CaryGreene

Leader Design - Saltwater and Freshwater

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Today's Installment intended to circle the wagons and focus "soley" on Saltwater Leaders. We're often casting into the wind and we need straight-line presentations so we make Leaders that excell against abrasion and deliver ruler-srraight presentations so we're instantly in-touch with our flies. We also need powerful Leaders that can turn over even the biggest flies. 

 

Let's review details surrounding how to construct a Saltwater Leader and how to make them.

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Edited by CaryGreene
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19 hours ago, CaryGreene said:

Love the detailed feedback bmac! As always you get me thinking. You're in the third-group of people all the way. Allow me to explain that okay!

 

 

Thanks for the feedback Cary.  I'm actually a Group 1 guy trying to be a Group 3.  I've come to realize that the "sport" or "art" of fly fishing is advancing further and faster than I realized, and universal truths I once believed in were neither universal or true.  Like you, I had some old school mentors that taught me a lot and who kindled the fire.  Very different from your baptism, but it brought me into the fold.  I won't inflict that story on SOL readers just now.  Then I went big fish crazy for a few years fishing conventional and spinning gear.  Had some great times and great catches.  I won't give that up as long as I can still physically do it, but the allure of the long rod brought my back.  I'm still struggling with the fact that fly fishing grew faster than I did.  I'm 63 years old, and I've been fly fishing since I was 12 years old.  Used to think I knew it all.  Nope!  Thanks for the leader advice Cary, and even more for the tutorial on our sport's traditions and how we advance from them.  

Edited by bmac

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Update:  I took the braided mono loop off the 8 Wt and tied a welded loop as suggested.  Easy peasy.  Took your advice and also watched a video that Capt Bruce Chard has on youtube.  It was quick and easy to do.  I tied a very small loop knot on the leader butt and went out to cast this morning.  Not a huge difference from before, but I detected a slight improvement.  I had the backing out 3/4 of the way to the tip top.  With a 105' fly line I'll take it.  I blew a good number of those long distance attempts, but I nailed a few of them.  Just need a little more practice to get the proper stroke and timing and to better understand how much line I can consistently keep in the air.  The leader system performed just great.  Fly turned over perfectly as long as the cast was sound, and no knots even when I tailed it a few times trying to over muscle a cast.  Great system Cary.  Thanks a bunch for putting it out there.  Yesterday afternoon I cut up about 20 leaders I had tied up and bagged.  Good riddance!  

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1 hour ago, bmac said:

Update:  I took the braided mono loop off the 8 Wt and tied a welded loop as suggested.  Easy peasy.  Took your advice and also watched a video that Capt Bruce Chard has on youtube.  It was quick and easy to do.  I tied a very small loop knot on the leader butt and went out to cast this morning.  Not a huge difference from before, but I detected a slight improvement.  I had the backing out 3/4 of the way to the tip top.  With a 105' fly line I'll take it.  I blew a good number of those long distance attempts, but I nailed a few of them.  Just need a little more practice to get the proper stroke and timing and to better understand how much line I can consistently keep in the air.  The leader system performed just great.  Fly turned over perfectly as long as the cast was sound, and no knots even when I tailed it a few times trying to over muscle a cast.  Great system Cary.  Thanks a bunch for putting it out there.  Yesterday afternoon I cut up about 20 leaders I had tied up and bagged.  Good riddance!  

Well as long as you're not planning on casting further than me with other people watching, this is great news bmac!

 

LOL Seriously, though, it's great to see someone who's already an accomplished fly fisherman tweak an existing system and have great results. I had some strong wind coming right to left the other day and had to pretty much cast side arm all night. Not a big deal fishing off a jetty but I was in the water up to my waist. The only way to make that work is to keep the the line off the water. The Leader really helped with that because it's Medium-Stiff, it just keeps turning over and turning over, supporting the weight of the fly and keeping the loop stable. 

 

Don't forget, if you ever run into trouble with bigger flies, you can move to 70%/20%/10% too, that can really help, works in well in conjunction with a front loaded line too. 

 

Anyways, thanks for all the detailed feedback bmac - hopefully (said to our readers) folks start opening their minds to trying this and to paying a bit more attention to their Leaders than they might have otherwise been giving them. 

 

Leaders are really easy to overlook and not think about. We've all done it. Threre's so much more to think about. But wow, the Leader is sooo important. 

 

The best thing about the Lightning-Leaders is how simple the system is. I've written this before but if I gave you any saltwater spool in any of my reel bags, you'd likely find it has a two piece Leader looped onto it - in the fashion tthat bmac describes. 

