Posts Tagged ‘leader construction


Every Day in May Challenge: Leader Construction

Oh my, these topics really bring out my weaknesses don’t they? The leader, the skinny little ‘tapered’ link to the fly and hopefully the fish. I do care about that nail knot securing the mono butt section to the end of the line. I do try for a taper toward the fly. Sometimes I invest in a pack of 3 tapered leaders, either 7′ or 9′ to a 4# end. I rebuild from there with the tippet piece. I try, I really do, for a 50, 25 25 (%) or 60, 20, 20 (%) ratio of materials.

But it isn’t until the fish trail off, that I notice I’m fishing with a 7′ leader with 10# married to 3.5# by a gnarly surgeons knot. Do you notice I never use the 5x or 6x designations. I flunked math for a reason: part memory, part befuddlement. I stay in the #’s like my old gear days. I do try to pay attention to length, but as you read, I am sometimes behind on that standard.

All of it (precise leader construction) doesn’t make much of a difference for me/to me. Of course, maybe it would if I always fished gin clear spring creeks, but short of the Metolius River or Fall River…I don’t.

The best addition of leader material for me has been fluorocarbon leader. No, I don’t have trouble with knots or joining mono to fluoro. I’ve use it far and wide and it has improved the takes…just my impression. See how non-techno I am? Such randomness would never fly in certain circles, but I’m not building a rocket or a bridge. I am simply fishing. 

Tomorrow’s Every Day in May Challenge Topic: Fly


Fly Fishing: Loop to Loop or Knots?

Much of your beginning time in fly fishing will be looking for ‘the best way’ to do some aspect of the sport. You will study and also, hopefully, meet other fly fishers in clubs, shops and on the water that share their ideas of ‘the best way’ to do something. As you will come to see, there are pro’s and con’s of those best ways. Little, if anything, is the best way. In the end, you will experiment, probably waste money and be a bit confused until you arrive at your best way. It can take a season or years depending upon how often you fish.

 One of those ‘best ways’ thing is how you connect the leader’s butt section to your fly line. For a good many years I used those braided, nylon loop attachments that fit over the tip of the fly line. From there the loop end of a leader’s butt section was connected loop to loop. I probably fished that way 20+ years and it worked fine for most of my river fishing. As I fished more and more on lakes, that connection method fell into disfavor for me. The loop rarely came off the end of the fly line in a straight lie; it curved. Consequently, the leader had this odd bend/curve to it.

Probably of no import, it bugged me and I changed to nail knotting a ‘permanent’ butt section of 35# mono, say about 24 inches (some shops will nail knot on an 8″ piece of butt section..that is not near enough). I then do not use a loop at the end of that butt section. I take the butt/thicker end of the leader (tapered or built) and use either a surgeon’s knot or blood knot to connect the two sections (no loops).

As I said, I nail knot a heavy piece of mono directly to the fly line. Some shops will make this piece about 4-8" long and with a loop. If you go loop to loop fine. I don't so my butt section is 18-24' long and I blood knot/surgeon's knot the butt of my leader to the heavy mono coming off my fly line. Just so you know your options in building a tapered, strong leader to present your fly. A little dab of a UV Wader Repair gel over the knot is a nice touch too...not too much though.

So, you have a couple options to try out: Loop to loop connections or nail knot/surgeon/blood knots. My suggestions: if you build leaders and repair purchased tapered leaders then learn your knots (you should know the basic knots to connect tippet to leader any way regardless of how you connect things farther up at the fly line/butt section) and use the nail knot (butt section to fly line). If you are the type that likes to throw down money on tapered leaders and do little to build leaders or repair leaders then go with the loop to loop. Undo the loops and throw on your knewly purchased tapered leader (I am not again using the occasional purchased tapered leader).

Just an example of ‘the best way to do something’ options that have differing tastes, opinions, perhaps results. This covers hundreds of decisions you will encounter. You could get your lawn chair, sit on your keister and decide what color of Power Bait’s working best this afternoon.


