March 12th, 2007

My Leaders
By James Castwell


I am embarrassed to admit that I am not very good with leaders. I used to be, or at least I thought I was many years ago. Like most developing fly fishermen I even had my own leader formulas. Not so much as mine, but a set of them that I could give to other folks if they wanted them. Very simple as I recall, mostly the 60-20-20 formula I think. If you are one of the only two fly-fishers in the world that done know what that is, roughly it is 60 percent butt section, twenty percent taper and twenty percent tippet.

Yes, tippet. That untappered section of what looks like spinning line but is a whole lot pricier s\mono stuff. The section that goes from the end of your leader to the fly. This is used so that as you change flies and otherwise screw up that part of your gear you don't cost yourself big bucks by wrecking the whole leader...just the replaceable tippet section.

Leaders come in two lengths. Nine foot and twelve foot. Unless you tie up your own or buy some that are different lengths. Of course they are not that length because you add that section of tippet to the end. Now a nine foot leader becomes ten and a half feet long. For a few casts anyway. Then it becomes ten feet long. Then nine foot. I think you get the picture. And the twelve foot leader undergoes the same fate, starting out as thirteen and a half feet long. That is unless you tie your fly directly on the end of the leader.

If the real truth be known, that is done far more often that guys will admit, even me. The problem is that if you (me) mess up the end of the leader it is hard to tell for sure what they (I) have left to work with. When does one use one and not the other. I can safely now give you the secret answer. One of those closely guarded secrets of the great fly fishers.

You use a nine footer if you can't find the twelve you thought you had. You add bits of stuff to it and make it longer. That is, of course, that you have decided that you really need a very long leader for some reason. Like the wind is not blowing, over twenty knots, in your face, your fly is not huge and you are fishing a dry upstream. You use the twelve footer if you actually find it. There are times when you want a very short leader, only three or four feet long, but they don't sell them. They are used for fishing flies underwater. Streamers and such from a sinking (don't they all) fly line. The line sinks and you want the fly to stay down so you use a short leader to make sure it does.

It probably would anyway because it most likely has some weight on it unless you are some sort of a purist and then you won't be fishing those anyhow. Some folks like a really long leader when they are fishing little tiny flies to little tiny fish in little tiny creeks. I don't. I get them stuck in the bushes. In fact, I get a lot of my leaders stuck in bushes. Not trees. The bushes come first before the trees. Rare I ever actually hit a tree.

The leaders I use are of two lengths and tapers. Too long and too short. As for tapers, there seem to be two basic ones. A really well designed one that rolls the fly out like a whisper and gently drifts it to the surface and then there is the other taper, mine. Mine makes fly fishing more of a challenge. Anyone can catch a fish with a great leader, it is far more sporting to go at it my way. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I actually get something to rise to my flies.

One would reasonably think that after all these years a guy like me would have all of this stuff doped out, but the truth is, I still don't and guess I never will. The fact is it doesn't really interest me all that much. There must be a thousand or more formulas for leader tapers and I suppose they all work just dandy. I think I have used a great share of them and as I remember they did. At least for the first few casts. Then they became somewhat modified. Even then they seemed about the same. Use whatever it takes to get the fly our there. I really should pay more attention to the things, but it's getting pretty late in the season to start now. I have gotten this far this way. What the heck. Guess I will go with the nine footer... if I can find one; and some tippet of course. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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