I will be right up-front with you, I'm going
full circle with this; you may not learn a darn
thing. However it may save you some time or
trouble along the way. The fact is, many just
use a hunk of mono the right size and length
to get the job done. It seems the smaller the
fly, the fussier guys get about the leaders
until both leader and fly become invisible.
They stop there, I think.
I remember one cold rainy summer evening fishing
the AuSable in Michigan with Sonny Cogan. We waited
until dark, strung up our trusty rods, his white,
mine yellow, put a five foot section of 12 pound
mono on with a weighted woollybugger at the end.
Downstream and dirty was the game. He went ahead
of me and I followed to pick up any he had not
frightened too badly.
Of course it worked, we got wet and we caught
some browns. As I recall, neither of us broke
any 'leaders' either. I would shudder to
actually know the percentage of trout or fish
for that matter caught on just mono for a leader
compared to fancy leaders. Oh sure, the saltwater
guys do it all the time, but I mean the fresh
water guys on streams and ponds.
So over a few years I got sophisticated and only
fished with tapered leaders. Not just any tapered
leaders, not me, only the 'green' one's from
Jack's Fly Shop in Roscommon, Michigan. I always
stopped there for flies that were currently 'hot'
and whatever else I could rationalize I could not
possibly live another day without. These leaders
were tied by Jack himself. I still have no idea
what mono he used, it never was an issue. The
'secret' was in the formula he used for the lengths.
They came in three or four lengths and various
strengths. I always picked up a couple every time
on my way to fish the Main Stream at Grayling.
Just an sidebar here. Jack sold a special fly
cleaning and floating liquid in a small big-mouthed
bottle. You would drop your fly in it, shake it up,
pull the fly out, air dry it and cast it. It did
not take too long for the pretty colored rings
from the tri-chlor to fade away and you could
actually cast to a fish with it. I mention this
not because it worked so well, but due to it's
rather unusual color. Light yellow. Jack claims
the color was a vital part of it's success. As
delicately as I can phrase this; he strongly
alluded to the fact that his dog was heavily
involved with the job of the coloring operation.
This never was proven, but is one of the things
that haunts the annals of fly-fishing lore in
the jackpine, cedar swamps of central Michigan.
Back to leaders. Save money. Tie my own. Bought
enough leader material to tie them, spent a small
fortune. Tied my own leaders. Big deal. I copied
Jack's exactly. Big deal. The magic was gone, now
they were just 'leaders.' No longer a special
thing needed for each trip, now just plain leaders.
I got around this enigma by switching to 'one
piece tapered leaders.' Rationalization convinced
me that grass and weeds and slim got tangled on
all the tiny little leader knots and I would be
better off without them. Only one knot, leader
to tippet. Thirty years later I tried to use
some of the material I had bought for tying my
own leaders, it seemed to have lost something,
threw it all out.
I still use tapered leaders for most of what I do.
Trout for sure, Bonefish, Salmon. The only time I
used a straight section of mono was on a Barracuda
in the Bahamas this past spring. As to whether you
should tie your own or buy tied or tapered is for
you to answer.
Did I forget to mention Poly leaders? Furled leaders?
No, I didn't forget. ~ JC