When you start as an angler, you’ll see a lot of equipment in the market. There are fly rods, reels, lines, and flies. One thing you must have come across several times is a fly fishing leader. This article will answer what is a fly fishing leader, its purpose, type, and how to pick one.
The basic principle of fly fishing is to present a fly to the fish to lure them into taking the hook. The fly mimics a tiny insect floating on the water. But what if there’s a brightly colored fly line attached to that delicious-looking insect? Won’t look as appealing to the fish! That is where a fly fishing leader comes into play.
Fly Fishing Leader – Definition
A fly fishing leader is a transparent connection between the main fishing line and the tippet.
What Does A Fly Fishing Leader Do?
Leader line fishing serves two purposes;
First, a leader does not scare the fish away because it is transparent. Main fly lines are thick, heavy, and colored, which may look unnatural to a fish when attached directly to the fly.
Secondly, the structure and dimensions of a leader are such that it helps in casting the line perfectly. It balances out the heavy fishing lines, so the fly lands gently on the water without alerting the fish.
Types Of Fly Fishing Leader
Here are the few common types of fly fishing leaders;
1. Tapered Leaders
Tapered leaders are the ones you see commonly. Their thickness “tapers” throughout their length. The thickest portion lies closer to the fly line at the end, whereas the thinner end is towards the tippet.
2. Braided Fly Fishing Leader
Thin nylon filaments woven together give a braided fly fishing leader. It also has a taper and hooks on both ends for easy attachment to the fly line and tippet. Due to their braided structure, they offer more stiffness and present the fly more delicately.
Leader Material For Fly Fishing
The leader material is an important consideration. The most commonly available options are;
1. Monofilament Fly Leader
As apparent by the name, a monofilament leader consists of a single nylon fiber.
- More stretchable
- Retains the knots better
- It is economical
- Floats on the water
- It isn’t as durable
2. Fluorocarbon Leader
The best fluorocarbon leader for fly fishing is almost invisible and suitable for stealth casting. It is common in seawater fishing due to its strength.
- High invisibility
- It is stronger and more abrasion-resistant
- It sinks in the water quickly
- Low stretchability means the knots are prone to breaking
Fly Line Leader Anatomy
Most tapered dry fly leaders are usually composed of three essential parts;
1. Butt Section
It is where the leader line is the thickest. The butt section is where you tie the leader to the fly line. It is where the leader line is the widest. It is crucial to transition from the heavy fly line to a much thinner leader. Hence, ideally, the butt section should be almost two-thirds of the fly line’s
The butt section makes up 60% of the total leader length.
The taper is where the diameter of the leader transitions from thick to thin. A gradual change is necessary for maintaining the energy balance during a casting stroke.
The taper makes up 20% of the total leader length.
Fly fishing tippet is the most delicate portion at the end of the leader. It is where you attach the fly. The tippet’s length is subject to fishing conditions and lies somewhere between 18 to 30 inches. You can also add an additional tippet at the end of the leader.
The tippet makes up 20% of the total leader length.
Length Of Leader Line
It is an important question; how long should a leader line be for fly fishing?
Well, the answer depends primarily on your situation. But, the ideal length of a leader on fly line is somewhere near 9 feet.
You can alter the length based on the following factors;
1. Weight Of The Fly
The heavier the fly is, the shorter the fly fishing leader line.
2. Species Of Fish
Suppose you are looking to catch smaller fish that can be easily scared, use a longer leader. For stronger and larger fish, a shorter length will suffice.
Some Common Lengths For Leaders For Trout:
- The size of the trout and the river and stream determines the length of trout leaders. For a small creek with little trouts that don’t need much casting, a 6-7 feet leader is sufficient.
- A 7-9 feet length works for medium-sized trouts in moderate-width streams.
- The best trout leader’s length is 9-10 feet which work well for almost all trout.
- When fishing at a calm lake where fish are easy to scare, 11 to 15 feet is the best leader line for trout.
Tying Leader To Fly Line
With Welded Loops
The leader comes after you’ve put backing and fly line in your reel. If your fly line and leader come with pre-made loops on both ends, your work reduces to half. All you need to do is pass the fly line through the leader’s loop and then take the free end of the leader and pass it through the fly line’s loop. Pull them both in opposite directions to get a tight and strong loop-to-loop knot.
Without Looped Ends
If your leader does not have a loop, but the fly line does, connect them with the help of an Albright knot. You can watch the tutorial below to learn how to do it:
Whereas, if your leader and fly line both don’t have loops, make one on the mainline by attaching a three-inch piece of monofilament with the help of an Albright knot or a nail. Now, for the free end of the monofilament, tie a Perfection knot to make your permanent knot. Finally, complete the job by attaching the leader with an Albright knot just like before.
Here’s how to tie a Perfection knot:
Tying Leader To Tippet
You can use the last part of your leader as a tippet, but that means you’ll have to change quite often. Save some energy and the cost of buying a new leader repeatedly but tying a tippet to your fly line leader.
The simplest way of attaching a tippet to a leader is by using a Double Surgeon’s knot. It is a very handy knot and is pretty simple to tie. Check the video below to learn how to connect it;
How To Make Your Own Leaders?
With a store-bought leader, you cannot control the turn-over of the fly or how gently it lands on the water. These properties are preset, and there is little you can customize. To overcome this problem, I always advise young anglers to learn how to make their leader for fly fishing.
Here’s one way of doing it;
What You’ll Need:
- Maxima chameleon for the butt section
- Maxima Ultragreen for the midsection
- Spools of lines in a variety of diameters
- A measuring tape
- A pair of scissors or clippers
- To make your own leaders, the first step is determining how long should leader be. Most anglers use the 60,20,20 method. The formula indicates the percentages of lengths of the butt section, taper, and tippet, respectively.
- Cut all lines according to the length formula and in transitioning diameters.
- To assemble the lines, tie a perfection loop at the start of the butt section.
- Next, take the free end of the butt section and tie it to the largest mid-section segment using a blood knot with three turns.
- Use four turns blood knots to tie the remaining mid-section segments in decreasing diameters.
- Lastly, tie the tippet at the end of the middle section with a five turns blood knot.
- Now store your DIY leader by wrapping it around your four fingers while holding the tippet. After reaching the butt section, tie it around the leader a few times to secure it in place. Keep in a plastic pouch with a label, so you don’t mix it with others.
With so much information on fly fishing leaders, I am sure you will soon hit a river. And when you do, there will be little confusion regarding leader fly fishing.
You can search for the best fly fishing leaders on the internet and buy some for your angling rig or make one yourself. Whatever you choose to do, they are an integral part of your fly fishing setup, something you cannot miss.
If you want to learn how to set up a fly reel, I have posted on that. Go check it out and be a pro at angling!