A Great Tapered Saltwater Leader

A Little Taste Of Salt With Lefty Kreh

After even brief experience, the average saltwater fly rodder is able to determine somewhat the type of fly line he needs, the proper rod, and has a good idea as to which flies will produce. But, most saltwater fly fishermen have almost no understanding of the function of their tapered leader.

Aside from seriously mismatched tackle, an improperly designed leader is one of the greatest reasons why a cast does not get to the target. Or if it does, it presents the fly incorrectly. The fly may fall back on the leader, or it crashes to the water so heavily that it discourages the fish from striking.

There is little wonder that fly fishermen are confused about what constitutes a good tapered leader. For many years there was a fairly universal formula that said the leader should be comprised of 60% butt section, 20% mid section, and 20% tippet. Even worse, has been the theory that the butt section of a leader should be made from stiff, or what is sometimes called hard, monofilament. The most popular of these brands is the Mason hard mono.

To understand how a tapered leader functions, you need to realize what happens on the cast. As the rod is brought forward and flexes, the line is rather straight. When you apply the speed up and stop at the final moment of the cast (frequently referred to as a power stroke), the tip stops and the line unrolls towards the target. What is important here is to realize that a line arrives at the target by unrolling. Once a line stops unrolling (or straightens) in flight, it falls. The same thing occurs with the leader. As the line completes unrolling, the leader must do the same to deposit the fly on target. Once the caster realizes this, many of the things that have been suggested about building a tapered leader become clearer The Leader Must Unroll.

Let’s first look at the conventional rule that the butt section should be constructed of harmonofilament. The fly line is soft, flexible, and has weight. It unrolls well because of these properties. In flight the line unrolls and arrives at the leader. A stiff but section will resist unrolling. Because stiff monofilament doesn’t want to unroll, the cast often falls short.

What is necessary in building a tapered leader us that the butt section must have two important qualities: it must be flexible and have weight. A butt section that is supple, or flexible, will want to continue to unroll. But, it must have enough weight in the butt section to continue to unroll forward.

Once you get a car rolling, it doesn’t take too much to keep it moving. So it is with a leader. If the fly line unrolls and arrives at a leader that has a heavy, flexible butt section, the inertia will cause the leader to continue to unroll toward the target. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any manufacturer that makes the leader that I am going to suggest, although, to my knowledge, Scientific Anglers comes the closest.

Here is how I suggest you build your tapered leader, which works well in fresh or saltwater. You should use any premium spinning line. The top of the line DuPont, Berkeley, etc., are fine. I find that Maxima is a bit on the stiff side, but still okay. The entire leader should be constructed from the same company’s monofilament, as the suppleness of the materials differs. For example, use all Berkeley Big Game, or all DuPont Super Tough, etc.

The second point I’d like to emphasize is that while I’m going to list the lengths for each section, you can easily be off several inches and it won’t matter. Don’t be too concerned that one section is a few inches shorter or longer.

The third point is what really makes this leader system work. The butt section should be approximately half the length of your leader. By constructing a leader where half of it is butt section, you are able to get that critical, flexible weight required to turn over the leader, even on breezy days.

If you use a fly rod that throws a line from size 8 through 15, I urge you to start the leader with a 50 pound butt section. I know this sounds heavy, but give it a try. For rods matched with lines from 6 through 8, you may want to begin with a 40 pound butt section. If you don’t want to use 50 pound, then substitute 40 pound in the butt section in place of what is suggested in the formula. Then, add 30, 25, and 20 pound test to form the mid section, and then add your tippet. Regardless of how you build the leader, a tippet from 15, 12, or 10 pounds can be added that is about two feet in length.

LEFTY’S – 50 LB./50% LEADERS

Length

50 lb.

40 lb.

30 lb.

20 lb.

15-12 or 10 lb.

10′

5′

1′

1′

1′

2′

12′

6′

2′

1′

1′

2′

14′

7′

3′

1′

1′

2′

16′

8′

4′

1′

1′

2′

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