Tying the Ideal Leader

The ideal leader should have the following characteristics:

  1. It should turn the fly over adequately but not completely.
  2. The leader should be as strong as the material itself and not contain any knots that weaken it. The knots used should be as strong as the material it is made from.
  3. The leader should be easy to tie and to replace.

I have spent two years in search of the "ideal leader". What I have come up with may not satisfy all fishing situations and there may be other ways to create the ideal leader but this is the one that I have found that passes all of the above criteria.

As the fly line unrolls in the forward cast it will straighten out. The leader is stiff enough to transmit this energy and carries the fly to a gentle landing on the water. The last 2 or 3 feet should not transmit any energy to the fly but just collapses. This reduces or eliminates the micro-drag that would otherwise result if the leader and line combination were completely straight.

Not all knots are created equal. Most knots weaken monofiliment and some knots will actually cut the line when they fail. One of the most famous knots, the clinch knot, is one of the worse in this respect. The surgeon's knot, when used to tie the tippet to the leader will also fail before the material. The perferred knots to attach the tippet to the leader and the fly are the Eugene Bend and the Eugene Sling. They will not fail before the material does and they are very easy to tie.

The various sections of this leader are connected by a loop to loop method. Before going out fishing I spend a few minutes tying loops on all of my spare spools of tippets. If I have to replace a tippet on the stream, it is a simple operation to snip off the knot and to thread the two loops together. There are two ways to connect the two loops. One is called the girth method. This is the weaker of the two and gets it name from the knot used to saddle a horse. The second method is the perferred one. To attach the two loops, slip the loop on the tippet over the leader loop. Then pass the tag end through the leader loop and pull tight. As it is tightened, it should resemble a square knot. Connecting the tippet by a loop to loop is fast and it does not eat up the leader material.

Finally, there are two good reasons to using the strongest possible leader. The first is that you will lose fewer flies to tree branches and underwater snags. The second is that you can use a finer than normal tippet for those wary fish..

For instructions on tying the knots, see Eugene Bend  and Eugene Sling  .

Instructions were taken from an article in The American Angler, September-October 1998, page 30. I modified the procedure by the use of a pair of forceps.

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