Fly Fishing: Wicked Knots & Leaders

”Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”

Fly Line-Butt Section Connection (Kind of....)

When you buy a fly line and have it put on the reel, at the shop, insist on the shop employee attaching a butt section of 18″ not 6″.  Not with a loop, without! Learn the Surgeon’s Knot or Blood Knot and attach your nice, new tapered leader to the butt section via one of those two knots. From there repair your own leader by replacing lost sections with sections of progressively smaller mono. Carry these small spools of mono, in various sizes to repair the last half of your leader (depending upon the type of fish you are chasing) I usually have larger diameter spools of mono back at the rig should disaster strike and I have to rebuild the leader from scratch. Do not keep buying new leaders every time you break off 3′ of tippet/leader. This is your choice, your money, but over the long haul you save some money and develop the knot tying skills to avoid the disaster above.

There are previous posts here on SwittersB re leader construction and formulas. The ‘net has lots of information re formulas of so much (a % usually) of this X and then that amount of a different, smaller X. Study up on leader construction. May I admit to never having adopted the X concept? I have a basic memorization of X = # line size. I was a gear guy as well as a fly fisher for years. Leaders were built with so many inches of 10#, 8#, 6#, 4# mono. The fly fishing industry feels compelled to continue with the X diameter system and for you to memorize certain X diameters are equal to certain fly sizes etc. Whatever. If you chase trout, or whatever you pursue, have a good idea of the approximate pound strength of your mono related to the X factor. From there your finger tips will sense the approximate thickness (X or #) you have broken off at, on the leader, (my fingers feel the line is about 6# or 4X) and I am going to rebuild the leader/tippet with a section of 4# or 5X to maintain a taper and proper turnover. If my fly is of the miniscule variety then I will factor in a section of 6X as well, and so on. You should have the 3-4 spools you need with you on the water. If you travel ultra light, you may only carry a couple of spools.

Everything About Leaders at GFF…Excellent Resource

Nail Knot, Nipper, Hook Eye Poker

The above knot does not lend itself to proper, quiet presentations. It gets hung up on the guides as you pull your line through to string the rod. Hell, it looks terrible! I infrequently tie this knot myself, so I am by no means as adept as the kids that spool an re-spool lines all day and tie on new butt sections in a shop. There is a handy tool, I have had for years, and use four or so times a year (usually for some one else’s mess) is the ‘nail knot’ tyer device. Sometimes this comes with a nipper and a stylus to poke through hook eyes that have been glued shut. A handy little gizmo, it is well worth the initial expense. Of course, if you want to use a nail/needle then have at it. ‘Tie Fast Nail Knot’ is an excellent little tool as well and used by shops all the time.      Tie Fast Knot Tyer by DPruitt

'Tie Fast' gizmo

It you are going to deceive the fish, then no tangled webs…learn your knots and use them! These gizmo’s will help….if you practice.


Fly Fishing: Knots Landing

One of the basics of fishing how to’s are knots; the how to tie a certain knot. For the average, beginning fly fisher, fishing freshwater, there are only a few knots to learn. Most beginning books, classes, blogs (to include this one…see search box re “knots”) for fly fishing, have plenty of info on how to tie a cinch/clinch knot, surgeon’s knot, blood knot, nail knot, loop knot. 

The problem I encounter on the water with beginners, is they look past the importance of a maintained uniformly tapered leader/tippet. The proper leader is important in turning over the fly via the cast. It is important in the presentation of a soft delivery to not spook the fish. 

A knot that joins butt section to leader or leader to tippet should not look like a granny knot on steriods. Keep the knots lean and horizontal, not round, irregular and clunky. Knots create drag, so pay attention to this important, basic skill. Understand how to tie/construct/maintain a reasonably tapered leader of around the length of your rod if not more. Strive to maintain that butt section/leader length and only have to touch up the tippet length now and then after break offs or repeated changing of flies.  Presentation of the line, leader, tippet, fly includes a streamlined, properly tied knot. 


