There isn’t much that’s more frustrating than getting into position to drop a fly in front of a fish and having your line and leader** turn into spaghetti. Any self-respecting fish darts for cover, and the odds of catching a fleeing fish is slim to none. A leader that matches your fishing situation helps you catch more fish.
Leader length is really important. On a spring creek, pool, or pond you’ll usually need a longer, finer leader. Those slower moving waters give a trout more time to look things over. Long, fine leaders have delicate tippets, and it’s easier to beguile a fish. If you start fishing in deeper water or in faster moving water, the clarity is worse. Shorter leaders work better because they’ll help you swim or drift your fly more naturally. In faster water,
trout have to make their mind up quicker, so you can get away with a heavier pound test.
Stiffer leaders are helpful when turning over big, wind-resistant flies for freshwater or saltwater bass. A light leader doesn’t have the backbone to flip a spun deer hair or balsa wood popper. Use a stiff material to help present large flies properly.
As you mix and match your materials, make sure that you look at the diameter and not just the pound test on the decal. The 20-pound test diameters for Stren Fluorocarbon is .018, while Berkley Trilene is .017 and Orvis Mirage Fluorocarbon is .015. Knots don’t seat properly when there is too big of a difference in the diameters. And they pull when a fish tugs at the other end.
(**Fly leaders are tapered monofilament strands that connect the fly fishing line to the fly. They’re designed to cast (present) flies the way the fish expects to see food items.)
Tom Keer is a freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com