Location: Long Island, NY
|Posted: Mon 06/18/12 2:20 pm Post subject: Fly Leader Breakdown????
You have asked a question that has sparked my interest….
You have asked about leader construction and, although I am not an expert in leader construction, I believe that there are a few principles in construction of leaders that are important to know when designing your leaders.
I believe that the main idea behind tapered leaders is their ability to transfer the cast-induced energy in the tight loop of your fly line along the leader, thereby propelling the fly out beyond the end of the flyline and out to a distance roughly equivalent to the length of the fully extended leader. This energy transfer is necessary to propel the wind-resistant fly further than it can be propelled without an attached leader. (My illustration of this phenomenon involves attempting to throw a fly. Just try to throw a fly more than about 3 -5 feet! If the fly is a tiny dry fly, it likely is quite wind resistant and you will have difficulty throwing it more than a few feet. In contrast, many salt water flies and streamers are not so wind resistant and can be thrown 10 to 20 feet pretty readily, especially if they have dumbbell eyes, coneheads or beadheads. I believe that the ability to propel the fly is dependent on its weight:wind resistance ratio…) Flies that are easily thrown for a distance will exhibit the same behavior when tied to the end of a length of tippet. Once they are moving through the air, they will continue to move for quite a distance. Only those flies with a low weight:wind resistance ration require that the energy of the fly line be transferred down the fly line to the leader to the fly in order to propel them beyond the end of the fly line. So… long story made short…. Only small, light, windresistant flies require tapered leaders for the sake of propulsion.
In my opinion, longer leaders are preferred, generally for situations in which the fisherman fears that the fish will be spooked by seeing the fly line or by the disturbance of the fly line or heavy duty leader as it hits the surface of the water. In situations of sight casting to visible fish, the fly fisherman generally wants to place the fly near enough to the fish that it is seen by the fish and without any spookiness associated with surface disturbances or visibility of the fly line. In this situation, a long leader is preferred… and with it comes the issue of being able to propel the fly to the fully extended length of the leader. If the fly is heavy, a long length of fine tippet will not be needed to impart propulsive force to the fly. Longer leaders may have a more difficult time turning over a light fly.
In my opinion, the mass of the leader (per unit length) is important in transferring the energy of the “tight loop” along the leader from the end of the fly line to the fly. A heavier leader will impart more momentum (or energy) to the next length of leader and subsequently to the fly than will a light leader. (Heavier leaders are also attributed with more tensil strength)
Back when I started fly fishing, in the middle of the last century, tapered leaders were relatively novel and unusual. So we made our own leaders with graded series of nylon monofilament (mono) connected with blood knots. Even today, with the ready availability of tapered leaders, I typically attach a few feet of tippet material to the fine end of a tapered leader so that the shortening of the line with fly removals and changes does not remove significant portions of the tapered leader.
Now… you have mentioned that you are inquiring about leaders for flats fishing. This is often a site fishing situation so longer leaders tend to be customary. However, the flies used may be relatively heavy with little wind resistance. Therefore the use of a tapered leader may not be necessary for fly propulsion. It may seem necessary for maintaining a “stealthy” approach to the sited fish.
Additional consideration may be given to the particular type of fish that you are targeting. Bonefish and redfish have smooth tough mouths that do not cause much damage to leader material. Bluefish have sharp teeth and can cut through leader material pretty readily. I believe that tarpon have rather boney mouths that may be more capable of harming the leader. For some of these more boney and sharp-toothed species, a shock tippet may be added. This shock tippet is typically of larger diameter and greater strength than the section preceding it on the leader. So for these leaders, there is often a heavy section attached to the flyline , tapering down to finer and finer sections until it becomes heavier near the fly due to the shock tippet.
So, to answer your questions, consider what is necessary to accomplish your goals…
1. Propulsion of the fly? Small, wind-resistant flies require propulsion that is delivered by the fly line, then the leader to “pull the fly forward of the fly line. Heavier flies with the ability to be thrown a distance can often be cast using a one-piece, flat, un-tapered leader!
2. Is taper always in one direction? Not always… sometimes a heavier portion is used at the tip to provide a tougher, portion that is less likely to break due to wear or teeth.
3. Mono vs. fluoro? A few years ago fluro was the rage due to its near invisibility in water (same index of refractions as water). Lately, I have seen some indications that its stretch characteristics may not be as much of an advantage as I had read previously. I do believe that mono is a little less dense… so it may float a little better than fluro so that may be something to consider in deciding which to use. And I have read some reports that mono tied to fluro was not as effective as mono to mono or fluoro to fluoro… but I suspect that the jury is still out on that issue. Mono is probably less expensive. So make your decisions of what to use depending on which of these issues is/are important to you.
4. Length of the leader? This is dependent on what is necessary to achieve your goals: not spooking the fish versus what is required to cast the flies you are using.
I apologize for my typical, extended response. I welcome any other thoughts on these considerations!