Building Your Own Leaders
Sandy Watershed

Building Your Own Tapered Leaders
All competent anglers pay special attention to their leader.  Nothing shows up a rookie quicker than a frayed and wind knotted leader.  A poorly maintained leader denotes poor fishing skills and a lack focus.  You don't have to build your own hand tied leaders to be a competent angler.  There are several brands of reliable knotless, factory made leaders available.  However, for some applications hand tied leaders will give the best presentation and are less expensive.
Having an understanding of leader material and a practiced knowledge of reliable fishing knots is as important to the angler as knowing how to cast. The leader is the most fragile link between you and your fish. Frayed leader material, tangles, wind knots or a badly tied knot can release your trophy prematurely.  Nothing lasts forever.  Any leader is subjected to tremendous dynamic stress as it is cast through the air.  Contact with stream bank vegetation, underwater obstructions and fish teeth can badly scar leader material.  The leader must be checked constantly while fishing. Any problem areas should be repaired as soon as they are noticed.  For this reason you should carry a "leader repair kit" even if you use factory made knotless tapered leaders.

A properly designed fly leader enables the angler to deliver the fly with precision. The leader should also provide a strong, nearly invisible link between the fly line and the fly.  A correctly designed fly leader transfers energy from the fly line to the fly in a predictable manner. The leader butt attaches directly to the fly line and must be of a diameter similar to the end of the fly line to transfer energy from the fly line to the rest of the leader smoothly. The graduated mid-section transfers the energy from the butt section to the leader's tippet. The butt and mid-section are designed as a delivery system for the tippet and fly. The tippet is the leader's single most important component. The tippet size and type are determined by the fish size and fishing conditions.  You will be a more successful angler with a working knowledge of leader design and application. With a knowledge of proper knots, a store of the proper materials and a blue print to work from,  you can build your own fly leaders to any configuration needed to catch any fish.   
              Fly leaders can be very specific to the angling quarry and situation.

Pictured above is a very simple hand made leader specifically designed for catching steelhead with a sinking tip line.  It is made from three sections of hard, abrasion resistant nylon such as Maxima.  The sections graduate from where the leader 

will be attached to the fly line down to where the fly will be attached.  Each section is a different diameter and will serve a specific purpose.  The formula 
for this leader is at right:

5' Leader for Steelhead
25 lb. Maxima = 15"
15 lb. Maxima = 15"
10 lb. Maxima = 30"

The length of this leader was chosen to give the fly maximum action and a practical amount of stealth to the angler.  A five foot long leader will hide the fly line tip from most bottom hugging steelhead in water which has 4'-5' visibility.  The leader is short enough so that a heavy sinking tip line can hold a very lightweight fly close to the bottom.    Normally a  leader of this short length will turn over a heavily weighted fly for all but the poorest casters.  So, you ask why not just tie on a piece of ten pound tippet material to the end of the fly line?  A straight small diameter mono tied directly to the end of fly line could transfer enough energy to turn over the fly, but not as well as a graduated one.    

And you need a very strong attachment from the leader to the fly line. This is facilitated by attaching 15" of large diameter monofilament to the tip of the fly line.  Leaders of less than .020 diameter have proven unreliable when nail knotted to a fly line and fished for anadromous fish.  The 30" tippet section has been proven strong enough for most steelhead and pliable enough to allow medium size flies to move naturally in the water.  The 15" mid section facilitates attachment of the tippet and butt sections by providing an intermediate diameter which will allow very strong knots to be tied easily.

This simple tapered leader is practical and inexpensive for the winter steelhead angler to make.  You will need to carry several pre-tied leaders and a roll of tippet material while fishing.  As leaders get longer their design can become more complex.  We will explore the design of longer leaders next week.  

Best Buy !!! Save Money !!!
Maxima Tippet Material

Maxima Chameleon Maxima Clear Maxima Ultra Green

Many anglers believe that there is no stronger more durable leader material than Maxima. Period. It has gained fanatical following of the most renowned trout, bass, steelhead, salmon and saltwater anglers. This is because of its 100% constancy and total reliability.  
Maxima has a high durability finish that avoids nicks and abrasions. This finish also helps to control knot slippage, which is a major factor in knot breakage.

Maxima Chameleon
Maxima Chameleon is very hard and abrasion resistant tippet material. Its dark brown color is infrared sensitive to blend with the surroundings when submerged. It is best when fishing deep. For those reasons it has become the most popular salmon and steelhead tippet.

Stock No. Pound Test Diameter Length Price To top
MAXCH02 2 lb. .005 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH04 4 lb. .007 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH06 6 lb. .009 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH08 8 lb. .010 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH10 10 lb. .012 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
 MAXCH12 12 lb. .013 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH15 15 lb. .015 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH20 20 lb. .017 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH25 25 lb. .020 27 yd. $3.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH30 30 lb. .022 17 yd. $3.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCH40 40 lb. .024 17 yd. $3.50 -->SALE ENDED

Maxima Clear
Maxima Clear has the same properties as Chameleon except it doesn't contain the infrared sensitive dye. It has a non-reflective finish that makes it nearly invisible under most light and water conditions. Clear is a good choice for all situations where a dark colored tippet is not appropriate such as surface steelhead or saltwater flats fishing.

Stock No. Pound Test Diameter Length Price To top
MAXCL02 2 lb. .005 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL04 4 lb. .007 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL06 6 lb. .009 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL08 8 lb. .010 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL10 10 lb. .012 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
 MAXCL12 12 lb. .013 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL15 15 lb. .015 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL20 20 lb. .017 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL25 25 lb. .020 27 yd. $3.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL30 30 lb. .022 17 yd. $3.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXCL40 40 lb. .024 17 yd. $3.50 -->SALE ENDED

Maxima Ultra Green
Maxima Ultra Green is supple and softer than either Chameleon or Clear. It is nearly invisible in most river and lake water. It has good knot strength and is very popular for fishing nymphs or dry flies for trout.

Stock No. Pound Test Diameter Length Price To top
MAXUG02 2 lb. .005 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXUG04 4 lb. .007 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXUG06 6 lb. .009 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXUG08 8 lb. .010 27 yd. $2.50 -->SALE ENDED
MAXUG10 10 lb. .012 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
 MAXUG12 12 lb. .013 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED
MAXUG15 15 lb. .015 27 yd. $3.00 -->SALE ENDED

Sandy River Fishery Information Bank

Daily Fishing Report

Watershed Over-view
Sandy River Book
Biology Etc. 
Watershed Council Web Site

Bob Larsell with a fresh 8 lb. Sandy River hatchery summer steelhead.

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Your commentary is always welcome.  Drop us a line:

  The Fly Fishing Shop, Welches, OR

1(800) 266-3971

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark Bachmann & Patty Barnes

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