If you don’t want to rely on store-bought fly fishing leaders, why not take the DIY route and tie your own. Here’s how to get started. Building a leader specifically to your needs can improve fly turn-over, delicacy of presentation and depth of nymph. Please read through these instructions they work great with the video for tying the blood knot and double surgeons knots below.
I make and buy my leaders. At any time I might have 20 leaders in my sling pack. So I do recommend buying a couple, my recommendations can be found – > Recommended Fly Line and Leaders (Link to another article)
1. Assemble Your Leader-Making Materials and Tools
You’ll need a few varieties of line in several sizes to build the different sections of the leader. You can use either mono or fluorocarbon, but to keep things simple, our recommendations will focus on nylon monofilament. The spools come in a variety of lengths, I tend to buy the +/-200 yd spools. You might consider a shorter spool depending on how much you fish. After a year or so I’ll throw the spool out. I’d hate to lose the fish of a lifetime because of old line.
For the butt section you want a stiffer material such as Maxima Chameleon (Found at Amazon)?in the following diameters:
- .022 (30 lb test)
- .025 (25 lb test)
- .017 or .018 (20 lb test)
For the mid section a slightly limper material such as Maxima Ultragreen (link to check prices at Amazon) is preferred in the following diameters:
- .017 or .018 (20 lb test)
- .015 (15 lb test)
- .013 or .014 (12 lb test)
- .010 (8 lb test)
- .008 (5 lb test)
For the tippet section I recommend using the tippet material you plan on fishing with we highly recommend Rio Powerflex Plus. (link to Amazon) To build a wide variety of leader sizes, stock up on spools of tippet in the following sizes:
For tools, you’ll need a basic tape measure or yardstick to measure the leader materials and a pair of nippers or scissors to cut the line.
2. Decide on a Leader Formula and Choose Length & Size
Most fly fishing leaders use a 60/20/20 formula in which 60 percent of the total leader length is the butt, 20 percent is the middle tapered section, and 20 percent is the tippet. There are other leader formulas out there, but this is a great starting point that can be easily modified to suit your fishing style. Here are my favorite formulas:
To make things easy, we’ve included a downloadable pdf leader formula chart that provides the exact measurements for a five-section 60/20/20 leader. Simply find the range of fly sizes you intend to use and follow the leader recipe.
3. Cut All Leader Material to Length
Following the formula in the chart, cut each of the five leader sections to their prescribed lengths.
If you plan on tying multiple leaders in one sitting, cut all materials at the same time. Be sure to keep each length with its corresponding spool so they don’t get mixed up.
4. Tie Each Leader Section Together in Sequence
Before you start tying, there are two knots you need to know to build a leader: the blood knot and the perfection loop.
When you’re ready, use the following procedure to assemble your leader:
- Start by tying a perfection loop in one end of the butt section material.
- To the other end of the butt section, tie the largest segment of the middle section using a three-turn blood knot.
- Tie the remaining segments of middle section material in descending diameter size using four-turn blood knots.
- With a five-turn blood knot, tie the tippet section to the last segment of the middle section. That’s it!
Building your leaders can be a little daunting – don’t let it be. You can always buy them. See my recommendations in this article -> Fly Line and Leader Recommendations (links to another article)
5. Coil, Package & Label Your DIY Fly Fishing Leaders
Holding the tippet end in one hand, carefully wrap the leader around your four fingers until you reach the perfection loop at the butt end. Wrap the butt around the coiled leader several times to secure it. Then, tuck the leader in a small plastic bag and label it with the length and tippet size.
Stash your new leader in your vest or sling pack and you’re ready to hit the water!