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The Purpose of a Leader
- Transferring and dissipating the energy of the cast towards the fly.
- Aiding in the proper presentation of the fly.
- Allowing the fly to respond in a lifelike manner.
- Providing a nearly invisible connection between you and your offering.
- A properly designed line will have just the right amount of energy left at the end of a cast to turn over the leader and deliver the fly.
- Continue the dissipation of casting energy.
- Lines are designed to be cast with leaders.
- Line will “kick” without a leader
Types of Tapered Leaders
- Dry or Spring Creek
- Long, limp, wispy, thin
- Needs to straightens very rapidly for an active retrieve and offers immediate control of the fly.
- A short, large diameter design made with tough, stiff materials is the ticketBass/Panfish
- Relatively short and stiff
- Made for toothy fishes
- Durability and strength are key
- Stiff, strong and abrasion resistant, transparency is less of an issue
- Connector should be 12-inches long.
- Perfection Loop should be ¾-inch.
- Should not slip or hinge at the joint
- A lightweight connection is essential to preserve the integrity of the fly line’s taper.
- Provide a smooth transfer of energy from line to leader
- Be as small and unobtrusive as possible
- A big awkward joint has more of a chance to catch on the guides, pick up weeds, get caught on snags in the water, and increase the air resistance of the tip of the line.
- Braided loop connectors.
- Braided nylon, which is heavier than water, can cause line tips to sink.
- These connectors should be dressed with Green Mucilin. Be sure not to coat the tip of your fly line as well; some fly floatants are harmful to fly lines.
- Metal No-Knot barbed eyelets that insert into the end of the fly line.
- Whipped loops made with bobbin by folding back the end of the fly line.
- Epoxy splices made with Zap-a-Gap or CA glue.
Taper Section of Leader
- The Taper section must continue to convey the loop toward the fly while slowing the fly down so that it does not spin into a spiral or snap like a whip.
- May not be as long as the other two sections, yet it may have a series of shorter segments with more knots to tie.
- By reducing the diameter in a series of segments of progressively finer material, the energy transfer becomes less and less efficient.
Properties of Monofilament
- Extruded nylon and co-polymer nylons comprise the best leader materials today.
- Stiffer mono, such as Maxima or Amnesia line offer great material as butt and taper sections.
- Co-polymer, being softer materials, such as Orvis SuperStrong, Umpqua, Dai Riki Velvet and Rio PowerFlex, make for great taper and tippet materials
- Will sink faster than standard monofilament leader material.
- More abrasion-resistant; which makes it a better choice for streamer leaders, nymph leaders and saltwater tippets.
- Near-transparent nature – more so than standard mono.
- Use a Surgeon's knot with three loops versus the standard two.
9’ Knotless Tapered Leader
- Size 14―Tungsten Bead Head Nymph
- 3X tippet; fluorocarbon or stiff nylon
- Size 14―Parachute Adams
- 4X tippet; medium nylon
- Wind resistant pattern that can twist a smaller size tippet.
- Size 14―Emerger Pattern
- 5X tippet; soft nylon
- Produces slack line “S”’s for a drag-free drift.
Short Cast ― Short Leader
- Using long leaders for short casts of, say, less than 25 feet, is futile.
- If you have short casts, where there will be very little fly line to load the rod, there will be very little energy to turn over a long leader.
- WF-4F fly line has 30-foot head
- With 15-feet of fly line beyond the rod tip; then you are effectively casting a 2-wt. fly line.
- The solution is to tie your own leaders!
- A 4’ to 5’ leader may be best in the Smoky Mountains.
Charles Ritz Leader
- 60-20-20 Formula
- General purpose leader attributed to Charles Ritz.
- Published in 1950 printing of A Fly Fisher’s Life.
- 60% idea has persisted, although Ritz was working with silk lines and gut leaders.
- 40-20-40 Formula
- May be more appropriate for modern fly lines.
- Designing a leader begins with defining its job.
- Dead-drifting―the leader should not interfere in any way with the path of the imitation in the currents.
- Active retrieve―the leader should straighten on delivery and provide instant contact between fisher and fly.
- Bottom-bouncing―leader should withstand a great deal of abrasion & might have to be extremely long to allow a small fly to sink easily, or it might have to be quite short to allow for a particular casting methodology.
Turning the Fly Over
- Once the leader’s job is identified, ,the angler must consider the way energy flows from the line, through the butt, taper, and tippet sections, to the fly.
- Energy flow is a function of the cross-sectional area of the leader material, its stiffness, and its overall length. A) the larger the cross-sectional area, the more energy that can be carried; B) the stiffer the material, the more energy that can be carried; C) the shorter the section, the more energy it will transfer forward.
How to Eliminate Drag
- Slack in the fly line and leader in the form of “S” curves significantly reduces the impact of drag.
- Drag can be further reduced by minimizing the number of current lanes your line and leader crosses.
- Leader material should be flexible enough to bend with the cross-currents in the water.
- The Harvey-style Leader is the dry-fly fishers most potent weapon against drag. You can’t fish dry flies effectively without it.
- George Harvey concluded that slack in the leader in the form of S curves significantly reduced the impact of drag.
- Famous experiment using live insects threaded with short segments of leader materials and allowing them to drift freely in the current over feeding fish.
- No significant difference between the number of free-floating bugs taken with no leader material and those with even relatively large-diameter segments of leader material attached, provided their drift was unaffected.
- Designed to minimize the effects of drag and provide the most delicate presentation possible for dry flies and small nymphs.
- The ultimate goal of these leaders is to induce a series of S curves, rather than simply transfer energy to get the fly as far from the line as possible.
- Necessity of tying all those knots!
- Tendency of knots to pick up dirt, algae, moss, and debris in water.
- While Harvey-style leaders help produce S curves, it also makes casting difficult in windy conditions and makes longer casts harder to control.
Lg Nymph & Streamer Leaders
- Require a stiffer leader that can turn over the extra weight and maneuver wind-resistant flies during the cast.
- Must also be capable of manipulating streamers or weighted nymphs underwater without twisting.
- Leader must be more abrasion resistant.
- Underwater snags, rocks, or the teeth of larger fish.
Straightening the Leader
- Hold it in the stretched position for a few seconds (long enough to say, ”Now you have a new memory” ) and then release it.
- Do not pull it through a piece of rubber or leather
- I normally stretch butt section and connector first then taper and tippet components.
- Replace leader if it has lost its memory.
- Greater flexibility than conventional leaders.
- Tend to cast smoothly
- Straighten out readily
- Do not tend to kink or develop memory problems
- Hollow center changes size as the leader flexes.
- This traps water in the core of the leader and the casting spray is a difficult obstacle to overcome on glass-slick water.
- Difficult to mend.
- Point of hook prone to embed in leader.
- Flotation is difficult to maintain.
- Easy turn over; Straight-line presentations
- Best suited for lake or stillwater fishing.
- Less likely to pick up water
- Line dressings adhere well
- Not as prone to glare as monofilaments
- No memory
- Expensive ~ $15 each
- A 10’ furled leader may take up to 50 yds. of line.
- Difficult to mend
- Drag-free presentation difficult
- Over-power the cast to get “S” curves
- Other specialty casts include: Wiggle Cast, Puddle Cast and aerial mends.