If you’re chasing big fish, make sure you wind your backing on tight.
King salmon, and Dean River steelhead, and dorado, and tarpon can pull really hard. If your backing isn’t wound on tight, the force of a fish’s run can cause the outer layers of backing to pull through loosely-wound backing below – not a situation that lends itself to landing that fish. Depending on the design of your spool, loose backing underneath can also get pulled by tighter backing on top into bulges that stick out and knock on things as they fly around, as pictured above – not good.
How tight? We’ve been told ‘6 pounds of pressure’ and ‘tight enough that you can’t push a pencil through it’. If your fly shop puts your backing on with a motorized line winder, they should be able to get it on there good and snug. If you’re winding it on yourself, try wearing a leather glove on the hand that’s guiding backing onto your spool (i.e. if you wind with your left hand, wear the glove on your right). Interlock the backing through your fingers (over one, under the other, over the next) and give it a squeeze as it slides through – that’s just about right.
Don’t be unreasonable about it – we’ve actually bent the spool on a really beefy reel by winding backing on too tightly (blame the adrenaline prior to an offshore session at Andros South).
But get it on there tight!