December 12th, 2005

Tie Your Own Leaders
By James Castwell

Why not. Well, there are probably a whole lot of reasons not to and I could list a few right here. I should know, I have been tying my own for nearly half a century. And I am proud to state that at least half of them were usable. Therein you may see one of the things wrong with tying your own leaders.

Oh, don't get me wrong and jump to conclusions. There are several reasons not to and I am sure I have stumbled into if not all, at least most of the reasons. But, before we go too much further on this discussion, let me warn you, I will be advocating that you start to tie your own. I hate it when a writer tries to ambush a reader. Gotcha journalism I call it. Anyway, back to why not to tie your own.

When you tie your own you must have a wide range of materials on hand and you are not going to be content with spools of spinning line. It is mass produced and not dependable for quality. At that price no one expects it to be the best that can be manufactured. So, there it is, you need maybe ten spools of good tippet material. And don't forget, some of it may be that fluorocarbon type too. That is in the high end range for sure. Well, in a way it is. It is about ten bucks for about thirty yards and you might use two feet for a leader. What's that? About twenty-two cents a tippet? Big deal. I am not sure that makes it too expensive to use. At least for me, I can get a lot of milage out of a hunk of tippet. Especially the good stuff.

Anyway, years ago, back around the late '60's I think it was, I lived in Michigan and had a connection with the Mason Tackle company. The fellow who ran the place was dandy and kept me well supplied with leaders and tying materials for them. They had a kit back then that had, I think, ten spools of material. As I recall it was the hard Dupont nylon, but I can't swear to it now. Too far back. I do know that it worked and I liked it and promoted it to my circle of friends. These would be those who I met camping, I went every weekend all spring, summer and most of the fall, and any shows I did locally and meetings and presentations I put on.

Over the years, other companies brought out products, some to swear by, some to swear at, but, mostly everything on the market these days is just fine and blindfolded I doubt if I could identify any of it. I admit I have fallen into buying my leaders already tapered and knotless.

I remember when I first tried one.

No grass and weeds catching on the knots. What a relief. Then the quality improved. Some became known for various things like stretchability, some for abrasion resistance, others for knot strength and visibility. And then of course along came the fluoro's which changed a whole bunch of things. At first I was dead set against them. The shelf life thing bugged me, like a half life of a gazillion years sort of. But, I got over that when I found they sink like a rock when I am salmon fishing and my hit ratio about doubled. Funny how I can rationalize things sometimes. And besides, any cut-off stuff always goes into my pocket for disposal when I get home.

Anyway back to my point. What was it anyhow? Oh yes, why you shouldn't tie your own leaders. Well, if I haven't convinced you yet than I suppose I should quit trying, but I will give it one more shot. You have to learn how to tie a bunch of knots, worry about which ones are the 'right' ones for the materials you are using, are you using the right material in the first place, what leader formulas should you use, can you tweek them any, can you make up your own for your type of fishing, casting, situations. Any more I may have left out? Will you need new glasses to do this? Where will you get the necessary things? Where can you find the formulas anyhow? Still not convinced? Good.

Do like I did. I got a kit and started back into it. I am not going to tell you where to get a leader tying kit. Several companies offer them, even one of our sponsors does. But, I have to leave something for you to do, selecting the kit of materials should be part of your job, not mine. Ok, I got mine from Frog Hair, it has all the stuff, a booklet of formulas and a nifty little tying stand that holds the leaders while you tie the knots. Works fine. It's that Gamma stuff. I have had very good results with it so far.

"But, wait there's more!" he said. Right. I read the formulas and the very first thing I did was with a pencil and paper, designed my own for a very particular situation. I needed a long leader for a big fly. Most leaders for heavy flies, they usually sink, are short. The heavier the fly, the shorter the leader. Hey, I'm Castwell, I can do it. So I did. Made up four of them and out we went, the LF and I after some Chum salmon. The rest is history. One cast was all it took for me to realize I am not a 'leader designer.' I had some clippers with me and hacked it up enough to make it work somewhat. After all, I have a least a bit of smarts on the subject.

The smarts I had also told me that when I got home, one of the first things I did was get out the formula charts and use one that was close to what I needed. I did. Yes, they worked. Fine.

So, here it is winter now here. Time for some indoor things for many and I suggest why not consider getting yourself a leader tying kit and suffering/oops, I mean enjoying what I did. The fun and fulfillment of fishing with yet another thing you have put together for the sport. I have no idea if it is cheaper or not and am not even going to try to figure it out. And I am not going to try to tell you that you should tie all of your own leaders. Maybe just a few, whatever turns you on. But, it is something to do. And I like doing it. So there. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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