Backing Color and Line Weights

Hatch Reel Spools

Have you ever had problems trying to identify what line size you have on a spool?

You may know the situation.

Over time you’ve collected fly lines you like in different weights and spooled them up. Then one day you open your drawer (or wherever you keep them), and while you may recognize the fly line – you can’t recall what line weight it is. This is particularly an issue where you have one reel serving up different weight lines and where you have many spools to fit the reel.

I have a solution that works for me.

Given I use a relatively small number of fly lines (Rio Outbound – both short and regular) and line weights for saltwater, I use different color backing for different weight lines.

For my 5-weight lines, I use 20-pound chartreuse.

For my 6-weight lines, I use 20-pound orange.

And for my 8-weight lines, I use white Hatch Premium 65-pound backing.

This is a simple system that tells me instantly with a quick glance what weight line I have on any reel. Even with different reel sizes it makes it easy.

I think it’s superior to either putting dots and dashes on line (no need to unwind the front end of a fly line) or the line information some fly-line manufacturers are starting to put on their lines (no need to pull out the magnifying glass to read the information).

Give it a try. It might work for you too.

A Question of Balance: The Rod’s Butt Section

Beginners to fly fishing read, or are told, that a rod and reel should be a balanced outfit. That is further amplified by the instruction that each should be of the same weight – so a reel made for an X weight line should be used with a rod built for a X weight line.

Then as the fly fisher continues in the sport, another consideration emerges – the feel of the rod in hand, i.e., the notion of a rod being tip heavy or butt heavy due to the relationship of the physical weights of the rod and reel (particularly the latter).  Common sense thinking is that a heavier reel doesn’t work with a lighter rod – creating a butt-heavy combination, or a light reel with a heavier weight rod becoming too tippy.  And this doesn’t even get into the arcane discussion of whether the balance test should be done with line on the reel or how much line should be stripped off to measure the balance. Or the even more esoteric static balance versus dynamic balance (balance during actual casting).

I came across an even more interesting twist on all of the above.  I had mentioned in a previous post that I had been doing some testing of rods and lines, both to test fly lines and potentially finding a replacement for a BIII-SX (read here).

One of the interesting things I discovered during the testing was the way in which the rod’s butt section affected my perception of the rod. I was casting a Scott Radian 9’ 6” 6wt. I had a Hatch Finatic 5 on it, loaded with a Rio Outbound 6-weight line.  When picking up the rod I found myself thinking it felt clunky and unbalanced.  It was noticeable though somewhat less during the casting.

I then picked up a Winston BIIIX (also a 9’ 6” 6wt) and put on the Hatch reel. It had a less clunky feel though I could feel the weight of the reel. The weight was apparent but it felt better. Casting was no problem.

I then disassembled the rod and took the reel off. I closed my eyes and had both butt sections given to me. It was noticeably obvious that the Radian’s butt section is much heavier than the Winston.

I’ve not been able to find any published rod weights on the Radian yet, but feel in hand suggest the overall rod weight is about the same range as a BIIIX or Helios 2. In looking at the rod butt lengths they are all approximately the same length (some differences in blank length

A visual and tactile inspection of the Scott leads me to think the reel seat itself is heavier than the other rods. Given its position in the rod it has a more noticeable affect than weight spread along the rods length (say from the weight of heavier guides).

I put a lighter weight Galvan Torque on the Radian (with all four sections assembled) and the rod felt right in hand. Casting was easy and the Radian is a terrific rod.

After all of the above, is there some mystery of the universe (or of fly fishing) revealed?

Of course not. The only thing to be relearned is that all of the received wisdom and technical specifications are meaningless in the face of actual experience.  True of fly fishing – or life.

One Backing to Rule Them All II

My last post was an introduction to the topic of fly-line backing. Read here.

The primary issue discussed was that backing has to provide both sufficient quantity and strength for the type of fishing to be done. This becomes critical when one fishes in an area where there are choices of fishing (e.g., both trout in freshwater and sea run trout and salmon in saltwater) or when one wants to travel to a tropical destination.

There’s now a type of backing that provides the answer to all the above issues. That is Hatch Premium Braided Backing – made by Hatch Reels.

Hatch backing is as supple as Dacron. But where Dacron is made up of three to four strands, Hatch has eight micro strands. This bolsters strength while cutting down on its profile.

To get specific, 20-pound Dacron has a diameter of .018 inches (.46 mm). Hatch backing has a diameter of .014 inches (.36mm). Impressive. But consider that it’s also smaller than either 30-pound Dacron [.024 inches (.61 mm) or 50-pound Gel Spun [.016 inches (.40 mm)].

That translates into more backing on the reel. As an example, a Hatch Finatic 7 reel with a large arbor spool used with an 8-weight line holds 210 yards of 20-pound backing; with the Hatch Premium backing that spools could hold 325 yards.

But then there’s the other advantage of Hatch and that’s its strength, rated at 68 pounds!

So one backing solution is available that is thinner than gel spun, soft as Dacron, and stronger than anything else (except wire).

I think for line weights 6 and above it’s a no brainer.

Any downsides?

Yes, the first is that it’s expensive. 100 yards of 20 pound Dacron costs approximately $9.00. One hundred meters of Hatch backing is about $29.

That may seem like a lot of money for backing. But consider… think about having all of your $80 fly line out beyond the rod and relying on your three-year old 20-pound backing.

The second is that you can have any color backing you want as long as it’s white.
That may not mean much, but I like colored backing – particularly orange. Still I’ll sacrifice the color to get high-strength backing on my reels.

I’m putting it on all my six-weight and above reels.