Why Fly Line Backing Matters

Article Written by Matthew Borovy. Learn More About the author below / Article Read Time: 6 Minutes

Fly Line Backing

Fly Line backing is an often-overlooked component of fly fishing and in some instances, just as important as a quality rod, reel, and fly line. Many people will purchase a quality reel and fly line and then skip out on the quality of backing to save a couple of bucks. Like most people, I love to save money where I can when purchasing expensive fly-fishing equipment, but the backing is not the place to do this. Your fly line backing is the lifeline of your setup and should be taken just as seriously as every other component of your outfit. If you are targeting species that are known to go on long runs, having high-quality backing isn’t even a question. Cortland Line offers the most diverse range of premium backing products in the industry, all made in the USA. From Steelhead to Tarpon, we have you covered for any and every backing application imaginable.

A collage of someone preparing their fly line with Cortland Line products

Selecting the Right Backing 

When selecting a backing type and size, you want to consider a few different factors. The size of your reel, the type & size of species you are targeting as well as the water type you will be fishing in. Are you fishing freshwater systems where the fish are more limited in their room to run? Or are you fishing for saltwater species that are known to go on long, speedy runs like False Albacore or Bonefish? Below, we will provide a general guide on how to select the proper backing for specific use cases and the benefits of each. The smaller the lb test backing, the more capacity you can stack on your reel. On the contrary, the larger the lb test backing, the less capacity you can stack on your reel. As an angler, you need to consider the break strength of your leader and fly line. Unless you are fishing an IGFA-rated leader system, we suggest progressing the strength of your entire leader, fly line, and backing system. For example, if your leader/tippet max strength is 16 lb test, make sure you are fishing a fly line with a core strength of at least 20 lb test or larger with a backing size of 30 lb. This way if you do get stretched out into your backing, the failure will only happen at your fly connection knot. If your fly line and/or backing are weaker than your leader system, there is a chance you may lose more than just your fly! 


Micron Fly Line Backing

Cortland’s collection of backing products includes Micron, Gel Spun, and Spliceable hollow core. Micron is our most popular backing selection amongst a variety of angling applications and has set a standard for quality and performance for over 50 years. Available in six different color options in both 20 lb. and 30 lb. sizes, we have everything from basic colors to hi-vis options. Check out the different options of Cortland's Micron Fly Line Backing

Angler fishing during the winter on the banks of a river while reeling in his fly line
Angler pulling a trout out of a fishing net

Micron is braided with premium Dacron fibers in a 12-carrier construction. Carrier construction refers to the number of individual fibers that the braid is composed of. The higher the number of carriers, the smoother and rounder the finish of the braid is. Micron is a great all-purpose backing, and we recommend utilizing the 20 lb for most freshwater species and smaller saltwater species. This includes everything from trout, bass, and pike to school sized striped bass, small redfish, etc. From smaller reels to reels in the 8 wt. class, our 20 lb will have you covered. Our 30 lb micron is ideal for bigger freshwater species such as salmon, steelhead, and large trout. This size tends to pair well with lines/reels in the 8-12 wt. class. The diameter breakdown for both Micron sizes is below. 

BREAK STRENGTH (LB) DIAMETER (INCHES) BRAID CARRIER
20lb .015in 12
30lb .019in 12
A collage of an individual setting up their reel with Cortland's Micron Fly Line Backing

 Gel Spun Fly Line Backing

Cortland Gel Spun backing differs from Micron as it is braided with premium gel spun spectra fibers in a tight, smooth finish. These fibers are thinner than Dacron fibers, resulting in a thinner braid per break strength. The benefit of this is you get a stronger braid per diameter size, ultimately increasing the capacity of line you can fit on your reel. This is very handy when targeting Saltwater species that are known to run as you can fit way more backing on your reel without compromising the strength of the braid.

An individual standing in saltwater fly fishing
A fisherman kneeing in water holding his fly fishing rod and a fish he caught
BREAK STRENGTH (LB) DIAMETER (INCHES) BRAID CARRIER PICKS PER INCH
30lb .012in 4 20
50lb .014in 6 24
80lb .020in 8 24

In general, we recommend utilizing our 30 lb Gel Spun Backing for most Freshwater species and smaller saltwater species. Trout, Steelhead, False Albacore, and Bonefish. We recommend utilizing our 50 lb Gel Spun for medium to large fresh and saltwater species from 7 wt reels up to 12 wt reels. The largest size we offer in our Gel Spun Backing is 80 lb., this size backing is recommended for larger saltwater species and 10 wt reels to the largest fly reels offered. Tarpon, Tuna, Permit, GT's etc. Gel Spun is offered in four different colors, White, Pink, Blue and Yellow. See the full assortment of Cortland's Gel Spun Fly Line Backing.


Spliceable Hollow Core Fly Line Backing 

Cortlands Spliceable Hollow Core Fly Line Backing is the most premium backing on the market. Composed of Spectra fibers, this backing is the only 16-carrier backing in the world. The 16-carrier construction gives a buttery smooth, strong finish on this backing while also providing a great structure for splicing the back end of your fly line into. For seamless connections and no knots needed. This is extremely beneficial to fly anglers that are fishing for the most demanding saltwater species that are going to be run into backing time and time again. Not worrying about knots in the middle of your setup and having the confidence that your backing is going to be spooled off your reel smoothly and consistently every time is such an overlooked benefit in Saltwater Fly Fishing. From GTs, Tarpon, Permit, Striped Bass, and False Albacore to Billfish and Tuna, do not attempt to go after the most demanding fish without the best backing in the world.

A man reeling in a fish while standing in thigh-high water
Man smiling while holding up the giant trivially he caught

The hollow property of this braid also gives it a next-level stacking capacity. The 40 lb size is only .011 of an inch! That is almost half the diameter size of a 30 lb. Micron with 25% more strength!

BREAK STRENGTH (LB) DIAMETER (INCHES) BRAID CARRIER PICKS PER INCH
40lb .011in 16 36
60lb .014in 16 25
80lb .016in 16 30

Our 40 lb is ideal for medium-sized saltwater species from 6 wt to 8 wt reels and 6-8 wt fly lines. Our 60 lb is ideal for medium to large saltwater species from 8 wt to 12 wt reels and for splicing 8-12 wt. fly lines into. The 80 lb is the largest size we offer in our hollow core backing and is designed for the largest game fish being targeted with a fly rod. 10 wt + set ups and 10 wt and larger fly lines is what this size is ideal for. We offer this backing in White or Chartreuse and the selection can be seen at Cortland's Hollow Core Fly Line Backing collection. 


About the author

Matt Borovy is a Cortland Line Sales Rep. and a member of the marketing team. A Connecticut native, he began freshwater fly fishing at the age of 15 years old and eventually made the transition into saltwater fly fishing for Striped Bass and False Albacore across the Northeast. He now resides in Syracuse, NY and spends most of his time targeting the many freshwater lakes and rivers in the area while still making regular trips to the salt. 


Products Mentioned in this Article
Micron Fly Line Backing 
Gel Spun Fly Line Backing
Spliceable Hollow Core Fly Line Backing

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