 

Brings up a thought. Let's explore it thanks to bmac's post!

 

What Tippet should you use? Who cares! Just tie one on and fish. Use whatever you feel you need. You literally CAN'T be wrong in your selction - the fish that are present will dictate your decision. 

 

It's always good to think about your Tippet. If you're fishing the northeast, there is a super-wide range of necessary Test#. I personally carry 8#, 10#, 12#, 15#, 20#, 30#, 40# and even 50#. I mostly USE 10#, 20# and 30# though.

 

It's all about what fish are present, what time (day or night) you're fishing, how clear the water is and what the sky conditions are (clear, partly cloudy or truly overcast).

 

Right now, there's huge Bluefish around. 30# is where that game starts (Fluorocarbon). That might impact how you construct your Leader because we know you're likely using a significantly heavier Butt-Section. But it might necessitate that your Mid-Section be a bit beefy.

 

Word of advice, don't worry AT ALL about going Heavy to Fairly Heavy to really light either. It's chuck and duck casting. Works perfectly fine. 35# or 30# mid sections work perfectly fine with lighter Tippets. 5 Turn Blood Knots hold just fine. Here's what 35# to 10# looks like when knotted:

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Edited by CaryGreene

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Cary and any others:  I'm curious on your thoughts on leaders for full sink lines, sink tips and shooting heads.  Conventional wisdom has generally been to shorten sub-surface fly leaders by a lot, subject to species, water clarity, time of day etc.  But I've known a lot of guys who just say, "Tie on 3 feet of __ test and call it a day."  I suspect that's bad gouge but was wondering what you'd suggest for keeping your fly down in the water at least as deep as the tip of your fly line.  Would you still use the 60/30/10 or 70/20 ratios but cut those lengths by half or even more?  Also, any experience or thoughts on leaders for two handed rods with shooting head lines?  I'm trying to learn how to fish a two hand rod and am still struggling with it a bit. Anything other than a simple roll cast is pretty hit or miss with me.  Timing and sense for loading up the rod just aren't there yet.  But I've found that a Skagit system to be very effective down here on speckled trout in current, mainly in the fall.  

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1 hour ago, bmac said:

Cary and any others:  I'm curious on your thoughts on leaders for full sink lines, sink tips and shooting heads.  Conventional wisdom has generally been to shorten sub-surface fly leaders by a lot, subject to species, water clarity, time of day etc.  But I've known a lot of guys who just say, "Tie on 3 feet of __ test and call it a day."  I suspect that's bad gouge but was wondering what you'd suggest for keeping your fly down in the water at least as deep as the tip of your fly line.  Would you still use the 60/30/10 or 70/20 ratios but cut those lengths by half or even more?  Also, any experience or thoughts on leaders for two handed rods with shooting head lines?  I'm trying to learn how to fish a two hand rod and am still struggling with it a bit. Anything other than a simple roll cast is pretty hit or miss with me.  Timing and sense for loading up the rod just aren't there yet.  But I've found that a Skagit system to be very effective down here on speckled trout in current, mainly in the fall.  

Hi bmac, hopefully you're having a great weekend. Another great question! Easy to answer as well.

 

In the past, when Sink-Tip fly-lines were first invented, they used Level Tapers. Basically they were Running Lines attached to 24' Sink-Tips. All you had to do was get the line moving and let it go. Noone really complained about turnover because they shot out about 70' and landed in fast moving water. 

 

Manufacturers slowly started giving the lines tapers - rearward of the Level-Head at first. Then, eventually the Sinking Head itself was built with a Taper, though it featured a very narrow Head Diameter compared to Intermediate or Floating lines. 

 

Today, we see all sorts of Tapers given to D/C lines and Sink-Tips. Sink Tips almost always have a very bulbous, floating head with only a sinking section forward of it. But the D/C lines, though narrower, do have Tapers - primarily to assist with turnover. 

 

Some companies, like Airflo, favor simple, smooth casting Level Head designs. Here's their Depthfinder Big Game taper - 

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Other companies like smooth Tapers that swell gently towards the front of the Full-Sinking Heads. Here's a Cortland Striped Bass D/C taper - 

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And still other companies like more Compound Tapers, that feature various transitions. Some are front-loaded like the Sci-A Sonar 3-5-7 D/C line - 

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And other manufacturers like RIO don't even feel the need to share their tapers online anymore, (kinda curious) perhaps figuring fly-fishermen are too stupid to woryy about weird things like line tapers <chuckling> - not sure how that's supposed to help make friends with experienced anglers in the specialty channel. 

