Pre-made tapered leaders/tippets or 'cut your own'?

pipsull

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May 21, 2017
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Exmoor
As a new fly fisher, I've previously used pre-made tapered leaders/tippets for my freshwater fishing. While out last year, an angler (who'd already caught his bag, and was waiting for his fishing buddy to catch) came over for a chat.

We talked about how he'd caught his bag and he offered up what flies he'd used and the method of presentation. During this conversation he mentioned that he no longer used the pre-made leaders but just 'cut his own' from a tippet spool, especially since he favoured a dropper setup.

I'm curious as to whether the pre-made leaders are aimed more at newbies, and those who've been fishing longer use a tippet spool, or if people still find the pre-made leaders quicker and easier than cutting your own from a tippet spool, regardless of how long you've been fishing...

Pippa
 

sofasurfer

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Everyone who replies to this will give you a different answer. I use one fly and a tapered leader and I'm not new to fly fishing.
 

BobP

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pipsull.

I'm guessing you were fishing a stillwater somewhere. I'm a fly fishing guide on the chalkstreams and have to contend with a lot of anglers of very differing abilities. That being the case I buy a good load of the Maxcatch tapered leaders at about a quid a throw. I will probably chop about a foot off the thin end, add a tippet ring and then add about 3' of tippet. All I need to do is to change the tippet when it gets shorter due to fly changes and - hopefully - the main part of the leader will have survived the day. If it doesn't then I will reclaim the tippet ring and scrap the rest. This, of course, is for a single fly leader.

When I fish for me, which is more often than not on a large stillwater, I will most likely be using a multi-fly set up and for that I have a default setting as it were. 18' straight through of about 8lb mono, almost certainly Gigafish Ultra, with two droppers at 6' intervals. I've been using this set up for about 20 years and it has served me well.

When I fish a river I will use one of my tapered leaders as above and might on occasion use a dropper and will then lengthen the tippet to accommodate it.

Tapered leaders will help with presentation and accuracy which is more important on a river than it is on a large stillwater. They are designed for everyone to use, and not just beginners. When I'm teaching youngsters to cast on the grass I just pull off about 10' of straight through 10lb mono - the cheapest rubbish possible because it is only for learning and they will have trashed it in an hour. I always end the session by chucking a round plastic hoop about 2.5' across onto the grass and get them to test their accuracy. It is a lot of fun and it is quite surprising how accurate some of them can be even after no more than 90 minutes of practice.
 

shpeil

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I use a shop bought tapered leader for dry fly - usually only with one fly on the point but occasionally I do what BobP does and add a dropper. Folk who make their own tapered leaders do swear by them but it's something I've never been sufficiently motivated to try. The shop bought ones are good enough for my limited fishing/casting ability.

For wet fly/buzzers/nymphs on lochs, I also go with 18 feet with two droppers 6 feet apart. I am struggling to see what benefit there is in tapering your leader in those circumstances because I figure the weight of the flies on the droppers must throw off any energy-transmission benefits. Also, the "formula" for tapering leaders when you make your own would have knots in different place, not 6 feet apart, so you'd have all the knots for your tapered leader and then your dropper knots too. That's just too much faff for doubtful benefit.
 

Paul_B

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And I only use a home made leader whether fishing a loch, lake or bubbling brook :)

Nether are right or wrong, just different :)
 

stevie d

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I use them on both Lake and River in a similar fashion to previous replies. I add a tippet ring and then the required amount of tippet. It's not often that I fish lakes with multiple flies on a cast.
 

h49

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May 21, 2010
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pipsull.

I'm guessing you were fishing a stillwater somewhere. I'm a fly fishing guide on the chalkstreams and have to contend with a lot of anglers of very differing abilities. That being the case I buy a good load of the Maxcatch tapered leaders at about a quid a throw. I will probably chop about a foot off the thin end, add a tippet ring and then add about 3' of tippet. All I need to do is to change the tippet when it gets shorter due to fly changes and - hopefully - the main part of the leader will have survived the day. If it doesn't then I will reclaim the tippet ring and scrap the rest. This, of course, is for a single fly leader.

When I fish for me, which is more often than not on a large stillwater, I will most likely be using a multi-fly set up and for that I have a default setting as it were. 18' straight through of about 8lb mono, almost certainly Gigafish Ultra, with two droppers at 6' intervals. I've been using this set up for about 20 years and it has served me well.

