Fly Leaders and Material

Most beginners to fly fishing are well aware of the need to consider every aspect of selecting the right tackle that is appropriate to their specific needs. They take a great deal of time when choosing their first fly rods, lines and reels.

Quite likely they will spend many hours pouring over websites, books and catalogues in order to determine exactly which flies are needed.

Unfortunately, one important link in their tackle system is often neglected, and is selected almost as an afterthought with little understanding of its importance to casting and fishing success -- the fly leader.

In fly fishing the leader must perform many functions. It must transmit the casting energy from the line to the fly in order to permit the fly to turn over and land properly upon the water.

At the same time, it must progressively dissipate the casting energy so the fly will land gently upon the water like the natural insect, rather than plop down with an audible "splat."

The leader must provide an almost invisible link between the bulky fly line and the delicate fly. And finally, the leader must allow a fly to drift freely on or under the water to give the appearance of a naturally drifting insect. The leader should not create drag on the fly.

There are numerous manufacturers of fly fishing leader material, so hopefully below I can give you an idea of the various materials, set ups and best methods for using them.


Made using a cutting-edge extrusion process, this fluorocarbon leader material has just the right combination of invisibility UV and abrasion resistance and strength to make it the finest leader material anglers can buy.

The fluorocarbon is virtually invisible in the water and is ideal for buzzer and lure fishing. 

It has the following benefits:

Fine diameter clear leader material 

Non-glare finish 

High knot strength 

Low stretch for superb take detection 

Resistant to the effects of UV light 

Sinks readily and faster than normal mono


Exceptionally strong monofilament 

Absorbs water to sink more readily 

Low visibility in water 

Low stretch for superb bite indication 

Ideal for wet fly and nymph fishing

Top of Water Monofilament

Premium quality, incredibly strong resin coated clear polymer line 

Slight stretch absorbs the shock of takes 

Low diameter 

Line kinks easily drawn out

This line is ideal for top of the water dry fly presentation. If you are dry-fly fishing a clear Lake or Stillwater on a calm day, you may want to have a very long leader; one that is perhaps 15 to 20 feet long with a very fine tippet that does not scare off feeding fish. Always remember to degrease the first 9”-12” of the leader so that the leader slightly sinks under the water and has no glare which might scare off the fish.


This line is ideal for both on the surface dry fly and subsurface wet fly presentation. 

High strength to diameter ratio. 

Superior elasticity, suppleness and shock resistance. 

Low coil memory. 

Easy to handle and knot

A properly designed and well-made fly leader serves as a vital connection between the fly line and the fly.

When fly casting, the energy of the fly line is transferred through a tapered leader to turn the fly over in a presentable manor into the strike zone. Of course, the long fly leader also keeps the fish from seeing that there is a fly attached to the fly line.

If you are not confident in casting with more than 1 fly on your leader, I would recommend that you start off with a tapered leader of 12’.

To make this leader take a section each of 4’.6” of the following breaking strains 10lb, 8lb and 6lb. There are many different types of knots that can be used to connect the leader sections together, but perhaps the most popular is the blood knot. It is quick and easy to tie, and you will not waste a lot of material tying the knot.

If you are going to use fluorocarbon leader material for your leaders or tippets you may find that the triple surgeon’s knot will give you better knot strength than the blood knot.

Once you are confident enough to progress to two or more flies on your leader, then a longer leader is recommended with two 10” droppers. To make a leader with 2 droppers take a 12’-15’ length of leader material and 4’ from the point add your first 10” dropper by a triple water knot, ensuring that it is the top tag that you snip off as the dropper will lay correctly and will not cause any problems when hooking and fighting a fish. Then a further 4’ do the exact same with another 10” dropper.

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