 

As with any Fly-Line that has a castable Head, there will be a Taper and that Taper will have a Tip diameter. It's best to use a properly made Leader with any of these lines. The one exception would be regarding a Level-Line that has no taper, in which case, a one piece Leader that is thinner than it's Tip would be suitable. 

 

There are some situations where experienced fly-fishermen still use Level-Lines believe it or not. For example, the deadliest Pocket-Water (trout fishing) technique I know of involves using a 50' piece of flat, level ine. We used to use Cortland Teflon Coated Flat Monofilament (30#) for this applicaiton but it's no longer made. Now, there are only Flat Level Lines on the market. 

 

The idea with Level Line Nymphing, always best done in VERY fast-moving water, is to use an extremely short 2' or 3' one-piece Leader (usually 2X). It's connected with an Albright Knot to the Level Line, which, under a microscope, looks a lot like a gift-ribbon that you might make a bow out of when you're wrapping my birthday present. (hint-hint everyone)

 

The force of the current presses on the flat part of the line and immediately makes it turn sideways. This allows the slick, Level-Line to "slice" through the current as almost no surface area at all is being pressed on by the current. Meanwhile, as we have learned in the thread, the water is moving much differently on the floor of the riverbed. Broken rocks create relief from the current. Nymphs on the bottom travel VERY slow, even in ragingly fast water.

 

This techique allows the nymph to move like the real ones do, which is very s-l-o-w-l-y! Success rate goes up dramatically as a result. Casting a Level-Line with a weighted nymph involves the ability to make a "tuck" cast. The fly-caster launches the line with the help of a downstream water load, which bends the rod. Then, he "springs" the rod-tip forward and immediately lurches the Rod-Tip backwards (in the opposite direction of the cast). 

 

This creates an "underloop." The Nymph darts out low to the surface of the water and travels as far as it's "flung" and then it plops into the water and begins sinking quickly. Meanwhile, the Level line hangs well above the sinking line and soon follows the nymph down and proceeds to do its job, which is to NOT obstruct the fast moving current in the middle of the water-column up. 

 

In Saltwater fishing, there are times where Pocket Water Nymphing with Flat Level lines can be very effective. If you have a piece of structure in mind, where water depth drops off in tight to the structure and especially where current can wrap around the structure at various points in a given tide, you may have seen lots of tiny food morsels like crabs and shrimp being funneled past the structure. 

 

A great way to deliver sinking Crab or Shrimp (or Sand Flea..etc) patterns is to use a level line and Tuck Cast up ahead of the structure, letting the fly sink as it drifts and using the Level-Line to permit natural dirifts. 

 

Otherwise though, there is ZERO need for lines with Level Heads in Saltwater, unless we're making out own D/C Heads to loop onto Running-Lines to save $$, like we did back in the day perhaps. 

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I fashioned a quick leader this afternoon for a 6 Wt.  It has a med density sink tip.  One of the few I own, but that's about to change after reading Cary's fly line manufacturers thread and this one.  (I've been a floating line snob for a real long time, but that's about to change too.) The line used is a Sci Anglers Sonar 30 sink tip rated at 250 grains.  I use it for shad fishing. It measured  0.0395 so I tied a butt section of 30# Sci Anglers hard mono(0.028") 3' long followed by a mid section of 25# Sci Anglers of 18" (0.025") (20# would have been better, but I don't have any--yet).  I finished with a 6" tippet of 15# fluoro.  That's basically the 60-30-10 formula cut in half.  Casting performance was great.  That short leader turned over easily, but I frequently messed up my line feed causing the line and leader to recoil back at me upon completion of the forward cast.  (just bad technique, but when I did things correctly, that short leader turned over every time.)  I was able to get about 70' casting into a pretty stiff breeze.  When I tried to get more than that my casts basically blew up.  But that's plenty of distance for that kind of line and what I intend to do with it.  That sink tip really loads the rod and just jumps outbound if you time it right.  

 

Anyways, same questions stand.  I got good performance using the 60-30-10 Lightning Leader formula cut in half for a sink tip line today, but that was just casting, not fishing.  Any insights as far as leader design for sink tip, full sinking and spey lines?  Casting performance is just one of the variables.  

 

Thanks to anyone who will reply.  

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I'm using the system and did so last evening at the proving grounds.