When I fish a river I will use one of my tapered leaders as above and might on occasion use a dropper and will then lengthen the tippet to accommodate it.

Tapered leaders will help with presentation and accuracy which is more important on a river than it is on a large stillwater. They are designed for everyone to use, and not just beginners. When I'm teaching youngsters to cast on the grass I just pull off about 10' of straight through 10lb mono - the cheapest rubbish possible because it is only for learning and they will have trashed it in an hour. I always end the session by chucking a round plastic hoop about 2.5' across onto the grass and get them to test their accuracy. It is a lot of fun and it is quite surprising how accurate some of them can be even after no more than 90 minutes of practice.
When adding a piece of tippet to, say a 9'6" tapered leader 9lb breaking strain, could you please advise what breaking strain of tippet would you add to the end of the tapered leader to turn over?
 

speytime

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When adding a piece of tippet to, say a 9'6" tapered leader 9lb breaking strain, could you please advise what breaking strain of tippet would you add to the end of the tapered leader to turn over?
If wanted to fish 8lb I'd use a taper with a 10lb tip then 2/4ft of 8lb, for 4lb tippet I'd use a 6lb taper and add x amount 4lb.

It's worth adding a Riverge tippet ring for ease of changing.

Unlike Bob I rarely fish a level leaders especially not 18ft personally I'd taper it for a better turn over, though I'm sure Bob has his reasons for using level?
 

BobP

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When adding a piece of tippet to, say a 9'6" tapered leader 9lb breaking strain, could you please advise what breaking strain of tippet would you add to the end of the tapered leader to turn over?
That would be for stillwater use so I'd probably go from 9lb down to 6 or 7lb. However, there are so many variables in leader material these days and so many different diameters for given breaking strains that is difficult to be too precise without knowing the leader materials to be used.

Unlike Bob I rarely fish a level leaders especially not 18ft personally I'd taper it for a better turn over, though I'm sure Bob has his reasons for using level?
There are several reasons for using long, level leaders and multi-fly set-ups. The first is depth. Early season at Farmoor the fish tend to be fairly deep down, though not far out. 10' down equates to 10 yards out and that is the zone I need to target because that's where the fish are. In order to fish down to that sort of depth using a floating line and buzzers a long leader is essential and the point fly needs to be weighted. A 2.8mm tungsten bead on a 10 or 12. No point fishing a 10' leader in 10' of water across a breeze and thinking the point fly is getting down to depth because it isn't. Even with 18-20' of leader its going to need a fair amount of line control to slow things down enough to get that point fly down to the right area.

Next reason is to have a spread of flies at different depths in the water column. Later in the season when the fish are active higher in the water it is useful to be able to cover a range of depths down to about 6'. With three flies the depths between say 2' down to about 6' will be covered. If fish are caught on a fly higher up the leader then that may mean they are higher in the water so I lighten up the point fly to bring that into play as well.

Next reason applies to dries on a stillwater. Fish generally move upwind so having a spread of flies ups the chances of a fish seeing one of them. If a fish is seen rising a cast ahead of it will, if all goes well, result in three flies spread out over a distance of about 12' so even if he changes direction slightly he's still likely to swim into one or the other. That's the plan, but like all plans sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When it does and Mr. Trout swims into your well-laid trap with his eyes wide shut its a real buzz.

The final reason is to put plenty of distance between flyline and fish. Not that important much of the time on a large stillwater and especially using 5 weights which I do, but on the odd occasion it matters. Apart from that, I've got used to doing it and it is no more difficult than using a leader 10' long.

It is not a good idea to try casting this rig into a head wind unless you really enjoy knitting. A nice steady right to left or left to right breeze is ideal.
 

The Squire

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Egginton, Derbyshire.
I re-read quite of few of the old stillwater classic books from the 70's/80's at the beginning of lockdown. Arthur Cove used 18' of 6lb mono straight through with two droppers.
 

BobP

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And that was in the days when a 12' leader was considered long!

I started going out to 16' at Farmoor in 1979 when I began using wool indicators attached to a short length of braid at the junction of fly line and leader. The need to get down to those cruising fish that patrol up and down 5-10 yards out was what drove the idea; that and being able to see the take to a nymph that might be as much as 10' down. They don't all try to pull you into the water with them.
 
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