This is not a definitive treatise on leaders. That would take a full volume. It is
intended to only make things a bit easier for the guys just getting into fly-fishing.
I have known some to omit them altogether and tie the fly to the end of the fly line.
That is not a good thing to do. The leader should be used every time.
A leader does many things for you, all of which improve your chances of
catching fish. Leaders are usually tapered, but not always. There are times
when a single length of regular monofilament is tied to the end of the fly line
and then to the fly. Usually they are short (three to five feet) and are used in
heavy water conditions. With the tapered leaders you tie the thick end to the
fly line and the thin end to the fly. It is still possible to buy tapered leaders which
are made up of level sections of mono tied to each other forming a tapered knotted
leader. Many fly fishers make their own to 'secret' formulas to get the just right
transfer of power and to deliver the fly exactly as they want it to. Such leaders
offer the possibility of knots coming loose and the knots catching on grass in the
stream. This can cause a ball, or bunch to form on any, or most of the knots and
reduce your chances of landing a fish.
While some of them do deliver the fly close to perfection, I do not usually use
them due to the grass problem. I prefer the knot-less tapered ones. And they
come in several kinds too. Some are about three dollars and are made of
monofilament; some are made of fluorocarbon and cost a lot more. I would
if you are just starting out, you may be better off with the cheaper ones as you
will probably tangle them up and go through several while just learning. Remember,
fluorocarbon is rather new; many fish have been caught on monofilament leaders.
If you tie your fly directly to the end of the leader you will eventually shorten
the leader as you change flies, or tangle the leader due to knots and such. It is
best to use 'tippet material.' The stuff is high-grade monofilament and costs more
than regular spinning line, but it is worth it. Tie on about eighteen inches or so to
the thin end of your new leader. Then tie the fly to the end of the tippet. As you
change flies or mess up the tippet and it gets too short, tie on a new piece to the
end of the leader. This makes your leader last longer.
You may fasten the leader to your fly line by any of several methods and knots.
All seem to work, it is just personal preference as to which you chose, and a
great subject if you want to start an argument with your buddies. One of my
columns here explains the knot I like.
Learning about leaders and the knots for them can be a fun and rewarding part
of fly-fishing; you will change your mind many times over the years about how
ong, what weight, how heavy the butt section should be, hard or soft mono, to
loop' or not to 'loop,'and monofilament or fluorocarbon.
You may like to read another column on
the subject also, it gives more detail. ~ JC