I had a perfect light SE east wind at my back and almost got to the backing on my eight weight ten foot. I was using the S/A sonar 3-5-7 sink.

As Bmac said I'm still working on my timing too. Surf was headed to low tide so I had elevation behind me to clear and spent some time watching my back cast, but to the detriment of neglecting the beginning of the backcast and getting the rod loaded and leader moving before lifting the rod tip.

Good news is the silverside spearing streamer  was in the zone and I caught some extra large sea robins while targeting the elusive  Flukesaurus 

7E5483A6-4D7E-4B59-9F40-738FD4C687EA.jpeg

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1 hour ago, bmac said:

I fashioned a quick leader this afternoon for a 6 Wt.  It has a med density sink tip.  One of the few I own, but that's about to change after reading Cary's fly line manufacturers thread and this one.  (I've been a floating line snob for a real long time, but that's about to change too.) The line used is a Sci Anglers Sonar 30 sink tip rated at 250 grains.  I use it for shad fishing. It measured  0.0395 so I tied a butt section of 30# Sci Anglers hard mono(0.028") 3' long followed by a mid section of 25# Sci Anglers of 18" (0.025") (20# would have been better, but I don't have any--yet).  I finished with a 6" tippet of 15# fluoro.  That's basically the 60-30-10 formula cut in half.  Casting performance was great.  That short leader turned over easily, but I frequently messed up my line feed causing the line and leader to recoil back at me upon completion of the forward cast.  (just bad technique, but when I did things correctly, that short leader turned over every time.)  I was able to get about 70' casting into a pretty stiff breeze.  When I tried to get more than that my casts basically blew up.  But that's plenty of distance for that kind of line and what I intend to do with it.  That sink tip really loads the rod and just jumps outbound if you time it right.  

 

Anyways, same questions stand.  I got good performance using the 60-30-10 Lightning Leader formula cut in half for a sink tip line today, but that was just casting, not fishing.  Any insights as far as leader design for sink tip, full sinking and spey lines?  Casting performance is just one of the variables.  

 

Thanks to anyone who will reply.  

More great feedback bmac! Check out post #111 above, it should adderss questions on D/C Lines. Post #106 is also about the formulas.

 

Leader Length is usually 7 1/2' with Streamers, but you can absolutely go shorter if you want to, down to 6'. Same Taper rules apply as with all Lightning Leaders - providing your D/C line has a tapered Head. You can absolutely use the Lightning Formula in any length you care to make, it will work mostly the same. 

 

Assuming you're using the Sonar Sink 30 with the Clear Tip that's 30' long and features a 20' rear step. This line casts like a rocket and has fairly good turnover characteristics due to very nice, uniformly tapered Head with very good girth and diameter.

 

You would use a 60-30-10 or 70-20-10 Lightning Leader with this, anywhere from 6' to 7 1/2' though you could even go longer if you needed to for stealth reasons. A properly made Lightning Leader of 9' will still easily turn over most Saltwater flies. I Fish 8" Bunker patterns on 9' Leaders all the time, but they're pretty light flies. I think most casters will want 7 1/2' Leaders with subsurface patterns and D/C lines. 

 

"Technically" the Sonar Sink 30-Clear is an Intermediate Sink Tip fly line. It's as well made a fly line as you'll find on the market and the rear step, IMHO, is much appreciated. 

 

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There's an off chance you might be using the Sonar 30 Custom Tip, pictured below, but I doubt it. With this line, you have more of an old-school level head. Turnover isn't strong with this line, but you'd still use at least a two-piece leader here, maybe three, primarily to taper down to your desired Tippet and at least be able to maximize the little bit of turnover a line like this has. 

62b7bfe777d6e_Screenshot2022-06-2510_09_17PM.png.cb965aab123a5af594ba6ca170da78a4.png

 

If you were to move to a D/C line and wanted to stay with Sci-A, you'd go to the Sonar Titan Triple-Density D/C Line. it features a 33.5' Head that is made to turn bigger flies over. It's temperature rated for the northeast and it's easilty the most advanced D/C line there is. You can get it in various configuarations, the Int-3-6 and the  3-5-7 would be ones to look at. I like the latter though it's still not exactly what I'd like to see out of a D/C line. It's pretty nice though, all things considered. 

62b7c1e6d42fb_Screenshot2022-06-2510_17_57PM.png.a656de6307e9136b5a828e7aefc45b28.png

 

 

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1 hour ago, yarddog59 said:

I'm using the system and did so last evening at the proving grounds.

