Understanding Fly Line to Leader Connections

tangled

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This is an an attempt to put everything we know about connecting fly lines and leaders in a single place. If you can add anything to it or feel it needs to be corrected, please reply in the usual way.

Introduction
How to connect a leader to a fly line is a perennial question here and a source of some confusion for beginners. This is an attempt to put all the various methods into one place showing and explaining when the different methods are used and why.

The fly line provides the weight that’s needed to propel the almost weightless fly to where we want it to go. It loads the rod and transfers the energy of the casting stroke down its length to the fly – if we get it right. The taper in the fly line and tapered leader (assuming we use one) causes the line to accelerate as it rolls out allowing the fly line, leader and fly to 'turn over' fully finally coming to a halt only as the cast is completed. This is explained more here:


We want to interfere as little as possible with that transfer of energy. In a perfect world the line that connects to the fly would be a single, un-jointed one that tapers gradually to a fine, translucent point, but this would be impractical to use as we’d soon need to change the entire line, not just its tip. Instead, we need to connect a piece of monofilament to the actual fly line which we can use as a low cost consumable.

This connection needs to balance strength and security with convenience and minimum mechanical interference in energy transfer. It also needs to be a really tight physical connection otherwise we introduce a concept called hinging.

Hinging is were the connection between line and leader is imperfect; if it's loose both parts can move independently of the other. As the energy provided by the casting action travels down the line it meets this 'floppy' joint and its energy can't be transferred, so in an extreme situation of no real connection at all, the leader just drops down in a mess. This is a loop to loop connection that clearly is not making a good mechanical connection

1592743380287.png


A similar hinging effect is created if a very fine line is connected directly to the very fat fly line.

So you can see that line-leader connections are performing quite an important task.

First off, here's a summary of fly line to leader connections

Fly line Loops
Some fly lines have a manufacturer’s welded loop already built into the line.

The welded loop is almost universal on salmon lines but less so for trout. Where the loop is available, the normal method of connecting a leader to it is loop-to-loop. The big advantage of loop-to-loop is that leaders can easily be changed without cutting the line; the two sides of the knot can be pushed apart.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a right and a wrong way to make the loop-to-loop connection:


How to make a leader loop

There are several ways of forming a loop in your leader to make the connection with the flyline loop; by far the simplest is the overhand loop


If you’re concerned about the strength of that simple knot (I’m not) you can double it


Another very popular loop knot is the perfection loop, which, for the OCDs amongst us creates a knot that hangs symmetrically.


Of course you can simply tie directly onto the flyline loop with the knot that you would normally attach your fly, but there’s not really much advantage in that.

1592488346090.png


There are a couple of important reasons why you wouldn’t want to use a loop-to-loop connection. The first is that your fly line might not have a loop! The second is a bit more technical and will be discussed later – do read it before making a fly line loop, it’s important; so important that some anglers actually cut off fly line loops.

What to do if your line has no loop
There are two possibilities; buy one or make one

Three homemade fly line loops:
1592734902955.png

1. 3 nail knot loop
2. homemade welded loop
3. homemade braided loop

You can buy braided loops that attach to your fly line. A very popular one is the Moser loop. Here’s how to attach a braided loop - this one is a Rio


There are several methods of making your own loops

You can make your own braided loop


A word of warning though on braided loops. The combination of a stiff plastic sleeve and superglue on the fly line to braid connection can create a stiff section of line which won't flex. Eventually the plastic coating at the joint will crack and hinge. The use of flexible silicon tube and sparing amounts of glue (Aquasure flexes better than superglue) mitigate this.

Weld your own loops


The criticism of homemade welded loops – and also some manufacturers loops – is that they can occasionally fail as they rely on you making a perfect weld. If you’re fishing for large fish you can belt and brace any welded loop by dropping a nail knot onto it. This is the ultimate safety. I drop one knot onto all my salmon loops.


Knot your own fly line loops

Knotted fly line loops are simple but can be ugly - their major advantage is that can be done at the bank side in an emergency.

The nail knot is generally used for this process and the video above shows you one way of doing it.

