The first things I ask myself when choosing a leader is what am I fishing with, where am I fishing and what am I fishing for. Are you fishing streamers for big brown trout in a blown out river? Are you fishing big stoneflies for rising rainbow trout? Are you fishing size 22 midges for timid brook trout in a crystal clear creek? Each scenario described requires a different presentation and has different implications for leader choice.
Typically, if you are fishing below the surface, you want to use fluorocarbon. Why? Because it's nearly invisible sub-surface. A small diameter fluorocarbon leader is your best friend when targeting finicky fish in clear water. If you’re fishing with tiny midges you’re best bet is a 7x - 5x leader, anything else won’t fit through the eye of the hook. When fishing larger nymphs a 6x - 3x leader will be sufficient. I only use a 3x leader if the water is murky or I’m targeting very sizable fish.
RIO makes tried and true leaders that’ll fool those finicky fish.
Scientific Anglers makes an excellent fluorocarbon leader with remarkable breaking strength.
If you’re going to use a dry fly use anything other than fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon sinks which will make presenting a dry fly a much more difficult task than it needs to be. Typically, a 7x - 5x leader is going to be best for dry flies. When fishing for wary fish in clear waters 7x or 6x is a good way to go. When the fish aren’t super line shy 5x will be sufficient. The only time you may want to use a 4x - 2x leader for dry flies is if you’re fishing fairly large dry flies. Fish will take these larger dry flies with a gusto that may stress a smaller diameter leader.
RIO Powerflex has great breaking strength and a perfect tapped that’ll present dry flies beautifully.
The knot strength and castability of the Absolute Trout leaders is superb.
If you like to fish streamers you may want to consider a sinking leader. Versileaders are a great choice for streamer fishing or stripping flies on lakes. Versileaders are tapered and come in various lengths and sink rates. They have color coded welded loops so they can be attached to the fly line and identified easily. A premade perfection loop is at the end of the leader, so that tippet can be attached easily. About 1.5ft of fluorocarbon will be all that’s needed for tippet. For most single handed fly fishing set ups, a 7ft versileader will work perfectly. They have 5 different inch per second (ips) sink rates: intermediate sink (1.5 ips/ clear loop), slow sink (3 ips/green loop), medium sink (4 ips/red loop), fast sink (5 ips/blue loop) and extra fast sink (7 ips/black loop). Keep in mind that casting becomes more difficult as the leader gets heavier. Using a 5wt rod with an extra fast sinking versileader may not be the easiest casting experience.
With this basic knowledge, you’ll be able to choose the right leader for just about every fishing situation you’ll find yourself in. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to give us a call at the shop. Good luck out there!