A Thousand Ways
Whataburger tells us there must be thousands of ways to have your burger. If that is true….there must be even more ways to build a fly fishing leader. From spider thin Trout tippet to eighty pound Tarpon mono or #6 Malin wire for sharks, all the combinations are seemingly endless. You are only limited to imagination and the needs that drive it. But this should be the last place to cut corners. The key to success is skill, practice and preparation.
Most important in the construction of viable leaders is its usefulness. Leaders must turn over well and most will have proper taper reduction. Materials can be compromised somewhat but they must hold up to abuse. Materials are cheaper in bulk….but always maintain quality.
A new fly fisherman buys two or three store bought tapered leaders. This is good but middle of the road. Venture left or right and variables complicate issues. Remedies are simple. To be adaptable and cable ready on the water, you need requisite supplies. A small well-stocked kit is not expensive. It requires bare necessities of constructing functional custom leaders for the application, wind speeds, and shyness of the fish. Flotation may be a factor or it’s mono vs. fluorocarbon. Also consider water clarity and current speeds. It is not complicated once you understand formulas to build your leaders. Most of it is common sense. Experience builds a mentality for the right tool on specific jobs. You can have this ready and waiting!
Certain guidelines dictate formulas for common construction. The “two-thirds principal” is most often applied in the taper and material choice. This means the largest and longest section of a home made leader is going to have a neighbor downhill that is only 2/3 the length and size of the guy above. A uni-knot joins them together. This can be a permanent on-board wind-on style leader butt, say 40lb/48 inch long -down to a second uni-tied 30lb/32-inch section. Perfection loops on each end of that two piece section lend utility to quick change for short or longer needs. This part stays on the reel. You simply add the class and tippet end pieces (uni-joined) as needed. Those can be tied and ready to loop-on as they get fragged by the fish.
This permanent part can be looped to an always there-six inch 40-50 pound leader butt nail knotted well to the running fly line. Then pre-make changeable end sections for quick change. I store all this in a small nylon lap top case with dividers and pockets. Grab it and go! Compartment in zip bags and mark for identification. *But always re-stock after each trip!
At times a single 30 pound five foot fluorocarbon leader may be all you put on the short six-inch leader butt. Tied by Palomar knot to a popper for Jacks, this one is quick and easy. It will turn over as you cast. Feed frenzy fish are not picky. They might bash your car keys!
But too much leader such as three feet of 7x on a new nine-foot store bought taper may give you a fit in windy canyons on a drift boat at the San Juan
. The uni-knot system and a pair of clippers around your neck can correct problems. Adjust and re-tie often until it works.
In your arsenal of knots should be the great 100 percent break strength Palomar knot for solid connections. Also a good loop knot like the non-slip mono loop knot, or a similar quality loop. It adds life to a fly. This one can turn your day around! The perfection loop is the best simple way to quick disconnect all your sections up for trade as needs arise. If the player is not shooting baskets, trade him. The amazing Bimini can make double line bulletproof connections at the terminal end, in the middle, or even on wire and braid for a lot of security against abuse.
A great place for bimini’s is on the actual ends of one-foot “class/break” sections. The 12 to 17 lb section gives up saving line replacement should Godzilla yank everything off.
Wire is very important and easy to add to the system. Solid and coated 7-strand are cheap and easy to use. The rule is to use as little as possible and size is the same. Use size #3-4 for Mackerel and Kings, and about 4-6 for Sharks or Wahoo. The Mack wire may be 3-5 inch, but the Shark leader a foot or more. Size concerns regarding stealth - favor the solid wires (always in the coffee color). Shiny always gets hit just because they can and will. Quality Spro swivels in black get hit less, and prevent line kink from spin. Never save money on cheap swivels!
Wire is connected by one inch double over, then wrap an improved Albright Special (8-to10 turn). If the Albright is tied using a Bimini double line and the quarry might be a six-foot shark, you might have a chance. But catch one, then tie another leader wire. It will look like a row of Zs’ if they don’t cut it! My kids got bit off by a pod of five foot Black Tips the other day in just a blink! They schooled around east Estes Flats charging anything tempting! Learn and use the Haywire twist to tie solid wire to flies. Use the figure eight knot for plastic coated wire.
Bag up and mark your pre-made leaders. Have shorter two piece butt sections for poppers and big flies. Keep the kit handy. Quick loop as needed and put a big loop on the end of the backing to change fly lines. With a couple of rods rigged, you are ready for sudden action.
Learn, adapt and be prepared. Rigged and ready, you have a shot when a half-acre goes crazy in front of you. It is not if but when this happens. Practice rigging, and hang those important tool inside your shirt around your neck. Things happen fast and response times are very short. Keeping it simple, neat and pre-constructed might well impress your partners or guide. You don’t want to travel thousands of miles to fumble in your bag cussing.
All this done, just one more item may be necessary. A cheap Kodak throwaway camera may come into play followed by a hearty and slimy high five! Life is way too short not to! Live laugh and love often my friends. And the top of the day to you all!
Article by Clay Gill from Alamo Fly Fishers - Alamo Fly Fishers San Antonio | All fish - all waters