Are You Using the correct Leaders ?

by Fly Fisherman

Leaders are used in fly fishing so the fish will see the fly but not the line to which it is attached and will grab the fly without suspicion. One of the major reasons novice fishermen don’t catch fish is that almost invariably they start out with the misconception that it is difficult to cast a long, thin leader. So they tie on a heavy, straight piece of leader material that bounces to right or to left at the end of every cast and drops on the water far too hard to fool any suspicious trout. Or it “folds,” not having the power to turn over and drop the fly on the surface.
Yet a long leader is one of the greatest strike getters in fishing and a tapered leader is one of the greatest aids to good casting. If the butt section, next to the line, is heavy enough, a long leader is easy to cast and enables the angler to put the fly down accurately and quietly.
It is this heavy butt section that makes the leader lay out, and from it the leader is gradually tapered down to the tippet required for the fish being sought. For instance, when I go for big tarpon, I taper my leaders from a 3o-pound test butt section through 25-, 20- and 15-pound test sections to a 12-pound test tippet, using this weight of tippet because tarpon fray a leader and the heavy diameter will make it just that much harder for them. For bonefish I taper the leader down to a 6-pound test tippet, or occasionally, if there is a lot of tough grass on the flats, I use an 8-pound test tippet. For brown trout in clear, shallow streams, I go to a 4- or 5-X tippet, while for the same fish in big, rough rivers, and using streamers, I tie on a 4- to 6-pound test tippet. But in all these leaders, regardless of the heavy or delicate tippet, I start with the same 3o-pound test butt section and graduate down to the desired size.
In each case, the butt section and the tippet section should be longer than the other graduations. For instance on a 14-foot leader tapered down to a 6-pound test tippet, the ideal arrangement of lengths is three feet of 3o-pound test butt section, two feet of 25, two feet of 20, 18 inches of 15, one foot of 12, one foot of to, 18 inches of 8-pound test and two feet of 6-pound test. With such a heavy butt section the leader will have what it takes to turn the fly over, while the long, light tippet will make for a minimum of water disturbance, will be less likely to be seen by the fish, and will allow the angler to work the fly better.

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