It’s amazing how fly fishing starts to consume you. You start fishing for fun, picking things up as you go, then before you know it you’re tying your own flies, reading magazines and blogs and desperately looking forward to your next fishing trip. I had, however, drawn the line at making my own tapered leaders, until now.
Over the last year, I had become annoyed with buying tapered leaders. Not only have I found it difficult to find ones with little memory but a decent day on the water, with changes to flies and set-ups and they’re gone, even if you use tippet material on the end.
So, it was with a bit of a heavy heart that I started researching how to make them yourself. There is plenty of advice on the internet but it all seemed a bit of a faff – using five or more densities of line to reduce the taper down. To me, this was too much hassle and, given my knot expertise (or lack of it) a potentially weak point to have so many joins in the line.
I eventually tried a simple version. For a couple of quid, I picked up a cheap, relatively thick 15lb nylon line to use as the butt end, a similar 10lb line and then a standard 7lb fluorocarbon tippet spool. A quick Perfection Loop on the 15lb butt end made for an easy loop-to-loop attachment to the fly line and then a blood knot to attach the lines together. For an easy guide to knots have a look at animated knots. They are not easy to start with but with practice, they get easier and quicker.
Having tested these home-made leaders out on the water, I believe they are better than a shop-bought tapered leader. The turnover, even of this simple version, is much better than any I have bought and there is almost no memory. The knots were (surprisingly) effective even when playing some rather large fish. But the most crucial benefit is the sheer flexibility, both when pre-tying leaders before you hit the water and also being able to change set-up during the day.
Using this simple 3-line approach, I have made the following leaders which pretty much cover all of my requirements, although its easy to tweak:
- 9 (12) foot leader for single fly – 3 feet of 15lb, 3 feet of 10lb and then 3/6 feet of fluorocarbon to suit. For dry fly fishing I would possibly use Copolymer on the end instead of fluorocarbon as it doesn’t sink as much.
- 12 foot leader with single dropper – 3 feet of 15lb, 3 feet of 10lb and then 6 feet of fluorocarbon, with the dropper placed 3/4 feet from the point.
- 18 foot leader with double dropper – 4 feet of 15lb, 4 feet of 10lb and then 10 feet of fluorocarbon, with the droppers placed 3 feet apart, 3 feet from the point.
I’m not saying this is the best way to do it and I’m sure many amateurs and pro’s alike have other opinions. However, for me its proven (so far) to be a good combination of ease, simplicity, cost and versatility.