Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Build-A-Leader Workshop

Ever since I started fly fishing, I've been using tapered knot-less leaders. They're pretty cheap and abundantly available. But soon I started to hear about furled leaders and started to wonder....

So the next time I was in a fly shop, I took a look around. And didn't see one. As in the next shop and the one after that.

There were a few places online that I could order one, but I felt kinda silly ordering one leader. So I continued to use tapered.

But then I got into a conversation on making your own furled leaders. It can't be that hard, I thought. It's basically just braided mono, right?

So a quick internet research came, and I found out a few things.

  • While furled leaders are relatively unused in the US, the are very popular overseas. 
  • Furled leaders are not a new invention, and have been around since leaders were made of horsehair. 
  • Furled leaders create a more delicate presentation of the fly(very good for drys.)
  • Furled leaders have very little memory. 
  • Due to their braided nature, furled leaders have a flex to them the protects the tippet while fighting fish.
These things are all very well, but how do you make the dang things?!

There are essentially two ways, depending on what material you are using. One way is with mono (or even fluoro) and another way is, surprisingly, using Uni Thread. 

Making a furled leader from Uni Thread is a complicated affair which boggles my mind just thinking about it. It requires a long board, some pegs, and some hooks. And then it gets real complex. If your interested, check out Hatches, where they have a step by step tutorial. I think that I might try this, as I can see the Uni Thread giving a very gentle presentation, but I think that I need to be mentally prepared for this undertaking, which I'm not (i.e. I'm to lazy.)

The next way is using mono or fluoro. And all you do is twist it. There's even this video from Flatlanders Guiding Service on how they make theirs.

Sounds simple, right? Not so much.

I tried this method a few times, and the first one turned out OK. Trying a second time was a massive failure.

I then thought that I could do this quicker using a drummel, I tried that. Failure was critical, those times.

I tried the videos method a third time, and after learning a few things, I got a good looking leader. Here's what I had to do:

  • This guy does his in about three minutes. Realize that you will need AT LEAST 10 x's that long. 
  • Your twists won't be perfect. It's OK. 
  • Do this standing up. The line won't twist as badly as you do. Also take the tag ends and dangle them over your elbows to keep them from getting tangled with each other. 
  • The tags will twist around themselves. If you try to twist them like this, you will get no-where pretty quick. (on time two it took me thirty minutes to get 10 inches when trying to twist kinked line. And it looked like crap.) Use your hands to stretch the tags back out flat (like when you get the kinks out of a tapered leader) and give it a few minutes for the line to rest. Then pick up where you left off. 
  • At the base of the tippet loop, I tie a surgeon's knot. That way if your fighting a fish and one of the strands snaps or gets cut over a rock, you won't loose the fish. 
But how do they work?

I took one out today for a test drive, and they work pretty darn good. The fly landed gently with almost no disturbance to the film. I turned the fly over tightly, and very controlled. Basically it did everything a furled leader is supposed to. 

So for a recap, for $0.005 per foot of mono(literally, I did the math. Yea I know, nerd), and about 15 minutes(after the first few anyway), you can make a leader that is all around a better tool than a typical tapered leader in most situations. Can you really go wrong?

Good luck and tight lines! 

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