1592488606169.png


Whipped Loops
These have to be done at home and it helps if you have flyting equipment

1592488735532.png

https://www.ginkandgasoline.com/gink-gasoline-fly-patterns/diy-fly-line-loop/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=257&v=fe6rvOTK-2I&feature=emb_logo

Possibly the best method but only for lines with braid centres.


I'm not sure many people do this anymore, it's a fiddly job and it creates quite a stiff section of line.

The No-Loop Option
Often a new fly line does not have a loop at all and sometimes you might want to cut it off! Why would anyone cut a loop off their brand new leader?

The answer is because they want a smaller, neater solution and often the reason for this is that they are using tapered leaders. The big advantage of a tapered leader over a flat, same diameter all the way through piece of mono, is that it’s, well, tapered - fatter at one end than the other. This taper transfers casting energy uniformly to the fly aiding turnover and presentation.

Being fat at the end joining the fly line means that a bulky knot is inevitable. This isn’t just cosmetically unpleasant; it can be positively dangerous. That large knot can get jammed in your top ring when you’re playing a fish and can easily cause a break.

There's a simple rule of thumb that you can use to determine the butt diameter of the leader to use when making no-loop connections to the fly line. It goes: 0.3mm for a #3 weight line, 0.4mm for a #4, 0.5mm for a #5 etc.

Permanent line/leader connections
These kind of connections are ways of whipping or gluing your leader to the line. Perhaps the simplest is the nail knot as used in the fly line loop video above, but this time there’s no loop. This guy uses a bodkin to create the knot but it’s called a nail knot because anything round and thin can be used – even a twig if you’re stuck.


You can also get nail knot tools, I’ve got one that’s part of my nippers so I’ve always got it handy if I need it.


The prettiest and most pleasing knot is where the leader is sent through the centre of the line


Both work well but the nail knot has the advantage of being easier, particularly as a running repair at the bankside, while the needle knot produces a neater connection.

nb There are two basic forms of fly line; the one shown in the video is a plastic coated braid used for floating and sinking lines. But other lines are solid with no core, often intermediate lines called 'slime lines' are like this. You can't use the needle knot method with solid lines.

Tippet ring connections
Stephan Jones, a Welsh trout and sea trout guide, welds a tippet ring onto his flyline. This is a neat solution but you still have the issue of the fat tapered leader knot attached to it. You'll see in the video, Stephan's leader is quite slim and it looks like he uses a blood knot. An alternative is to needle knot tapered leader to the flyline, then attach a a ring to the leader after about 3' of taper when it has become thin enough.


Get out of jail, bank side knot

If you need a really simple emergency knot just so you can carry on fishing, the quickest way of tying your line to leader is to tie an overhand knot in the fly line. This acts as a stop knot and you can use the loop on your leader to make the connection. Here's how - I love this video!


It looks like he's tying the wedge knot

1592733904892.png


Look, no knots!
A version of the needle knot uses superglue instead a knot to form the connection. This one is for the brave, but apparently it does work. It produces the perfect transition between line and leader, hopefully resulting in perfect turnover. Personally, I like the security of a mechanical connection; if you use the glued connection I suggest you check it regularly.

nb It's important to use a superglue that's stable in water, otherwise you'll see your leader head off with the fish after a few casts. Zap-a-Gap seems to be the most popular brand.


With these forms of semi-permanent connections it’s useful to also create a means of connecting a tippet so that the leader itself isn’t getting shorter and shorter as you change flies. The simplest method is to cut down your tapered leader to a suitable point and add a length of consumable mono using a tippet ring


Furled leaders

Thanks to Mr Trout for this.

Furled leaders are constructed using a jig with various pegs at certain distances which determine the overall taper.

Most are constructed from fine strong thread, in my case I use either Guttermans or Benichi or Uni thread, this provides a very strong but supple leader that lies dead straight unlike mono it has no memory.

You can, and I do also make them in mono, exactly the same method, but being mono they are a little stiffer and help to turn over larger flies or nymphs etc on Stillwater when you are casting at distance.

A Furlie is constructed from many wraps of thread that are brought together on the jig by spinning them with in my case a Dremmel tool. They are then hung with a weight on the bottom and furl naturally.

