Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rolling my own

And so to tapered leaders. I've been 'rolling my own' for a while now and although I wouldn't eschew altogether the shop bought jobs, the vast majority of the time I use the old school method of constructing various lengths of leader using different diameters of copolymer.

You might question what I could possibly gain from such a long-winded enterprise, when lovely knot-free versions are readily available for a just few quid apiece. Well the main benefit is that we can build a leader of whatever length and taper we require, thus tailoring it specifically to our needs. I have gradual tapers, wind-beating tapers, dry fly leaders, French nymph leaders - each tweaked to exactly the specification I personally require. Probably the biggest single advantage is the ability to create a longer leader than is generally available in the shops; commonly the latter are available at 9' and in my eyes that's just not long enough for most river dry fly work. Granted some manufacturers (Hardy and Rio to name a couple), have started producing 12' tapers, which is better.

Such a huge proportion of fly fishers recognise the importance of tying their own flies as a means to more accurately and delicately match the insects on their home waters. I wonder if a similar proportion attach as much significance to the presentation of their lovingly crafted patterns, and set about tailoring their leaders accordingly? Somehow I doubt it.

So I would argue that the flexibility afforded in tying your own leaders is a definite step forward. It is economical too - after the initial outlay in accrueing the neccessary spools of copolymer (I use Orvis Superstrength in diameters 0.58mm down to 0.17mm), a large number of leaders can be churned out before any single spool need replacing......and if you terminate the leader with one of those nifty little 2mm seamless rings, you only ever need to replace the tippet section without eating back up into the main body of the taper, meaning they will last as long as you like. 

The image below shows a typical example - the recipe, the leader itself and the labelled-up storage baggie. I knocked four such up this afternoon and they will certainly last me a couple of seasons.

The formula and label come courtesy of a great little spreadsheet called 'Leadercalc2007'. I have mentioned it hereabouts before and still find it an invaluable resource for anyone interested in tying their own. If you feel the urge to spend a few hours practicing your blood knots, then the spreadsheet - along with tons of interesting blurb, can be found here:

Global Flyfisher - Leadercalc2007 download


Regular Rod said...

By Gum! Matthew you put me to shame with your organisational skills. A few spools in the bottom of the bag is about as far as I can manage.

I agree with you all the way that making your own in this simple, time honoured and proven way is still better than buying in something that may be alright occasionally but will certainly NOT match the conditions every time...

Regular Rod

fishermanrichard. said...

I too roll my own. I've found the ones designed by the American anglers best for me?

mike said...

Wow, that looks impressive Matt, I'd certainly order a few from you...! :)

I'd like to give one of these carefully produced leaders a proper go sometime, but.. I just like the simplicity of buying an 'overweight' 12' commercial tapered leader, then cutting it back to about 9' and attaching a little micro-ring. I can then use 2 or 3 different ratings of Stroft to varying the tippet section from short and stiff (ahem) to long and floppy.

Out of interest, with all your different flavours of tapered leader for different situations, how to you go about switching between them on the river? Do you have a wee loop on the end of the fly line?


Matthew Eastham said...

Cheers Mike - yes I 'loop-to-loop' em.

In all honesty, I don't do a lot of changing leaders on the river. Experience has taught me which one to select for certain conditions and it's usual for that one to stay on the rod most of the day. It's not a case of "oh the wind has picked up 5mph, I need to swap to a steeper taper" - I don't get that complicated....because basically I'm a lazy bugger!

Thanks for the comment,

mike said...

I see, I guess that's understandable. Just out of interest, how do you construct the loop in your fly line? I've been using a 'superglue' splice direct to a thick leader butt for the past few seasons, but I've been wondering about going back to a loop. Years back I used to use one of those braided leader things, but was never a fan...


Matthew Eastham said...

Mike, I usually go for exposing the braid core, forming a loop and forming a fluorescent floss whipping.

See post below:

Usually lasts about a season before the coating breaks at the end of the whipping, causing it to hinge.


mike said...

Ah I see, thanks a lot for that Matt, might have to give that a try this year.