The English language is a clever thing. It absorbs words and expressions from any source if they are useful. English in the world of dry fly fishing is no exception. The old names we English used to use for naming the connection between the fly line and the fly were “Cast” and “Point”. Today, almost without exception, the American names are used. We now refer to the “Cast” as the “Leader” (the bit attached to the fly line) and the “Point” as the “Tippet” (the bit on the end that attaches to the fly). This is a most satisfactory arrangement with no ambiguity and a greatly reduced potential for confusion.
It will certainly help when explaining some of the ways you can fiddle about with the connection between your fly line and the fly...
Perennial questions about leaders on the fora and at winter club night talks include:
How long should my leader be? How long should my tippet be?
What’s the best way to tie it onto my fly line?
Shop bought tapered leader or build it myself? What knot? What material?
Best way to attach with a braided loop?
Furled leaders are best, right?
Before any of these questions are answered, let’s get the ground rules clear. All these answers below relate entirely to dry fly fishing in moving water courses. Not still waters and not anything but dry fly fishing!
Q. How long should my leader be? How long should my tippet be?
There is no correct length to suit all conditions. However, a well constructed leader is remarkably easy to manage in lengths that many folk would say were “long”. A short leader is anything less than the length of the rod you are using. On some windy days you may be forced to use such a leader to have any chance of banging it out into the teeth of the gale. In normal conditions a leader that keeps the fly well away from the fly line is best. This usually means a leader between 12 and 20 feet long, including the tippet. This is only a guide. You may be fishing in conditions that force you to use a much shorter leader. On some windy days, when logic usually dictates a shorter leader, you may be better off with a much, much longer leader that simply fails to turn over in the headwinds! Certain fish that, on normal days, are impregnable can be tricked into making that mistake you are hoping for.
|Click on the drawing to enlarge it|
Q. Shop bought tapered leader or build it myself? What knot? What material?
You will be dry fly fishing in a variety of conditions. You will be changing the tippet from thick to thin to very thin to suit the size of fly you need for the circumstances at the time. The widest range of choices is what will meet your requirements best. So my recommendation is to build leaders yourself, using the best knots and the best materials.
Tie on the 22lbs BS nylon monofilament butt using the needle knot as above. It should look like this when tightened.
Use the four turn water knot to tie on one or two yards of 15lbs BS nylon monofilament.
Tie on a tippet of a yard or two of 3x co-polymer monofilament.
That’s made a leader of from three to five yards suitable for attaching big flies.
For smaller flies, halve the 3x and tie on a two yard tippet of co-polymer of 5x, 6x or 7x.
You now have a basis on which to experiment. You are also able to simply rebuild the leader if you have a tangling incident that is beyond reasonable hope of restoration!
Q. Best way to attach with a braided loop?
Don’t! They hinge the link between fly line and leader. They come off at very inopportune moments. They slurp the water about when you pick the line off the water to recast. They throw a lot of spray on the surface when you false cast with them.
Q. Furled leaders are best, right?
Well they are lovely looking things and they turn over beautifully but they make the same disturbances that braided loops make. It is possible to make them land gently but it is harder to do so than with leaders built of monofilament lengths.
The simple method above has proved to be best. It gives you all the flexibility you will ever need. You become self sufficient. All you need are a few spools of monofilament and knowledge of the knots.
What say you?
POSTSCRIPT - KNOT AGAIN!!!
There is a stronger knot for joining two lengths of line together than the four-turn water knot. It is the figure of eight knot and I am indebted to Steve Kale for his persistent defence of this knot made me re-examine it and test it against the four-turn water knot. He was right. It is stronger and I will be using it from now on. This blogpost and video shows you how to tie the figure-of-eight knot to join two pieces of line together. If you prefer the four-turn water knot that is fine but there is a stronger knot and that is the "figure-of-eight" knot.