Once furled You create a short loop in the thick end, this is formed so you can loop to loop on your fly line, either welded loop or braided loop.

On the tapered end either a small short loop is made or as some prefer a Riverge mini ring, in my case a 2mm one.

To that you simply attach your tippet I use a turned blood knot, I’m confident in that but the choice is yours.

The length of tippet you put on is normally the same length as the Furlie, but some prefer to add quite a lot more, if you can turn over your fly well with a longer piece then go for it, I put approx 6 ft of tippet on a 5ft Furlie.

To make a Furlie float I use and recommend Mucilin paste it’s what I’ve used for the last 12 years and it works fine. Otter butter is another item that’s highly thought of, but it’s quite expensive in comparison and IMO not needed.

If you’re fishing nymphs or sub surface then leave your Furlie untreated and it will sink.

Make your own tapered leader
If you want to make up your own tapered leaders using differing thicknesses of mono, here's a calculator for designing them.


Polyleaders

Polyleaders are manufactured tapered leaders that attach to the end of your fly line. They differ from traditional manufactured tapered leaders in that they come in several forms from floating through intermediate to fast sinking. So, for example, they can turn a standard floating line into a sink tip simply by adding an extra section of line.

They are very commonly used in salmon fishing less so for trout, but can be useful.

They universally have a loop to loop connection to join them to the fly line and most also have a loop to attach your mono tippet. Where a loop is not provided at the tippet end you have to attach it either by creating your own detachable loop with a knot or by a semi-permanent knot such as a 3 turn water knot (surgeon's knot). A ring connector could also be used.

The tippets that you attach are flat/level lengths of mono.

For example, I'm looking at an Airflo polyleader for trout. It's 10' long, clear floating and has a welded loop at the thick butt end (so won't jamb in your top ring). It advises:

"This 10' polyleader will turn over a level tippet of between 2lb and 12lb breaking strain and of between 4' and 12' in length."

It doesn't have a loop at the tippet end - none of the Airflow trout polyleaders seem to. All Airflo salmon polyleaders have loops at both ends.

So which connection to use?

Fishing is a hobby; a pastime. For some it’s also a sport and a profession and for many of us it’s an obsession. As a result there’s a wide range of approaches to it; it can be as simple or as complicated as we want to make it. Fishing circumstances will normally determine the best connection to choose.

One of the best anglers I’ve ever met uses loop connections and a non-tapered 9’, 3 fly leader made of 4lb Maxima Ultragreen. He's spider fishing for wild trout in a rough Northern river, usually making casts of no more than 30'. The fish are usually something over a pound but because “there’s some big bastards in here” he uses thicker line than many would. But hell could he cast and catch. His only attempt at ‘over-complicating’ things is the use of a perfection knot for the leader loop.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with any of this, his methods create good strong connections, and in the circumstances he's fishing in any reasonable caster will turn that leader over easily and present the flies well without the connection interfering in it at all.

Similar situations exist in short-line, boat drift fishing; the wind is behind and you're not straining for distance so everything turns over nicely and you don't need everything to be perfectly efficient.

In different circumstances where you're casting a long line with a big fly into the wind you need all the efficient energy transfer you can get out of a clean connection and a correctly tapered leader.

Real fishing circumstances vary enormously and some of the concepts developed to achieve casting perfection may offer only marginal benefits or be unnecessary in many situations. So what we need to do with all these different techniques is to balance presentation with security of connection and convenience according to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

So long as welded fly line loops are done properly – keep the loops small, connect them the correct way and pull them tight and remember that if big fish are expected they can be protected with a nail knot if you’re paranoid - the loop-to-loop connection is the most secure and practical (because the strain on the joint is shared between two connection points instead of just one.)

On the other hand it’s comparatively large and bulky and the most likely to hinge – everything is more than doubled in size and it can be several centimetres long, all of which creates air resistance which can potentially decrease accuracy and increase splash and noise on landing. The bulk and construction will almost certainly have some negative effect on energy transfer down the leader. Whether this matters at all depends what type of fishing you do and how good a caster you are. I think that most anglers would say that all this is not often very important in real fishing circumstances.

