August 4th, 2003

Tie the Fly to the Leader
By James Castwell


Heresy you say? Nearly blasphemous? Well, yes it probably is, but if the truth be known, it is not only you new guys who do it, many of us old-timers have been known to do it as well. You may be so new that you don't even know that you're not supposed to tie your fly directly to the leader; heck you're not exactly sure what a leader is yet.

And there is tippet material too. That is just regular spinning line, but greatly overpriced? Yes, and no. It is level mono type for sure, but they claim that it is more likely to be of a more uniform breaking strength and may even be made of better stuff. That (they claim) accounts for the higher price. By the way, tippet material is a section, about eighteen inches or so, that you tie to the end of a brand new leader.

Why should you do that? Leaders are made to present your fly even if they are two feet longer. Why don't they make the darn things the right length then? Really good question. I hope I can give you a really good answer.

Let's say your new nine foot leader ends up at the tip section with a breaking strength of four pounds, tapering back toward the butt of the leader and getting stronger all the way up to the end of your fly line. Now you can tie your fly right on to the end of your leader if you want to, after all it's your leader. But, here is what will probably soon happen. You will for any of a dozen reasons get a knot or three in the end it. Little overhand things we graciously call 'wind knots.'

These knots of course will decrease the breaking strength from four pounds to about two, not a good thing. You have a choice now, keep fishing with a fly that may require three pounds to penetrate a fishes mouth (which will now break it of course) or do something to the leader. Your only option will be to break it back to the closest knot (wind knot) to the fly line. You will now have a seven foot leader, twice as thick as you had (visibility and delicacy a problem here?) that may not even go thru the eye of your fly.

Most of us try to avoid that by tying on a section of tippet to the new leader in the first place. As we (oh, yes we do) get wind knots, they are in the tippet section and we can just tie on a new tippet section and we are right back in business with no damage to our fly fishing, only our pride.

Is it a lot of bother? Not really, no more bother than making sure we hit most of the line guides when we string up our fly rods or remembering to spit on our knots when we tie them or to re-tie them after a particular nasty go-around with an unreasonable adversary.

Try to make it a regular part of your fly-fishing, but remember, if you don't take the time you will not be alone, we have all done it before. The part I am trying to get past now is why in hell do I still sometimes continue to fish when I find a knot in my tippet? ~ James Castwell


Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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