Fly fishermen invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars and untold amounts of time preparing for their sacred moments on the water. We all want to catch a fish. We prepare our gear, we check hatches, fly fishing reports and water conditions. We buy and tie flies in anticipation. We watch videos, read books and glean information from other anglers who have been out fly fishing.
We pay meticulous attention to every detail of our game but most anglers completely ignore the one thing that links them directly to the fly. Johann Wofgang von Goethe, the famous German writer and statesman once wrote “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” Ask a hundred fly fisherman how to construct a leader and you will get a hundred different answers with countless variations. Everyone rigs their leader, however they rig it and if they catch fish, then it must be right. If they don’t catch fish, the blame game begins. It was the fault of the weather, the water conditions, smart fish, the wrong fly and my personal favorite, “the fishing was bad…” as if the ‘fishing’ was an animate object that morphs in and out of good and bad moods. I know people like that, but ‘fishing’ is just a game that we play in a living, breathing aquatic ecosystem with limitless combinations of possibilities.
There’s nothing wrong with a leader that works but no leader works in every situation. A leader that is constructed with core principles, that are founded in physics is always easily adjustable, allowing the fly fisherman to meet the needs of the situation. This gives the informed angler an enormous level of flexibility, the ability to solve most fly fishing situations and an edge over the fish.
There has been very little written about leaders and what little has been written, does not empower the Angler with the necessary knowledge of how to apply the information to suit their personal needs in an aquatic world with an endless number of possibilities. When one takes in to account the infinite combinations of water depth, water speed, current speed differentials, wind speed, the weight and air resistance of different flies and the amount of energy imparted into and transferred along the fly line taper, the idea that one leader that is constant and never changes is ludicrous. Simply put, all fishing situations are different and the leader can and should be adjusted to fit the current needs of the fly fisherman.
The good news is that although leader construction can seem complicated at a glance, there are only a few governing principles and ideas that need to be learned. Once these simple principles are understood, leaders can be quickly and easily adjusted on stream in just minutes. And most importantly, leader adjustments can be used to solve on stream fly fishing situations like turning the fly over into a head wind, increasing or decreasing the depth of a nymph with very limited use of weight making it easier to cast, increasing or decreasing slack and reducing or eliminating micro drag to get better drifts.
Adjusting the leader takes only a couple of minutes on stream. And when you know exactly what you’re changing and why you’re adjusting it, the fly fishing experience becomes more effective and more rewarding.
This knowledge of leaders and tapers, coupled with a proven system of how to think through the process allows anyone to catch more fish more often. The system is not intended to teach someone how to do something, it is designed to change the way one thinks through the process. When used in its entirety, the system enables any fly fisherman to be more effective on the water.