Steelhead Backing

Am curious how much backing is enough for steelhead. 100 yards? 150 yards? Has anyone been spooled or had a fish run off more than 100 yards? Have to admit I haven't even been close to being spooled although most of the native and hatchery fish I've caught are in the 8-12 pound range.
100 is fine. I think the old adage of at least 200 yards is crap unless you fish the thompson. Those fish are an entirely different beast. I have never been into my backing with washington steelhead. They just are not long running fish. Plus if you do have 200 yards (or even a hundred) the fish is most likely downstream and you are better off just breaking it off. Otherwise you are going to be dragging that fish upstream and most likely kill it with a long fight.


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Yeah, you really don't need that much. If you think about it, that's a football field away. BUT, unless you have a large arbor reel, it's nice having that much line for cranking flyline on. I know it's alot easier to crank on say 50 yards of line ontop of 150yards of line, then on a similar sized spool (or probably smaller diameter) with only say 50 yards. You'll be cranking in double time then.

Now, a king rod, I'd have 200 no problem, especially in the salt.
Most of my steelie's have run back and forth, top to bottom of the hole, and then back again, so I end up picking up the same amount of backing a couple of times. I have had a few that had me close to half way into my 200 yard backing, both times running hard downstream though heavy rapids, where it took me a long time to pick my way through boulders and bushes to follow to catch up to it. I was glad then that I had the extra backing.

I can see that if the time ever comes that I pick up my lifetime trophy fish in tough water, the extra backing may be the difference between the big one that got away and the smiling photo op. But for most of the steelhead, 100 yds is plenty enough. I'm just concerned about that one special fish that I'm going to get into one of these days. :cool:


Active Member
Dave -
I agree with the others that 150 yards should be adequate though in nearly 50 years of fly fishing I have seen the metal spool with 150 yards of backing a 1/2 dozen times. Twice with steelhead - both summer steelhead of unremarkable size but large hearts -once I stopped I did land both. Once with a exceptional chinook - also stopped and landed. Twice with remarkable Dollies - both lost and once with a stubborn chum also lost.

It has been my experience that once a fish gets deep into the backing the probabilities of landing the fish decreases dramatically. Once they get 80 or more yards into the backing I would say I am only able to eventually put my hand on the fish about 1/2 of the time.

Tight lines
S malma

Latest posts