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Page 158

are necessary because fly line is heavy and opaque. You can't tie a fly onto it, and even if you could, no fish would touch it.

Leaders are, by necessity, tapered, so that the fly line, leader, and fly will roll out flat and straight onto the water after a cast. If the leader was the same diameter throughout, it would tangle in mid-air when casting and land in heaps of coils on the water.

Leaders average from 6 to 12 feet in length, although they can be longer or shorter. The proper length to use depends on the wariness of the fish and the clarity and condition of the water. Basically, the spookier the fish, and the lower, clearer, and quieter the water, the longer a leader you'll need. I've fished for brown trout in crystal waters where a leader less than 9 feet long would spook them, because they'd spot the heavy, thick fly line attached to it. However, long leaders are more difficult to cast well, so you should use the shortest leader you think necessary. As a rule, though, don't go any shorter than 6 feet.

The thickest part of the leaderwhere it is tied onto the fly lineis called the butt. Its purpose is to continue the taper of the end of the fly line itself. To attach the leader butt to the end of the fly line, use a nail knot. It was originally tied with a nail, but is much easier when tied with a small tube, such as an air-valve needle or the outside of a ball-point pen. (This knot can also be used to attach backing to the fly line.)

Here's how to do it, as shown in the figure on the following page:

  1. Hold the tube, fly line, and leader butt as shown in the top figure.
  2. Holding all three firmly, wrap the leader butt around itself, the fly line, and the tube.
  3. Hold all the wraps in place and pass the end of the leader butt through the tube.
  4. Continue holding the wraps and carefully slide the tube out.
  5. Draw the knot tight and trim the ends.

The middle of the leader is called the body, and it too gradually decreases in diameter. The end of the leader, to which the fly is tied, is called the tip (or, when the leader is constructed of various lengths of line knotted in decreasing strengths, the tippet). The diameter of the tip, and its pound-test rating, are how leaders are classified.

Tippets are measured in thousandths of an inch and follow a standardized scale, called an X-rating. While the pound-test of the same diameter varies a bit from manufacturer to manufacturer, the approximate values are shown in Table 15.2.

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