knotted leaders

I suspect that knotting ones own nylon leaders nowadays, is a little like carrying carthorse food in the boot of your car for a long trip. We have simply moved on. We have knotless tapered leaders, and they are great.

Correct. We do.

But I am an eternal fiddler of the piscatorial type. And none of the tapered leaders I have bought come with an explanation as to what taper they were designed on. None of them come with a boiled butt, or a switch in material from nylon to fluoro-carbon somewhere along their length. Tying your own tapered leaders gives you all these options. It is also fun to do, and keeps one out of mischief late at night.

To start with, I must point you to a fantastic application I found on the web, called “Leadercalc” (Globalflyfisher). This is a real gem. It gives you almost every leader formula ever published, all in a spread-sheet which will adapt the formula to the length and strength you specify, (or exclude it if your specs preclude that particular formula).

Once you have a formula you would like to try, you can begin experimenting with nylons of differing hardness along the leader’s length. You can also boil the butt sections for periods of time relative to the thickness of the material (the thicker it is, the more time you should boil it). This by the way, apart from making the escapade take on a mythical air about it, is a great way of softening the nylon. In other words it puts some stretch into it, and allows it to lay flat on the water. It might sound like a lot of work, but I think you will find it most worthwhile. And yes, it does make a big difference.



I typically tie up four or so of the same formula at a time. This allows me to make identical batches, and avoids having more pots of boiling water on the stove than I can keep track of. So, to start, I cut lengths of the heavier nylon material (4 of each), as measured according to the formula I am using. Then I set a pot to boil on the stove, and add the 4 thickest pieces. Every 4 or 5 minutes, I add the next thickest lengths, ending off with some 0X say, that spends only 3 or 4 minutes on the boil. The thickest nylon might have spent 20 minutes on the stove.



Then I remove the whole pot, lift the material out, and lay out the 4 leaders, sorting the lengths from thickest to thinnest as I go. (you may want to label the pieces with a small sticker before mixing them up in the pot!) I then prepare the knots (usually surgeons knots), but don’t pull them tight. Next I smear the loose knots with a little “knotsense” (made by Loon), and tighten. Each knots gets wiped swiftly with a tissue, and exposed to the UV torch for an instant to dry the glue. Then I clip all the stubbs off recklessly short. I do that because I figure I have used glue as an insurance policy, and also because at the best of times the knots will snag on things, but all the more so if the stubs are trimmed long. And I figure that if the knots cause me too much trouble , I will be at risk of abandoning this lovely enterprise and  reverting to what everybody else uses, and that would be a shame.



Then you can choose to add a tippet of Flourocarbon (sinks), or nylon (floats), down to as fine a  tippet as you like, and in keeping with the formula you are working to. Of course I glue those knots too.

On the heavy end, I normally tie a perfection loop. I will at times snip this off and do a nail knot, or needle knot  connection straight onto the line, but I put a loop on there at the time of manufacture, so that if I choose to, I can just whip one of these out on the water and put it on at speed.

Then the beauty of the leadercalc program, is that it allows you to print personalised leader labels, which you can print out, and cut to size, and which fit into the small zip-lock bags we use to store our coiled leaders in.

So is all this trouble worth it?

Well, perhaps only if you enjoy it.


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3 Responses

  1. Tying my own leaders is one aspect of flyfishing that I’ve never indulged myself in. I mean, really tying them and not just rebuilding them all the time. I guess I just never saw the “mythical air” in it, the way we perceive that beauty in fly tying, rod building, whatever. Friends have often tied leaders for me, and enjoy the process. Your post makes me realize I could be missing out on something fun.

    1. I am glad to have contributed. I plan to write about the making of furled leaders in the future too, and that opens a whole new arena!
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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