Sunday, January 9, 2011

Builder a Leader Workshop Part 2: It's Knot as hard as you think

Putting bad puns aside for the moment, this second part of my impromptu leader-building series is about knotted leaders. Now, when I first started fly fishing, I read somewhere (y'know, that place were all good information is obtained) that knottless tapered leaders were better than knotted leaders as they didn't snag as much, and maybe some other arguments that I didn't really understand but since the writer sounded like he did I took him at his word. I bought my knotless leaders like a good boy and didn't think much about it.

Fast forward to about a month ago, where in an online forum discussion we were talking about leaders. It started on furled leaders but then wound around to knotted leaders. Long story short, I was advised that I shouldn't always trust what I read, and that in making your own knotted leaders, you have more control over the power transference from the rod to the fly and can control your presentation a lot more than with a knotless tapered leader. Being as this was said by people that sounded like they knew what they were talking about, I took them at there word. Now why does that sound familiar....?

So anyway, I thought that I'd give it a try.

I was recommended to LeaderCalc to get my leader recipes. LeaderCalc is a spreadsheet that was devised by S. Schweitzer of the Global Fly Fisherman. It IS copyrighted, but it is available as a free download from the Global Fly Fisher Website.  Please note that you do need some form of spreadsheet software, such as MS(evil!) Excel to open it. If you don't have this on you computer, then run over and get OpenOffice. It's an entire office suite but it is open source, which means free. It's very similar to the last version of MS Office, and it is what I use personally and argue for professionally.

But enough of my nerdiness. LeaderCalc has about 50 leader recipes(actually I don't know, I didn't try counting. But there are a lot), so there are a lot to try. I decided on a 5x 12' leader to start with. I had purchased the Umpqua Leader Tying Kit with some loot that I had received for Christmas, so I figured it would be smooth sailing.

Wrong. The leader recipe called for a 05x butt, then tapered down to sections of 03x and 01x. But the leader kit did not include any 03x or 01x. It seems that this kit only includes even numbers of the stiffer sections with the exception of the 05x. Awesome.

I replaced the 03x and the 01x with 04x and 01x, respectively, with fingers crossed hoping that the stiffer butt will not have to adverse of an effect of turning over the fly.

But that was really the only hang up that I had in tying the leader. I added about 2 inches to the sections to account for needing a little extra to tie the knots(I used Surgeon's Knots, but the norm seems to by Blood Knots) and left off the final section of 5x tippet; instead I added a small perfect loop so that I can add on the necessary tippet streamside in case I need slightly longer or shorter than what was called for. I think in the future I might go and get some tippet rings, but this is good enough for now.

Building the leader itself was a pretty quick and simple process. The only tools I needed were a tape measure and my fly tying scissors. All told it might have taken 20 minutes, and that's because I would tie a section on and then use my hands to try and get it moderately straight before moving on to the next section.

Being that we've had two days of snow and the current air temp is in the 20's, it might be a while until I get to try out my brand new leader. By dry casting just the leader in the bedroom and it turned over pretty well, so I have some high hopes. But when I do get to give it the old college try, I will post the results. Stay tuned!

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