But don't forget the size of the knot made in the leader loop; it must be tidy enough to pass through your rod rings when under tension with a fish. Salmon fishing excepted, loop to loop connections are best kept for fishing situations where a flat, untapered leader can be used. The thick butt section of a tapered leader inevitably requires a large knot.

At the other extreme we have the superglue connection that is super-neat, does not add to the diameter of the line and interferes with its mechanics as little as possible; but is intrinsically weaker. I can imagine that set-up being used for casting tiny single dry flies at very nervous wild trout in still conditions. But obviously it could be used in many other situations too.

The needle and nail knots are somewhere between those two extremes, though you can imagine that they are nearer to superglue than loop-to-loop in efficiency and to loops for strength.

Logically therefore, we'd use the heavy-duty, loop-to-loop, connection when fishing for big fish and/or where presentation is not a big issue. Loop-to-loop connections are almost universally used for all forms of salmon fishing.

As an aside, years ago I turned up to my first salmon river with a needle knotted 15lb connection on my fly line. I’d just bumped up my usual trout leader (this was on a small river and we were using single handed rods). The Argentinian guide looked at it, said ‘que mierda,’ wrapped the line around one hand and leader around his other and just wrenched it straight off. Lesson learned.

But loop-to-loop is not just for large fish, it’s for any size fish where the larger knots do not impinge on the fish or the fishing – deep fished nymphs, fast moving rippled waters and so on.

Convenience comes into it too. If you’re going to be changing leaders a lot you’ll probably choose a loop because, after all, it’s rarely that big a deal. Most fishing circumstances don’t demand absolutely perfect presentation and most casts aren’t made by perfect casters.

Even so, it’s nice to get things set up the best way we can, to get the best advantage we can. Most of us need all the help we can get.
 

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morayfisher

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Keep up the good work Tangled.
it will definitely help someone. I prefer loop to loop just for the flexibility to change leaders.
You might mention the fact that some lines have mono cores, others braid when talking about needle knots.
 

original cormorant

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Go on, I'll be the first to bite...
I've never known anyone use an overhand loop knot - single or double. Surgeons/figure of 8 or perfection only.

You also missed the simplest method - tie an overhand knot in the end of the fly line and use that as a stopper for knotting the leader on just above it. It's an on the water first aid fix.
 
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morayfisher

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There is possibly a better superglue connection where the leader is fed through thin end first, then as the butt end starts to become a tight fit it the line you roughen the leader to give a “key”, apply the glue and pull into the line.
Can’t point you to a video right now but I’m sure I’ve seen one before.
 

tangled

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Go on, I'll be the first to bite...
I've never known anyone use an overhand loop knot - single or double. Surgeons/figure of 8 or perfection

You know one now :cool: Have done for many years.

You also missed the simplest method - tie an overhand knot in the end of the fly line and use that as a stopper for knotting the leader on just above it. It's an on the water first aid fix.

good point I'll add it in the first edit
 

Gordon Ottershaw

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I have an Orvis line from 1985 if I remember right. Its completely worn out and no use for fishing, was years ago, reason I keep it is its the only line I have with the superglue joint.
Its a wf6f. I am still waiting for the joint to deteriorate to the point were it pulls out the fly line under normal fishing pressure. If your tippet for trout say is max 6 or 8lb on a #6 line, whats the point of putting 30lb pressure on the fly line joint? Most people never get close to 3lbs of pressure on a trout tippet.
Saltwater is different, it depends if you stick to igfa rules.
Appreciate the time you took to make the post its very informative.
 

