The method one uses to connect your fly line to your leader, has been a topic of discussion for a long time.
It might be true to say that most flyfishers use a loop to loop connection. This preference is fuelled by the fact that most fly lines now come with a welded loop on the end. This certainly is an easy and versatile way of going about things. It is very easy to change your entire leader at any time.
The downside is bulk and “catchiness”. By that I mean that a loop to loop connection, and in particular one involving the thick butt end of a nylon or co-polymer tapered leader, is a particularly visible thing, as well as something that catches in the tip eye of your rod at that worrying moment when you are trying to land a wildly bucking trout of pleasing proportions.
So it is that many people have been quick to cut the loop off the end of their fly line, and replace it with either a nail, or needle knot, or superglue splice. Those are much neater.
Except that the join is permanent. So you don’t get to switch leaders at the drop of a hat. And what if, like me, you are rather partial to furled leaders?
Furled leaders come with a loop in the end. That is in their very nature….the way in which they are manufactured dictates that there will always be a loop in the thick end. The other thing about them, is that they are inclined to become waterlogged and need changing out. As a result, I have often retained the welded loop on my fly line, but have done so almost grudgingly, and with a faint notion that there must be a better way.
With this drought going on, there has been plenty opportunity to stay home and tinker.
So here’s what I thought:
Instead of an amadou patch, I have taken to drying my flies by squeezing them between forefinger and thumb in a fold in my “wicking fabric” fishing shirt. It is hugely effective, and I don’t need amadou. One less thing to dangle from your vest. I recently tried drying my furled leader by drawing it across my side, or across my knee wearing pants of similar material. It was superb. Very effective indeed. If I do it just as I take a break for sarmies, and then leave the rod strung up in the sun, I can apply paste after I have eaten, and I am good to float for the rest of the day.
So with the new found freedom of being able to leave a furled leader on almost permanently I tried this:
A furled leader connected by nail knot
But then I got to thinking about a superglue splice knot using a furled leader.
Now, if you don’t mind me saying so, we are cooking with gas!
Firstly, if you are not familiar with a superglue splice or needle knot, it would be best to watch this first.
I was limited in that I could not use a furled leader manufactured with a tippet ring in it (picture a mouse giving birth to an elephant). But my own furled leaders don’t have that problem. Then the improved clinch knot with which I tie the start of the tippet onto the fine end of the furled leader, was too rough to go through the line too. I solved that by cutting it off, looping some 5X through the fine end, and pulling that into the side of the fly line and down out the end….twice…and then with that loop, pulling the fine end of the furled leader into the side of the fly line. Pulling the whole furled leader through was quite tough, but it worked. When it came to the superglueing of the last inch of furled leader into the line, the furled leader gave me a good absorbent base, which sucked up glue, and then stuck particularly well. I really struggled to break it, applying perhaps 20 Kg of force before it gave way. Strong enough for me!
So here is a comparison of some options:
Left to right: A nail-knot with UV glue covering; a loop to loop with a furled leader; a loop to loop with a nylon leader; the furled leader nail knot.
Another idea has also occurred to me: One could pull a furled leader backwards into the end of the fly line. I know, that sounds dumb, but hear me out. That would give you a furled leader loop a few inches off the end of the fly-line. You could then change furled leaders using a loop to loop. Yes ..I know…loop to loop…but the thing is, that the bulkiness of this arrangement lies primarily in the large knot formed in the nylon (even if you do a perfection loop…see the picture above). Thicker nylon is in fact horribly “catchy” when tied in a loop, and in my view should be avoided all together. A furled leader loop does not have this hard “catchy” knot, and despite its apparent bulk, slides through the end guide of the rod with the greatest of ease.
So there you have it….some ideas to play around with if, like me, you are a bit of a nut for furled leaders.
“Forget your perfect offering. There is a flaw in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
I had this new line. It was heavy in the forward part, and arguably more of a five weight than a four. But it was really awesome. I fish a five on that rod anyway, and I was worried that the four may be too light. I need not have worried.
I took it out on a hot Saturday afternoon and gave it a throw on the nine foot rod out on the lawn. All good. Very good!
It was time to chop the loop off the front, and risking a precious inch of the special, nipple pink, ultra flotatious half foot or so of good stuff, perform a superglue splice.
After much deliberation, I chose a “Yamame” flat butt leader. Expensive. All the way from Japan. Special like the line. The splice had to be special too.
I laboured over it at my desk in the severe summer heat. The sweat trickled from my brow. I got the sewing machine needle further up the core than I had imagined. I nervously unwrapped the leader and went about threading it, and pulling it right through the line tip with the needle. I paused, and roughed up the end with my hook hone, not sure how a flat butt leader would roughen up, relative to nylon ones I had tried before. It worked! I pulled the last inch of leader into the side of the fly-line with its thin coating of superglue……it slid in and ran fast and hard…glued right in there. Perfection!
As a precaution I did a wrapping of 7/0 fly tying silk. A delicate but tight wrapping, securing the leader butt inside the line. Failsafe.
It was braai time. I lit the fire. We opened drinks, and I relaxed and cooked meat and drank beer.
After dinner the family went to buy ice creams. I sauntered through to the lounge where the fan was still whirring beside my fly tying desk. I lifted the reel, and admired the neatly would line. I needed one more look at what I had done. One more loving glance at what I had achieved, before ice creams and bed. I stripped the leader from the reel, until I came to the splice. I changed my glasses to the stronger ones to get a better look, and I ran my fingers over the smooth UV glue coating.
Suddenly my beer muted mind was in a spin. I had one on. I was in the lounge. With a hand line. It was pulling. I pulled back in a mixture of mild delight, which was overshadowed by confusion. As quickly as it had started it was over. Snapped up!
The fan had picked up the tippet and wound it onto its shaft at several thousand RPM. The leader butt snapped mid way, leaving a short section of a foot below the perfect splice. Eighty bucks of Yamame, Japanese perfection was destroyed in a sobering second.
Back to the the drawing board.
Fly fishing. The great leveler.
In our fly-fishing circles, there are all manner of guys who have done something or made something, or run something which puts them in the public eye. It may be that they run a tackle shop, or publish a newsletter, or champion a popular cause. These are the guys whom we see on facebook, inevitably with dozens of “Likes” next to their pictures. Many of them are the most affable fly-fishermen that you could hope to meet, and most of them are not in the public eye because they sought to be there. It just happened that way and they are not invested in their egos.
But then you get a guy like my fishing buddy Roy Ward. Roy is not in the public eye (except that I suppose you see his picture on this blog a fair bit). Roy doesn’t run a shop, he didn’t invent a popular fly, and I don’t see youngsters hanging on his every word.
There are very few people out there with the blend of moral fibre, humility, enthusiasm, wisdom, and caring that Roy possesses. Coupled with that, Roy is not put off by my ultra short notice fly-fishing forays. Most times, and barring a wedding or something of that magnitude, he says “I’m in” , and we are off again on one of my wild goose chases up some unexplored valley. And without exception, when we return with heat stroke, cut legs, and no fish, he appreciates and enjoys the day out. If he saw an eagle, spotted and duffed a trout, experienced being caught in a storm….whatever it was, it fuels his love of the outdoors, and he is always ready for a repeat.
When I asked Roy to proof read my book, I should have realised he would not do a half job! He agonised over the rewording of sentences, proposed changes, and bounced suggestions and ideas. He even had me pulling out my bird books to check on my description of a particular bird’s plumage.
Thank you Roy. I salute you. You are an unsung hero and a true friend.
Roy and his wife Anne at my book launch