I had a perfect light SE east wind at my back and almost got to the backing on my eight weight ten foot. I was using the S/A sonar 3-5-7 sink.

As Bmac said I'm still working on my timing too. Surf was headed to low tide so I had elevation behind me to clear and spent some time watching my back cast, but to the detriment of neglecting the beginning of the backcast and getting the rod loaded and leader moving before lifting the rod tip.

Good news is the silverside spearing streamer  was in the zone and I caught some extra large sea robins while targeting the elusive  Flukesaurus 

7E5483A6-4D7E-4B59-9F40-738FD4C687EA.jpeg

Great picture. Love it! Awesome clarity. The 3-5-7 is the Sonar "Titan" line (specs in post 106 above. One of the nicest made D/C lines that I've seen yet. How did the Lightning Leader seem to turn over your flies? Compared to what you were formerly using?

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I recently received the  running line, heads, and  sink tips you suggested for the 11foot Exocet, but may  need a larger arbor spool/reel for them to fit with appropriate backing.

The Sonar Titan on the eight performs so well, I'm thinking I may also get one for the 11 foot Exocet. I can see me using that on high surf days where i want to be on the bottom but I need to bring the leader in all the way to the trough and the tip of the rod.  Thoughts?

Edited by yarddog59

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I finally bit the bullet and and purchased 4 spools of the SA hard mono. I was following this thread since it’s beginning and I started with the hodge pod of different monos/ fluro carbons I had on hand. Finally I decided to do it the right way as recommended by Cary.  Huge difference, I was fishing my 10 weight off the beach this morning with the SA sink 3/5/7 in 10wt as well. Although the fish did not cooperate it did cast great and there was a very noticeable difference. Casts felt great and laid out like ropes! Thank you again for this thread! A few observations I would I add that have already been mentioned for the most part. 1. I certainly needed a leader straightener as this stuff. It’s stiff.  I normally only carry that with my trout stuff but will have to pack it with my salt gear now. Knots can be a little tough to tie with the stiffness but I use gloves and pliers like recommended. Very doable! Great system. 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

15 hours ago, yarddog59 said:

I recently received the  running line, heads, and  sink tips you suggested for the 11foot Exocet, but may  need a larger arbor spool/reel for them to fit with appropriate backing.

The Sonar Titan on the eight performs so well, I'm thinking I may also get one for the 11 foot Exocet. I can see me using that on high surf days where i want to be on the bottom but I need to bring the leader in all the way to the trough and the tip of the rod.  Thoughts?

What backing are you using, Micron? (Dacron). If so, use white Gel Spun Backing or even better, white Suffix 131 braided line. But first...

 

Strip the backing you're using off the reel and store it on a spare Line-Holder. Now, put the Leader, the Sink-Tip, the Head and the running line on the spool of the reel in that order (reversed). This will tell you if it even fits. If it does and you have some space to play with, great. - consider finer diamter backing as indiated above. 

 

If not, then you do need a new reel, with higher capacity. Prior to buying, check by reverse spooling your line and checking for capacity. You should have 150 to 300 yards of capacity when spooled properly. 

 

As for the Titan on the 11' Exo, on one hand that provides an "integrated-head" solution. You'd have a one piece line. But, you're not overhand casting right? I'm assuming you're water loading and Spey Casting. If that's the case, an integrated line serves no purpose, you never strip it all the way back to you. 

 

It is possible to over-hand cast with a Single-Spey rod, which is what you have. It's not a full on Double-Handle rod, it features a stubby, mini handle aft of the primary rod-grip. That said, it's tough work and after a long day of fishing, not a super desirable technique. 

 

The casting isn't that difficult, but operating a full Spey rod in surf, pointing it at the fly and then supporting it with one hand while you strip all the way back with the other is for the birds. 

 

That's where a Single-Spey grip comes in, but it's still a ton of work because that extra mini-handle is infinitely harder to deal with than if you just had a Full-Wells grip and a Fighing Butt - meaning, a standard grip configurement. 

 

Better to use moving water to your advantage and water load easy Spey casts, which is actually even easier than overhead casting. If you have the right amount of weight, you can really launch long casts with ease, but bringing them back to you is hard, which is why it's better to bring only the running line back. 

 

Then, sweep behind with the rod tip slowly, moving the fly in the process, and use a Spey Cast to pick the head and tip up and simply re-launch, into the moving water, which will sweep side to side, depending on your position and serve to load the rod on the pickup. 

Edited by CaryGreene

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