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  1. Default Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    Whats the difference and can someone explain the 60-20-20 butt-mid-tippet formula for building a leader?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Wakefield, Quebec.

    Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    The knotted leader is made up of different size monofilament lenghts that are tied to create a taper, starting with the end that is tied to the flyline (butt)and adding mono of smaller diameter toward the tip and finally the tippet. The knotless leader is one continuous length of mono that tapers to a tippet. The numbers in the formula you're mentioning is that 60% of the lenght is the butt section, 20% is the taper or middle section and the other 20% is the tippet. The longer the butt section is, the better it will cast a large fly, as opposed to a shorter butt and longer taper or middle section will delicately cast a small dry fly to rising trout. When you tie your own leaders, you can try out different formulas and adapt them to your fishing. Hope this helps.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    I'll add that I like to use knotless leaders when bass fishing in the weedy shallows, so the grass and weeds don't build up on the knots. I usually use knotted leaders when trout fishing. They seem to cast beter for me.

    I wish they (or I) could type, thogh.
    Jakeway Near Nashville, TN

    Kayaks: Just part of the drag system

  4. Default Leader Length ???

    Simple enough..I appreciate that bit of info.

    On a similar subject that being the overall length. I just read an article that emphasized that the minimum length of the leader should be 1 1/2 times the length of the rod. A 9' rod would take a 13.5' leader? A 10' rod would use a 15' leader?

    What about this?

    I suppose one way to find out is to try it but I thought I'd ask.

    In the past I mostly fished bass in creeks that I can wade and had been spin casing.

    I got the calling and started fly fishing last fall and did manage to catch bass on muddlers. (fun to tie). I found also as Jakeway mentioned knotless worked well in weedbeds. I actually just tied on some 6# mono, no tapers, and splashed away and I caught bass.

    I went to trout country ( northern NJ and loved it) for part of the fall and early winter and got bit by the trout bug. A lot different and it was mostly a lot of experimenting and the results were minimal. I'm back in Tn now and have access to both.

    Does anyone (or everyone but me) use the 1.5 x the rod length to determine the leader length?

    Thanks again for the feedback.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader


    I’m not a leader building expert, but I’ll try and walk you thru it, based on my understanding, but I hope others will chime in if I’m way off base here.

    There are basically 3 types of leaders:

    Furled- made of individual strands of thread, mono, or fluoro that are “furled” or twisted upon themselves into what looks like a rope and then regular tippet is added. Many people swear by them, some swear at them. But if you’re interested in making leaders these are definitely worth checking out, and a lot of board members use and make them. Joni is the goddess of furled leaders.

    Knotless- extruded mono that tapers in thickness from thick to thin. The advantage is that they don’t pick up moss or algae on the knots like Jakeway said, and are easy to use. Just buy one the desired length, usually 7 ½,’ 9’ or 12’ tapered down to the desired thickness 0X-8X, and open the pack tie it on and add a section of the desired tippet. The knotless leaders can be expensive however.

    Knotted- homemade leaders let you fine tune the leader for different applications. It seems like you might be able to save money tying your own given the price of premade knotless leaders, but the catch is that you’ll need a lot of different spools for fishing small flies because of the number of step downs you’ll need to do between sections of different diameters.

    Leaving aside furled leaders there are some basic guidelines in construction for both knotless and knotted leaders.

    Typically they start with a butt section connected to the fly line approx 2/3 the diameter of the fly line to ensure smooth energy transfer and gradually get thinner from there.

    Because the knotless leader is extruded this is more or less a continuous process.

    With knotted leaders the difference is more obvious, and this is where things start to get complicated. To ensure good knot strength and even transfer of energy, the difference between the sections of a knotted leader need to be within .001” or .002” of each other. More about this in a bit.

    As Glassroddr said, the 60-20-20 refers to the butt, mid section and tippet lengths as a percentage of the overall length of the leader.

    OK sounds simple. Let’s try to build one, say a 9’ leader tapered to 5X to use on a 5 or 6 weight rod. I haven't actually built this or fished with it, but I think it might be a good look at the process of building one from scratch. Hopefully I'm not all full of sauce here. Please jump in here if anyone can explain it better or point out where i might be off base.

    The overall length of a 9’ leader is 108”, so we know:
    butt section is 108” x .60 = 65” (64.8”)
    mid section is 108” x .20 = 20” (21.6”)
    tippet section is 108” x .20 = 20” (21.6”)

    We’ve lost a few inches here because of rounding, but let’s press on.

    We also know the section of butt attached to the fly line needs to be roughly 2/3 the diameter of the fly line. For a 5 or 6 weight, that would be .021”. (For 1-4 weights you could use .019).

    And we know the tippet we want is 5x. To get the diameter for tippets 0x to 8X take 11 and subtract the “X” number to get .000”. So for a 5X tippet, doing the math, 11 - 5 (the X) = .006” thick.

    Hmmmmm. We know the thickness of the butt section attached to the fly line is .021” diameter, and the tippet is .006” diameter. We want to get from .021” to .006” so we need something in the middle. We also know that we want a gradual transition from thick to thin within .001 or .002” between sections.

    So, if we skip by .002” we’d need sections of:
    .021 (to fly line)
    .06 (5x tippet)

    or 9 different sections altogether.

