R e d c h a s e r . c o m


Basic Leader Construction


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A Simple Formula For Effective Leaders.

Leaders are the ties that bind, the connection between fisherman and fish.  Leaders serve another important function as well.  Properly designed, a leader transfers the energy of our cast, and form of our loop, from fly line to fly.

Many newcomers to fly-fishing are surprised to find out that a leader is not just a level piece of mono, that is leaders are not the same diameter from butt to tip.  Leaders are gradually tapered from a thicker butt section down to a finer tip.  It is this taper that allows for the transfer of energy from the fly line to the fly.  A fly cast on a leader that is not tapered would just pile up at the end of the cast, without the leader unrolling fully.  A tapered leader on the other hand unrolls the loop of the cast in much the same way as the fly line, straightening to deliver the fly without slack in the leader.

There are 2 ways to achieve a taper in a leader.  One is in the manufacturing process, where a knotless leader is extruded in a taper.  The other is to tie a tapered leader using pieces of monofilament of various thick nesses.  While the knotless tapered leaders you can buy are very convenient, they can be a bit expensive.  They are also not readily available in all sizes in all areas.  Hand tied leaders are inexpensive to make, and can be easily customized both in size and taper to meet specific needs.

While there are specific leader and tippet materials available on the market, I find that regular Ande brand monofilament makes a fine leader at a low cost.

The first step in building a leader is deciding on a length, and also what diameter or class of tippet you want the leader to terminate in.  The tippet is the thinnest and weakest part of the leader, which is at the front end that attaches to the fly.  Leader length is usually determined on fishing conditions.  How spooky are the fish you are pursuing, how clear and or calm is the water, as well as how big are the fly's you plan on throwing.  A shorter leader generally turns over a fly more easily, but offers a less delicate presentation.  Longer leaders offer soft presentations to spooky fish, but can be a little harder to cast with.   The size of your tippet will also depend on what you're fishing for and what fly's you're casting.  Larger diameter tippet turns large flies over more easily than thin tippet.

A good moderate all around length for a leader is 9 ft.  For most inshore saltwater applications tippet of 8 - 15 pound test is usually sufficient.  Lets look at the construction of a 9ft saltwater leader.


When constructing your own leaders, there is a good rule of thumb called "The Rule of Halves".  Which states generally that when building a leader, the butt section should be roughly half the total length of the leader.  The butt section is followed by a second section of line, one step lighter or thinner than the butt section that is roughly one half the length of the butt section. This is then followed with a third section, again one step lighter, and half as long as the second section.  Following the third section you can elect to taper further with a fourth leader section, or you can tie in your tippet of around 16 inches.  The above illustration shows a leader made with three sections and a tippet, which is fine for most inshore saltwater applications.
In some instances, such as situations where a delicate presentation is not required, and you have to turn over large flies, you may build a leader of just a butt section of 3 or 4 feet and a tippet.   On the other hand, when fishing a crystal clear spring creek for spooky trout, you may need an extra long leader of say 13 feet, and add additional sections to the leader.  I find a 9 foot leader of 3 sections and a tippet a good all around leader.
The size lines you construct your leader of depends on where you want to end up with your tippet.  If you are going to be fishing a tippet of 8 - 15 pounds, you probably want to start with a butt section of around 40# test.  If you are going to be fishing 5x tippet for trout, a butt section of 20# test is fine.
The different sections of the leader are joined with a Blood Knot.  The tippet can be connected to the leader with a Blood Knot or with Loop To Loop Connections made with a Non Slip Mono Loop knot.  The leader is generally connected to the fly line with a Tube Nail Knot or Loop To Loop Connections made with a Non Slip Mono Loop knot.





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