Backing Splices

By Scott Richmond

Sometimes you need to splice the backing of your fly line. It may have been nicked or frayed, or perhaps you changed fly lines and the old backing is too short. Whatever the reason, you don't need to start over with entirely new backing if you know how to do a splice.

Splicing is easy--but tedious--once you do it few times. Standard backing is braided dacron, so it's hollow. Once you put two ends into each other, it holds tight, without bulk--like those bamboo "Japanese handcuffs" that kids play with. All you need is a bobbin threader that you'd use for fly tying.


1. Start with one end of the two pieces you're splicing. For clarity, I'll call the two pieces "A" (orange) and "B" (white). Measure about five or six inches from the end of "A" and insert the bobbin threader into the backing so it's into the hollow center.

2. Carefully work the threader towards the end of "A", being careful not to let the threader poke out the side of the backing until you've got about two-and-a-half or three inches of "A" on the threader.

3. Put the end of "B" into the threader loop

4. Pull the end of "B" through. For the time being, let the excess stick out the end.

5. Insert the bobbin threader into "B" about two-and-a-half or three inches from where the two pieces join together.

6. As before, work "B" onto the threader until you're almost to the joint. Put the loose end of "A" into the threader and pull it through.

7. Now both backing sections are inserted into each other, but you have excess backing sticking out.

8. Scrunch up backing A so more excess "B" is sticking out. Trim "B" and pull on "A." The cut end of "B" is now inside "A." Repeat for the other side of the joint.

9. You've got a nice, neat splice that is barely thicker than the original backing. It is as strong as the original.

This is easier to do with new backing. Once it's been used, it flattens, which makes it harder to work the threader through the middle.

Changing Colors

Joel LaFollette, retail manager for Kaufmann's in Portland, put me onto a neat trick. Make the first 25 yards of backing--the part that goes onto the reel-- one color. Then splice on a different color for the rest of your backing.

For example, you might have 25 yards of orange backing attached to the reel, but the rest of the backing is white. When a big fish (giant trevally, permit, steelhead, tarpon, [insert your fantasy here]) is running like hell, and the backing changes from white to orange, you know you're running short--only 25 yards left--and you'd better start chasing that fish!

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).