancy clinch knot..

A few canal friends have been using it for 20 foot mono leaders. Using the Slim Beauty they have a knot that will go through the guides. The long leader is used make sure that a few turns of mono are on the reel to make so you get the proper thumb grip on the spool prior to the cast. And at certain places in the Canal, "abraders" can be almost 20 feet long!!

I believe I read somewhere that if the flyline is figure eighted GSP can be tied to it with a Beauty for a backing to flyline knot..

BTW you can go in and out the figure eight the wrong way!:tsk_tsk:

04-07-2006, 09:36 PM
Thanks guys, the slim beauty sounds like a winner, I will try it. I like to be able to swap out lines between the tropics, steelhead, and stripers with a loop connection, and during Spey casting instruction I swap a lot of lines out to keep the matchups right as you know Spey lines and rod matchups are very important to proper casting. So I have been loop-oriented and the large surgeon's loop allows for the entire spool to be passed through during the swap.

However in those cases where one of my reels (a) has gelspun and (b) I will not be swapping lines out a lot the slim beauty will get the call for sure. For that matter I might as well use it for any backing to flyline connection where I will not need a loop to swap out lines!

Again thanks for the insights.

04-07-2006, 09:48 PM
Juro, kudos for not reacting to the condescending tone that kept me from just enjoying an otherwise informative exchange.

04-07-2006, 09:56 PM

On the topic of informative posts - I want to take this opportunity to say that I have learned a lot about line from your posts over the years.

I did learn quite a bit in this discussion.

Not only about backing but also that slim beauty sure sounds like a good (and simple) knot to tie materials of different diameters with high strength results when you don't care about loop connections. I don't think I will tie albrights any longer.

It's all good!

04-08-2006, 07:09 AM
This was a most entertaining post. Interesting exchange of ideas. By the way a lot of the top end reel manufactures such as Able and Tibor recommend using Gel Spun for increasing the backing of their reels. I had no idea about the Gel Spun spinning on the spool.

04-08-2006, 11:56 AM
Oh well, it seems posts were deleted by the author - how unfortunate as the content offered was what made it so entertaining and valuable. My apologies if my challenging questions led to it, there was certainly no ill will intended; just a desire to explore the topic and wring out some truths and myths (which consequently turned out to be largely on my side!).

The bottom line is that it was a good discussion kind of like a good debate on tv, seems heated but in the end reveals a lot. I hope to see more of those.

04-08-2006, 08:26 PM
Not only about backing but also that slim beauty sure sounds like a good (and simple) knot to tie materials of different diameters with high strength results when you don't care about loop connections. I don't think I will tie albrights any longer.

I kind of like the end of my trout leader to pile up a bit in order the get a bit more drag free drift. I get this by having a 2 section leader. The butt section is just a 4 or 5 foot piece of hard mono tied to the fly line and then what ever 1 foot long pieces I need to step down to the tippet. I then tie in a LONG tippet. I decided to try tying a piece of 3X to the first 1' step down section. Something like 0.013 to 0.008. It makes a nice small knot. The tag end of the 0.013 sticks out along the tippet rather than straight out to the side like a blood knot. The slim beauty looks like a NICE leader knot that allows you to step down more than 0.002 between sections.

I even tried tying a piece of 5X to the 3X. Looks good. The only difficulty is getting the tag loop back through the twists as the last step of the knot before pulling it tight.

04-09-2006, 12:03 AM
See clear instructions for the Slim Beauty at: