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Leader / Tippet Review

Like fly floatant, selecting tippet seems trivial at first but considering I how much I spend and use tippet I feel I must mention a few observations I've made on this trivial topic.


My thought on fly fishing leader is divided into two purposes. Again specifically dry fly leaders. For rivers, I use a total length of 12' (10' of leader 2' of tippet). The leader I use is Cutthroat leaders. These are hand tied furled leaders by Mike Morin in Boise, Idaho. I prefer furled leaders for many reasons. The most obvious, when casting a furled leader, is its turnover qualities. Since I prefer a slow action rod, for river dry fly fishing, the turnover properties is not as critical but for the many fast rod fly fishers that use indicators, nymphs and streamers I believe it's a no-brainer on using a furled leader.

I have been using Cutthroat leaders since they first came out. As mentioned, the turnover is outstanding even with my slower rods on a windy day. Last winter, I tested a new rod, the Echo Dry. This is on the lower scale of a medium-fast action rod. It was apparent, that the faster the action of a fly rod, the more advantageous to use a furled leader not only at distance but especially at the shorter ranges. I enjoyed the rod so much I completed my latest video with that setup. (Full Review)

The standard dry fly Cutthroat leaders come in a 6' tapered length. The butt section has a built in loop for your fly line and the tapered end comes with a tippet ring. From the ring, I tie on 2' or 3' section of 4x and then my tippet, however, you can go direct with a tippet right to the ring if you prefer a total length around 10'.

An immediate benefit you will notice with a Cutthroat Leader is casting a tighter loop (at any distance). I also believe it prevents too many false casts. One caveat, using the furled leader, is you must use a paste floatant (available at fly shops or Cutthroat Leaders) or the leader will  lose its hydrophobic properties. This is critical for dry fly fishing so you must get in the habit of greasing your leader often especially after a few fish. Another situation that develops is, after every fish release, the furled leader has a tendency to wrap around your rod tip. If you're a Type A, this is something that may annoy you enough to not use a furled leader or worse bad-mouth it because you lack the patience to deal with it . These hand tied Cutthroat Leaders are so well tied that one will last you an entire season but I like them so much I always hand them out to my friends that I know can benefit from it.

For lakes, I tie my own leaders. Furled leaders will work fine, however, as I previously mentioned, one must get into the habit of prepping the leader with paste floatant after playing fish. This is true with my kind of fishing on Hebgen Lake. If I forget, or more likely, get lazy, to apply the paste to my furled leader it will sink my dry fly at an inopportune time. In addition, these strong lake fish will often sound to and through the weed beds rubbing off whatever paste was on the leader. As much as I enjoy using a furled leader, after a few seasons of this on the lake, I tie my own mono leaders. 

My dry fly lake leaders are 15'. I wrote about this in the Hebgen article. Many anglers cringe at the thought of 15' leaders, no matter what action rod. However, a key component when building this leader is a stiff (Maxima) 20# or 25# 40" butt section. I use a long dry fly leader to prevent leader flash and avoid as much water noise as possible to my flat water targets. My leader tapers down to 11' terminated with a tippet ring. From there, I tie on 4' of 5.5x tippet. The tippet ring is important. Why?, because it keeps my leader from being eaten or clipped down after so many tippet changes and it ensures I always know my exact leader length. This maintains my accuracy at all distances. This holds true with either hand tied lake leaders or the Cutthroat Furled Leaders. The key to casting a longer leader is to shape your loop correctly. Too pretty (or tight) of a loop, the more chance of a tailing loop.  A wider open loop will prevent distance and accuracy. The best way I maintain my wind affected loop size is to always keep a visual of my forward casting loop and adjust the "sharpness" of the stop.


First off, no need to get diplomatic about tippet, just get Trouthunter and be done with it (and no, this is not sponsored, I pay full price just like you). Next, fluorocarbon is over-rated. It's not environmentally friendly, perhaps but I'll be long dead to see its effect on climate change. If it makes you feel better, maybe more confident while playing a fish, then fine, buy it otherwise the breaking strength difference is negligible. I have spent hours with fly shop folk and my pull tester, that I use to calibrate my Anschutz trigger, and have tested all the trout tippets mono against fluoro and there is little difference in breaking strength. As far as abrasion resistance, I have hooked and played hundreds, maybe thousands of fish over 17" through many a weed bed and have found mono tippet is just as durable.

For dry fly fishing, in and around Yellowstone country, the trout can be of descent weight and size. My friends and I use Trouthunter 5.5X tippet 90% of the time. I have landed many fish over 20' and used size 20 midges with 5.5X. The problem arises with fast action rods. Combine a fast action rod with a young and eager fly fisher with fast twitch muscles and that's a recipe for disaster. For this type of angler, you have two options. Larger tippet or a softer rod. This is where I always recommend a medium action rod however, I find that novices have difficulty learning to fluidly cast a medium fast action fly rod. This is another reason why they prefer the larger dry flies such as Salmonflies and Hopper/dropper with their fast action rods over technical spring creek fly fishing.



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