Saltwater Leaders….Buying and Selecting
When it comes to leaders in the world of fly fishing, it’s much more than some may imagine. Sometimes an angler may only need a couple feet of one size mono or fluorocarbon for a leader, other times it may need to be upwards of ten feet in length tapering down to eight pounds. Even how a leader is constructed can help turn over heavier flies or create a soft, gentle approach as to not spook a fish.
There are many companies out there who produce and sell pre-constructed leaders for anglers. These are generally split into two main categories, freshwater or saltwater and then can be narrowed down from there. They will normally have information on the length of the leader as well as the strength in pounds at its lightest point and the diameter of the material. For example; a nine foot, twelve-pound leader will be nine feet long and twelve pounds at the end with a diameter of .014” at it’s breaking point. Most leaders are tapered so that they have a heavier weight at the end that connects to the fly line and lighter at the end that you tie to the fly.
You can buy leaders that are designated for specific species to make things easier for you. Companies like Rio, Umpqua, Trout Hunter, etc all make species specific leaders. If you’re going after redfish, grab a redfish leader in a poundage you think is acceptable for the fish you’ll be targeting that day. I prefer to run a nine foot, twenty pound leader most days, but for spooky or skittish fish, I may extend that leader to ten feet and drop down to twelve pounds.
Building You Own Leader
This section could go on for a LONG time, but I’ll give you the main run down on an inshore, tapered leader to target species such as redfish, speckled trout and flounder. There’s a generic formula for tying leaders; 50/30/20, and we’re talking percentages here. You’ll need to gather materials for a leader, I generally like to use the same materials throughout the leader as to keep properties similar. You’ll need some 40-pound, 30 and/or 20-pound and finally some 16-pound material.
Following the formula, cut a section of approximately five feet of 40-pound material for the butt section. For the mid section you can do three feet of 30-pound or 20-pound, I prefer to split the difference and do about a foot and a half of each to create a smoother taper on the leader. Finally for the tippet, cut a section about two feet of 16-pound. Tie each section together with a blood knot and add a loop on the butt section if needed to attach to the fly line with a loop to loop connection. Just like that, you’ve built a saltwater leader for redfish!
Leaders can be tied up a million different ways, this is a generic formula to help you get started tying your own saltwater leaders. Depending on targeted species, shock tippet may be added or wire bite or different materials, it all depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go with constructing your own leaders. The internet is full of information on the subject, if it’s something you plan on expanding your knowledge of, I highly encourage you to read articles by Lefty Kreh, Gink and Gasoline or any other reputable angler or company out there.