Fly Fishing: Leader Construction (Fiddle Farting Around)

As a beginning fly fisher, let’s say you decide you are going fishing tomorrow. The mental process to have, that I suggest, is to ask yourself….what shape is my gear in? How did I leave it from the last outing; yesterday or two months ago……how did you leave your gear?

Oliver Heublin (Artist) SB

The efficient way to handle this, is to access your gear the night before. Do you have anything in short supply? Flies, leader material, a piece of often used gear (pliers, nippers, spools of leader material, etc.). This is particularly important if a friend is picking you up at 0-Dark-30. Have your gear together and ready to go. If you are meeting a guide have your gear together. Don’t waste valuable time with a friend or guide putzing around with prep that should have been completed the night or days before. I have fished with people that waste my time and theirs rigging up before we venture forth. Obsessive or not, I consider a half hour + of prep time stream side/lake side that should have been done the night before inconsiderate of friends or guide or both.

So, this brings me to leader construction. Assess your leader for length, taper and wind knots. What type of fly line (Floater, Intermediate, Type II etc.)? What type of fishing? What type of likely fly patterns? Know how to piece together the sections of leader in order to construct the proper length of leader. That means know the proportions of a leader and the knots to join the sections together. (MnFlyFishing)

For the beginner the formulas that are often used are  50%>>>>25%>>>>25%   or 60%>>>>20%>>>>20%. Here is a good explanation on constructing leaders for freshwater & saltwater. ActiveAngler

My advice: assess your gear the night before. Be ready. Don’t putz around the morning before and burn daylight. Become proficient in piecing together your own leaders. Having to run to the fly shop the morning of an outing to buy a new tapered leader or a spool of mono is poor planning and again burning valuable daylight. Do not do that with a friend, who was prepared the night before. Part of the fun of fly fishing is fiddling and fondling the gear. However, don’t fumble around with the gear. Get to the point…fish.


Fly Fishing: Rebuilding a Tapered Leader


Surgeon’s Knot

These two knots are critical to your success on the water. Rebuilding your leader is inevitable. You must know these two knots. Notice the info that the blood knot is best for similar sized leader material and the surgeon’s knot is suitable for different sized leader materials that must be joined. I use the surgeon’s knot most often for all my leader construction. Study both and use both. Whether you are standing at the back of your rig, sitting in a drift boat or tube, or standing mid-stream with your rod under your arm and rebuilding your leader….learn these two knots.


Fly Tying & Fishing: This and That

I always unspin my thread every few turns to achieve a smooth body and prevent breakages. For every turn and half of thread you do it twists the thread one turn eventually causing it to weaken and break. If you are a right handed tyer and you are turning from front to back you will need to spin your bobbin anti clockwise.” UKFlyDressing

“When ordering or inquiring about grizzly variant feather pelts, be sure to ask how much of the cape (in %age) is variant. Whiting Farms typically assigns the following variant categories: ~25%, ~15%, ~5% variant, where 5% variant is the most grizzly and the least variant.” Whiting Variants

What are the sections of a fly fishing leader?
Generally there are three basic sections to a tapered leader: Butt, Body and Tippet.  One common way to determine length is by using the 50, 25, 25 rule.  Use 50% of the total length of the leader for the butt section, then 25% for the body and 25% for the tippet leader sections.

  • Butt – One of the most important sections of the tapered leader formula as it begins the transfer of energy from the fly line to the leader material.  Leaders with a diameter near .020” to .026” are good choices to use.  Stiffness is another factor to consider in the butt section. A line too limp will make the leader collapse or fold over.  A line to stiff will not properly roll the line over and not transfer the energy to the body section.
  • Body – This section contains smaller diameter lines and starts to relieve the energy from the fly line, but at the same time keeping control of the fly for proper presentation.
  • Tippet – Tippet lengths from 16” – 24” is a good guide to follow.

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