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Articles:                                                         Read other articles

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Reduced Tangles Through a Better Line-leader Connection

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Beginners are barraged with information these days.  Friends, co-workers, the local fly shop and catalogs all suggesting rods, reels, lines and other equipment a beginner should use.  Only someone who’s waded this plethora of information can help reduce the Pandora’s affect.

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Since my beginnings in fly fishing I’ve looked for ways to simplify the sport and maximize my time fishing.  As any beginner soon realizes, there’s a multitude of concepts and skill-sets necessary to learn.  Therefore, tricks go a long way in shortening the learning curve.  One of these tricks is leader choice and its connection to the line.  A better line-leader connection can reduce tangles, frustrations and increase fishing enjoyment.

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The Background - Currently there are four major choices of leaders, knotted, tapered mono, braided and furled leaders.

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Knotted leaders were one of the first leaders used by fly fishermen and include the advantage of adjusting specific segments based on fly or fishing situation.  While the knots provide greater flexibility they also provide excellent tangle points and debris-catchers.  If not properly straightened, memory, an inherent property of monofilament increase the chances of tangles.  Additionally, as flies are changed, tippet is consumed.  This eventually leads to re-tying of tippet, which shortens the next segment up from the tippet.  Should this leader break, reconstruction is time intensive.  This leader is normally connected to the line via a bulky loop-to-loop connection on a short butt section nail-knotted or Albrighted to the line, again a tangle-catcher.  Barring the disadvantages, many anglers prefer the flexibility and comfort in knowing they’re fishing a more traditional leader.  Knotted leaders are available commercially but in reduced quantities.

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Tapered leaders developed as manufacturing processes improved.  With the reduction in knots came a reduction in tangles however the characteristics of monofilament and memory still remained.  Like knotted leaders tippet is also consumed with fly changes.  This eventually leads to a thicker and thicker connection to the fly.  To reduce this, a perfection loop can be added to the end of the leader to facilitate tippet changes. Tapered leaders can also be attached to the line via a bulky nail-knot, Albright or loop-to-loop connection.  These knots all add catching points for potential tangles.  A Zap-A-Gap knot can be used to reduce bulkiness.  This knot is constructed by piercing the first inch of the fly line. The leader is then fished through the center of the fly line until an inch of the leader remains.  Glue is added to the butt of the leader, which is then snugged within the fly line.  This is a low-profile connection that reduces tangles but also relies solely on the glue as your connection to the fish.  Because there is no physical knot, there is an increased risk of popping the leader to large fish.  Tapered monofilament leaders are probably the most available of all leader choices.

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Braided leaders are constructed of nylon tightly woven together in a tapering fashion.  The use of nylon reduces memory as seen with monofilament leaders.  Additionally some braids are impregnated with floatants to facilitate buoyancy.  As with the aforementioned leaders, braided leaders can also be attached to the line via a bulky loop-to-loop connection on a short butt section nail-knotted or Albrighted to the line.  However, the woven characteristic of the braid can be exploited and Chinese-fingered over the line.  This connection naturally continues the already inherit nylon braid of most fly lines while providing a desirable low profile and strong line-leader connection.  This will be explained below in more detail.  Leaders usually last the lifetime of a fly line and rarely if ever break.  Tippets of 4X or thinner are wise to use to prevent damage to the leaders end loop.  A Perfection loop is made in the tippet and connected to the leader via a loop-to-loop connection.  Leaders are available through Orvis and Airflow.

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Furled leaders like braided leaders are also constructed from nylon and share the characteristics of being more supple then mono with little or no memory.  Because of their construction they differ from braided leaders by not having a hollow core.  Due to this difference their connections to the fly line are limited to bulky loop-to-loop connections of a short butt section nail-knotted or Albrighted to the line.  Much like braided leaders, furled leaders can last several seasons.  One note to add about furled leaders is that some anglers have expressed that the leaders retain less water than braided leaders once lifted off the water.  The thought is since these leaders lack a hollow core (as found on braided leaders) they retain less water and therefore are less likely to spook fish from aberrant water drops.  Leaders are available through BlueSky Flyfishers.

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The Choice - By now you know knots equal tangles.  Reduce knots and you reduce tangles. Reduce tangles and you fish more. Fish more……you’re happier and catch more fish, enough said! I’ve used the following combination with success for years.  I’ve even rigged other fly fishermen’s lines.  Benefits are simple; most tangles can be worked free just by placing in the water and letting the current straighten the leader and tippet.  Without knots the tangle is free to slide down the line and leader.  Of course, undo any wind knots when possible.  Follow the following steps and you’ll be on your way to less tangles and more fishing.

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Braided leaders

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Materials:

9ft Original Orvis Non-floating Braided Leader (sized to match fly line)

Loon Outdoors Knot Sense

Fluorescent pink thread or other desired color

Fly line of choice up to 7wt.

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Braided leaders

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Step 1 - Begin by angle cutting the fly line. This aids in feeding through the leader.  Skipping this step will cause headaches.

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Braided leaders

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Step 2 - Cut the loop off the thicker end of the braided leader.  Make sure you cut below the end of the splice.

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Braided leaders

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Step 3 - Chinese-finger the line through the leader roughly 4 to 5 inches.  Enough line should be fed into the leader to be able to steadily pull on the leader strongly without any movement, even without tying-off the frayed ends.  Trim the frayed ends of the braided leader.  Step 3 takes less than five minutes.

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Braided leaders

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Step 4 - Secure the leader end in a vise.  Paper or cloth may be used for protection.  Grasp the line just before the frayed leader-ends and attach the thread using a bobbin a 1/2" before the frays.  Wind the thread away from the vise and over the frays by another 1/2".  In total, the thread wraps should cover approximately 1" (1/2" on either side of the leader's end).  Lay a looped piece of thread of equal or larger size over the thread wraps with the closed-end of the loop facing the vise.  Gently wrap over the loop back towards the vise (Hint - Keep this looped thread as parallel to the line as possible, i.e. don't let it curl around the line).  Cut the thread and pass through the loop's eye. Pull the tag ends of the loop away from the vise slowly.  This will tuck the tag-end of the thread wrap under its previous wraps.  Tighten and cut all tag ends.  Apply two coats of Knot Sense.  Step 4 takes less than 20 minutes.  Wrapping the thread takes the most time.  A little finesse is required with this step, but once mastered you'll have a very strong near knotless leader connection.

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Braided leaders

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Step 5 - You're finished.  Pictured left to right: grey braided leader, braided leader covering olive fly line, pink thread securing the leader, remaining untouched fly line.  Note, no knots to create tangles or catch debris.  Pink thread can be used as a strike indicator.

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