Tackle Assembly

Learn step by step how to assemble your fly fishing tackle.


Your fly fishing rod assembly begins with connecting the ferrules (the connections between the fly rod sections). Most fly rods are two-piece, meaning there will only be a single ferrule connection. However, a multi-piece fishing rod assembly may contain as many as six sections (and five ferrule connections).

  1. With pack or travel rods, begin assembling the rod at the butt end and progress to the tip.
  2. Line up the guides and slightly tighten the ferrule. Never push, force or twist the ferrule excessively - damage or locking of the rod sections may occur if you do.

Look down the fly rod to make sure the guides are all in a straight line. To avoid rod damage, do not lay the rod down or prop it against an irregular surface as you unpack your fly reel. Be especially cautious of doors and car trunks, which break more fly rods than fish do.


Remove the fly reel from its bag or case. Do not drop it. Most fly reels will be damaged if dropped onto a hard surface.

  1. Position the fly reel correctly, making sure the handle is on the proper side, and tighten the reel seat hardware down snugly on the reel foot.
  2. Never tighten the fly reel to the seat by using excess finger pressure or pliers.


  1. While holding fly rod with one hand, use the other to find the leader's end and pull the entire leader and 10 to 15 feet of fly line from the reel.
  2. Double over the fly line about 2 feet from the leader and pass the doubled end through each guide, pulling the excess fly line and fly leader after it.
  3. Never lay the rod down and pull the line out. This will cause reel damage and allow grit to get into the reel. If grit does get into the fly reel, remove the spool and rinse off both the frame and spool with fresh water. This will usually flush away most of the grit.


Because both the fly leader and fly line are stored in small coils on your reel, they will naturally maintain some of this coiled shape as you pull line off the reel. Since coiled line hampers good casting and fishing performance, you’ll need to straighten the leader and line by following these simple steps:

  1. Hold the fly line firmly just above the leader junction knot.
  2. Grasp the fly leader at the junction with both hands and begin pulling, using sliding strokes, working slowly down to the leader tip. This heats up and stretches the coiled leader.
  3. Feel the fly leader get warm in your grip, then stretch it very tightly for about 30 seconds. This heating, stretching and cooling will straighten the leader. Repeat if necessary. Avoid using so-called leader straighteners. These can easily overheat the fly leader and weaken and damage it.
  4. Pull as much fly line as you will be casting out through the fly rod's tip guide. Slowly pull on and stretch short sections of the fly line. This should remove most of the line coils. Repeat this step if necessary. You can also attach the fly leader and fly line to a stationary object, then pull the entire length at once.
  5. Now rewind the fly line onto the fly reel. It will remain straightened for a day's use.

In cold weather below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) be extremely careful not to quickly pull the fly line very tight, or the plastic finish may crack.


Attach your fly to the fly leader tippet with either a Duncan loop, Turle knot or improved cinch knot. The Duncan loop, or Uniknot, is usually the most practical and versatile. Because the loop formed is adjustable, the fly can be held tight or loose, or with a large shock loop, with a simple loop size adjustment.

And that’s it. You’ve completed your fly fishing rod assembly, from connecting ferules to attaching flies. Now, read below for the best fly fishing tackle maintenance and storage tips for your fly fishing tackle box.


To hold or store the fly temporarily before you begin casting it, or between fishing periods, put the fly in the rod's hook-keeper and tighten the fly line so it will not fall out. If the leader goes inside the rod's guides at this point, pull it entirely out, pass the fly leader around the reel seat, hook the fly in the keeper or the closest rod guide, and bring the leader under tension again with the fly reel.


Improperly disassembling and storing your fly fishing tackle can cause damage, deterioration, or delay before its next use. After a day of fly fishing, it is easy to neglect your tackle and forget it until next time. Avoid problems by following these fly fishing basics.


Cut the fly off the leader and carefully store it in an open area (hat band or vest fly-drying patch).


Carefully and evenly wind your fly line and fly leader back onto the reel under light tension only. You can wipe the fly line nearly clean and dry with a towel. Do not wind the fly line onto the fly reel too loosely or too tightly. Either will cause line damage or tangles.


If you are using a floating fly line and intend to clean or dress it with waterproof floatant, the most opportune time to do it is when straightening the fly line. While the fly line is stretched, apply the cleaner with a clean cloth or dressing applicator. Fly lines, new and used, always last and perform better if they are regularly cleaned and dressed. Products designed to clean and condition fly lines are available at most fly shops.


  1. Remove the fly reel from the fly rod. Wipe it clean with a towel. Put it into its storage bag or case, but do not close it tightly. Allow air to reach the fly reel so any moisture remaining in and on it can evaporate.
  2. Take a careful, firm grip on the two sections of the fly rod and pull the ferrules apart. If the ferrules become stuck, have your partner also take hold of each section as both of you pull the sections apart. Be particularly careful that you do not bend or twist either section as you pull them apart.
  3. Use a towel or cloth to dry and clean the fly rod. A spray window cleaner will safely remove any dirt or greasy film. After the fly rod has been wiped dry, place it, ferrules down, in the cloth bag. Do not get the bag wet. Now place the fly rod, inside its bag, into the rod case or tube.
  4. If you must store either a damp fly rod or damp bag, remember to remove them from the case and allow them to dry as soon as you can.


To prolong the life of your fly fishing tackle, you need to store it properly. Keep both the fly rod and fly reel in a cool, dry, dark place away from sunlight when possible. Be sure you do not seal either the rod or reel case tightly during long storages. When storing your fly reel and fly line for a few months, it's best to remove the line from the reel, clean it and store it in large, loose coils to extend its life. Fly lines have soft, flexible coatings or finishes that will deform if left tight on a fly reel for long periods.

Well-maintained fly fishing tackle not only gives you the best return for your investment but is also less likely to fail when the fish of a lifetime is at the end of your line.

Courtesy of Fly Fisherman Magazine.

Learn how to tie flies specific to the type of fish you want to catch in our next section.