lhomme

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The concept in the title is a difficult one. It's the definition of understanding that needs specific attention, especially when it comes to casting a fly and what the fly line to leader connection is supposed to do in the process. If it's about energy transfer, perfect turnover and accuracy on the delivery it is chosen from a different point of view than a simple failsafe connection. So understanding all the possibilities does not mean you know why and when to choose for one above the other, after all, they all work. But do they all do the same thing?
The glued leader in the line method, with no knot involved, is by my knowledge the finest and most delicate connection to achieve the first reason I mentioned to present a fly. Of course it is restricted to lighter rods and line weights but it's as solid as a bulky braided loop connection. The difference lies in the subtlety of presentation and the air resistance, which does all kinds of things with the energy transfer to your fly. Vibrations are food for another thread, this is not the place.
What I also learned from Guido Vinck, the precision caster, was his simple choice of butt diameter for tapered leaders attached in this way: a #3 line took a 0.30 mm butt, a #4 a 0.40, a #5 a (yes), and so on. Simple but effective when you understood leaders and what you wanted them to do. (Yet, another thread)
On the other end of the scope, where the fishing really gets tough, preformed or attached braided loops are the order of the day because the connection needs to be bomb proof in the first place. Finesse comes second. The problem there is the force applied to a loop to loop connection and the chosen materials. A nylon or fluorocarbon leader loop will cut into a welded fly line loop. This is to a lesser extent also the case with braided loops, but the problem with torn fly lines is double. They become waterlogged sooner or later. Any "open" fly line does, by the way. It must be closed.
For salmon and other big fish anglers the polyleaders prevent this cutting from happening, but I solved it for all my "heavy" fishing by making small double sided loops in braided nylon and coating one loop with Aquasure. Prevents the cuts, takes any type of looped or knotted leader at the other end and bridges the hinge.
The choice for a specific connection does not have to be a one-sided one and to understand them can easily be misinterpreted. "Knowing" would be better for a word. The definition of the title would be clearer and easier to understand as well.
 
Last edited:

Mrtrout

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Furled leaders, I’ll try and explain as best I can, but please remember these are my thoughts and my experience only.
They are like Marmite, you either love them or hate them, I’m not a big fan of Marmite but I love my Furlies.
They are constructed using a jig with various pegs at certain distances which determine the overall taper.
Most are constructed from fine strong thread, in my case I use either Guttermans or Benichi or Uni thread, this provides a very strong but supple leader that lies dead straight unlike mono it has no memory.
You can, and I do also make them in mono, exactly the same method, but being mono they are a little stiffer and help to turn over larger flies or nymphs etc on Stillwater when you are casting at distance.
A Furlie is constructed from many wraps of thread that are brought together on the jig by spinning them with in my case a Dremmel tool.
They are then hung with a weight on the bottom And furl naturally.
Once furled You create a shorb loop in the thick end, this is formed so you can loop to loop on your fly line, either welded loop or braided loop.
On the tapered end either a small shorb loop is made or as some prefer a Riverge mini ring, in my case a 2mm one.
To that you simply attach your tippet I use a turned blood knot, I’m confident in that but the choice is yours.
The length of tippet you put on is normally the same length as the Furlie, but some prefer to add quite a lot more, if you can turn over your fly well with a longer piece then go for it, I put approx 6 ft of tippet on a 5ft Furlie.
People seem concerned that trout will see the Furlie with such a short tippet, but it’s a complete myth.
If you see a rising fish and you can’t present your fly without getting your leader or fly line Into the fishes window, then without sounding harsh, you need casting lessons. ;)
To make a Furlie float I use and recommend Mucilin paste it’s what I’ve used for the last 12 years and it works fine.
Otter butter is another item that’s highly thought of, but it’s quite expensive in comparison and IMO not needed.
If youre fishing nymphs or sub surface then leave your Furlie untreated and it will sink.
When I discovered them 12 years ago it was a Eureka moment for me, I was bowled over by their gentle and accurate presentation.
I’ve tried a few times since to fIsh with a mono tapered leader, but within half an hour of stretching them to remove coils and greasing them every other cast to keep them afloat, I loose my patience and take them off again.
Hope that makes sens and helps a bit.
S.
 