    At this point it looks like we’re screwed. But some general guidelines for building a leader are:

    Butt section total length 60%, with individual sections also with proportional lengths within the butt section, with thickest being longest

    Mid section- 20% of the overall leader length, with individual sections of equal length, but you can’t just put a ton of short sections in the middle because you’ll just have knots, which will be thick, effectively messing up the whole concept of going from thick to thin diameters.. Lets’s try and keep each section of the middle to a minimum of 6”. In this case the mid section is about 20”.

    Tippet, this is the easy one, just tippet here and we know it should be 20% of the overall leader length. So in this case we’ll have about 20” of 5X at .006

    Since we have a lot of different sections here, and want to keep things a little manageable, let’s not kill ourselves and try to get this exact, but it also makes sense to try and work it out on paper first.

    Let’s make the tippet 20” of 006” (5x)

    We’ll make the mid section 24” overall with 4 different diameter sections each 6” long just to be able to get whole numbers. Working backwards from the tippet, this wlll be:
    6” of .007 to attach to the 5X tippet which is .006
    6” of .009
    6” of .011
    6” of .013

    For the butt section, we know the overall length for a 9’ leader is 108” x .60 = is 65 “ and we have to taper down from .021 to .015 to get to within .002 of the thickest portion of the mid section, and also know we want the sections in the butt to be within .002 of each other. So we’ll need 4 sections in the butt:
    Since the butt section is supposed to be proportional, with the thickest section the longest, and we have 4 sections, we could build it with something like a 4-3-2-1 ratio, or:
    40% of 65” = 26” of .021
    30% of 65” = 20” of .019
    20% of 65” = 13” of .017
    10% of 65” = 7” of .015

    So, for a 9’ leader for a 5 weight rod tapered to 5x we’d have

    26” of .021 butt
    20” of .019 butt
    13” of .017 butt
    7” of .015 butt
    6” of .013 mid section
    6” of .011 (0X) mid section
    6” of .009 (2X) mid section
    6” of .007 (4X) mid section
    20” of .006 (5x) tippet

    for a total length of 110”, close enough.

    The next step is to actually test it with a fly to see if that dog will hunt, and more than likely tinkering with the butt section. It’s a lot of work to go thru, but fortunately you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are a bunch of different leader charts out there, some follow the 60-20-20 type of construction, some don’t:

    and if you have Excel:

    Hope this helps.


  6. Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    You were typing about the time I was reading and typing.

    I really do appreciate the instruction. Ive read Joni's stuff about building the furled and the pattern for the jig. I'm sure I'll try it.

    I'll read your post now and work with it.

    Have you been out yet? It was pretty cold when I left NJ. I had been going to Big Flat Bush Creek over near Tuttles Corner. Sure a beautiful spot.

    I did manage to catch some pan fish in the Ramapo and a few nice smallmouth in the Saddle River just south of the Garden State Mall.

    Thanks again

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader


    Nah, rules are made to be broken. And it depends on what you’re using and what you’re fishing for. Fishing some stuff like streamers with a sink tips for example I might just use a straight shot of mono about four feet long. And throwing wind resistant stuff like poppers for bass, I might use an 8’ heavy leader. For fishing smaller dries though for trout, that sounds about right.

    I just use 9’ rods with knotless and add about 2 feet of tippet-
    Usually two types for trout a 9’ tapered to 4x that I can add 4. 5,or 6x to or 7 or 8X with a short section of 6x in between for really small stuff- it works out to about 11-12’ overall, The other one is a shorter one for fishing heavier stuff and larger flies like streamers, knotless 7 ½’ tapered to 1x that I can use 1, 2 or 3X on, or add some 3x and sections of 5x etc to build up to a longer dry fly leader if I’m lazy and don’t want to switch. For streamers with the 7 ½ plus tippet it usually works out to somewhere around 8 ½- 9 feet overall. I use this for bass too.

    In SW it’s even simpler, just a 4,3,2 3 part home tied leader for 8-10 weights of 4’ of 35-40lb mono to 3’ of 25-30lb to 2’ of 16-20lb for an overall length of 9’. (with 9’ rods).

    As far as the fishing goes, I haven’t been out recently, but had an OK fall with some stripers in SW, but I missed out on some of the blitz like conditions some ran into. Nothing of any size though. And things won't heat up until April, at least around here.

    Sounds like you had some good fun up here, and you’ll have a lot of stuff to chase now that you’re back in TN. How’s the tying going? As I remember you were starting to get into that.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Missouri City (near Houston), Texas

    Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    Good thread. I'd add that the Frog's Hair blood knot device will save a bunch of time and frustration in building your own leaders, as well as resulting in better-quality blood knots.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    On the whole, I'd rather be in Wyoming . . .

  9. Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    Just finished looking at the formulas you referenced.

    Ive done a lot of excel spreadsheets and he has really put together a sweet one. I'd say Mr. Schweitzer has one hell of a handle on fly fishing and excel!

    Thanks for the great reference.

  10. Default Re: Knotted Leader - Knotless Leader

    everybody has posted great things but i would like to add one more thing. I actually like using flurocarbon on my tippet. Flurocarbon is a little( ok a lot) more expensive than mono but it just catches fish. I have fished both mono and flurocarbon and using flurocarbon i usually catch at least one more fish. Sometimes on spring creeks which i fish alot the fish will only take flurocarbon because the water is so clear. I know the price scares people away but im willing to spend that extra couple bucks for an extra fish or to.

    to save some money just use a mono leader with a flurocarbon tippet. just make sure the flurocarbon tippet isnt to small for the leader or the fly wont turn over.

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