Leader length & Size

by Fly Fisherman

If you have fished with companions much you’ll know of those anglers who insist on shorter leaders with the claim that it makes no particular difference providing the tip of leader is fine enough. A longer leader, having no particular weight, is more difficult to cast and you’ll find that those who do not or will not use a leader longer than nine feet have discovered that fact. Knowing their casting limitations and having no wish to improve their skill they stick with their six, seven and eight-foot leader lengths and blame failure to catch as many fish as they could on other factors usually outside themselves.

There are streams and there are occasions when the shorter leaders are the ones to use but generally a longer one is of greater advantage to the fisherman if he is able to handle it satisfactorily. In performing craft casts, particularly the curve, or hook casts, a shorter leader is of assistance in getting the accuracy that’s sometimes imperative if your efforts are to be crowned with results. I am not, however, alone in the experience of fishing with a seven to nine-foot length leader tapered to a suitably fine tippet and having only mediocre or no success and by extending the tippet three or four feet have the action pick up surprisingly. Why this fact is so, is problematic. With a nine-foot leader the line rarely gets into the trout’s direct vision range but the extended leader does result in more rises to your fly.

One reason could be that in using the longer and finer leader the dragging line has less effect on the action of the fly.
With an abundance of varying conditions occurring during the fishing period it is not too easy to experiment with different lengths of leader in an attempt to determine just what footage is best. Over a period of years these same experiments
should have given us some idea of the facts that we want and my conclusion, which is by no means final, is that the twelve to fifteen-foot leader will secure more resultf ul action for you while using the dry fly on normal dry fly water.

Should it be quite windy, the longer leader, however, is not the easiest thing to control with any degree of accuracy. In rough heavy water the length of your leader, generally, has no particular hearing on your fishing success providing the leader is at least seven feet long. In this type water, too, the tippet does not have to be quite so fine. In fact one can drop down to as coarse as .010 ( I X-31/2 to 4 pounds) if the water is not too clear. If low and clear water is the case .008 or .007 (3X-21/4 pounds or 4X-13/4 pounds) would be satisfactory. T

These latter tip strengths vary as to quality of the material but are probably considered over one and one-half to two pounds providing the knots are correctly formed and tied and that is ample. A one-pound tippet (approximately .006 or .055) in open water, with the bend of your rod, will successfully subdue any ten-pound fish without reaching a breaking strain, if the fish is played right, which is not too difficult if you don’t become impatient or panicky.
In fishing dry flies on smaller streams which are open, and allowing the angler to play his hooked fish, leader tippets of one pound and less will hold satisfactorily if the leader knots are right. Most anglers use, however, 4X (.007) and 5X (.006) as the minimum in fineness, and 2X (.009) and 3X (.008) for rougher going.

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