tangled

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The concept in the title is a difficult one. It's the definition of understanding that needs specific attention, especially when it comes
to casting a fly and what the fly line to leader connection is supposed to do in the process. If it's about energy transfer, perfect turnover and accuracy on the delivery it is chosen from a different point of view than a simple failsafe connection. So understanding all the possibilities does not mean you know why and when to choose for one above the other, after all, they all work. But do they all do the same thing?
The glued leader in the line method, with no knot involved, is by my knowledge the finest and most delicate connection to achieve the first reason I mentioned to present a fly. Of course it is restricted to lighter rods and line weights but it's as solid as a bulky braided loop connection. The difference lies in the subtlety of presentation and the air resistance, which does all kinds of things with the energy transfer to your fly. Vibrations are food for another thread, this is not the place.
What I also learned from Guido Vinck, the precision caster, was his simple choice of butt diameter for tapered leaders attached in this way: a #3 line took a 0.30 mm butt, a #4 a 0.40, a #5 a (yes), and so on. Simple but effective when you understood leaders and what you wanted them to do. (Yet, another thread)
On the other end of the scope, were the fishing really gets tough, preformed or attached braided loops are the order of the day because the connection needs to be bomb proof in the first place. Finesse comes second. The problem there is the force applied to a loop to loop connection and the chosen materials. A nylon or fluorocarbon leader loop will cut into a welded fly line loop. This is to a lesser extent also the case with braided loops, but the problem with torn fly lines is double. They become waterlogged sooner or later. Any "open" fly line does, by the way. It must be closed.
For salmon and other big fish anglers the polyleaders prevent this cutting from happening, but I solved it for all my "heavy" fishing by making small double sided loops in braided nylon and coating one loop with Aquasure. Prevents the cuts, takes any type of looped or knotted leader at the other end and bridges the hinge.
The choice for a specific connection does not have to be a one-sided one and to understand them can easily be misinterpreted. "Knowing" would be better for a word. The definition of the title would be clearer and easier to understand as well.

Thanks that's exactly the added detail I'm looking for. I'll be incorporating that and more as I build it up.

Understanding is a big part of what I'm hoping to get into this thread not just the know-how of knot making.
 
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speytime

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If you're using lines with braided cores you can strip the coating and push the leader up inside for a knot less connection, i can't say its better than any other method but it's another knot-less option.
 

easker1

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I use a figure 8 knot, as I have done most of my fishing life, I did try braided loops and they don't suit my way of fishing, it what I learned over 65 years back, and it's how I do it now, easker1
 

tangled

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I use a figure 8 knot, as I have done most of my fishing life, I did try braided loops and they don't suit my way of fishing, it what I learned over 65 years back, and it's how I do it now, easker1

Do you mean you use it to create a loop in the leader?
 

aenoon

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Thanks that's exactly the added detail I'm looking for. I'll be incorporating that and more as I build it up.

Undersating is a big part of what I'm hoping to get into this thread not just the know-how of knot making.
As an add on to Mr Trouts info, I use hand made furled leaders when salt water fishing, for seriously big fish. Have used same salmon fishing, when hurling out larger flies/tubes etc.
Simple to tie up, at breaking strength you require, and actually work.
regards
Bert

P.S. These leaders dont actually answer the thread question!
They are a transitional part of the set up.
In big fish saltwater, I attach the furled leader loop to loop (the correct way!) to a 50lbs b/s braided loop which has been double nail knotted to the fly line, and aquasured on.
 
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easker1

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I use a figure 8 Knot to join my line to my already looped leader,it is how I started fly fishing easker1
 

lhomme

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Understanding is a big part of what I'm hoping to get into this thread not just the know-how of knot making.
Knot making is but a small part of leader to fly line connections, pretied and preformed loops don't even require the knowledge to tie them. They are made to make it easier for the anglers, especially for those who don't bother to think about it any further. Knowing all the different means to make the connection and how to make them yourself are but the first steps, if your aim is to understand them you've got a lot of fieldwork to do and you'll be adjusting your OP for quite some time. Before you know it you'll have to bring in aerodynamics, inertia and gravity to get to the bottom of it. And we haven't even begun about adjusting casting strokes, acceleration and ways of delivery to counter the disadvantages certain connections present you with. It's a question of balance you can only solve by trial and error and then it should be remembered experiences are personal and may differ from your own opinion or even contradict it. It's not easy to take into account things you don't believe in yourself or have preconceived notions about. That's what is making it hard to come up with a general consensus on a divers and complicated subject. I've seen it happen before. But good luck anyway with the concept, it's a noble one and may help anyone prepared to go through the whole learning process.
 

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