leader recipies [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: leader recipies

04-09-2003, 04:23 PM
Can anyone reccomend some good leader recipies or a place to find them online?

This would mostly be for stream trout fishing - primarily with a 4wt and a 6wt. 9-12 foot leaders from 4x down to about 7x.

I''m sick of buying the extruded tapered leaders that are overpriced and don't turn over a fly all that well.

Also - any preferences on materials?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



04-09-2003, 05:05 PM
Lefty Kreh has a basic leader formula that can probably be found online doing a search. If you can't find it, let me know and I'll thumb through one of his books. Basically, it's 50% total length tied with 25-lb. test, then ramp down in strength increasingly and add the tippet section...

04-09-2003, 05:10 PM
Try this web site -


then press on Leadercalc

This will give you everything you wanted to know (and some stuff you don't) about leaders, materials, stiffness, diameters, etc. and will even customize leaders for you. I use the ones that are made with as few pieces as possible (because I guess i am lazy), and they give good performance, turn over well, and WORK!


04-09-2003, 11:10 PM
Look for book "Drag-Free Drift". Waxes endlessly about the need of a quality leader ... LeaderCalc included on CD.

Convinced me that I should be making my own leaders. Then I coped out and bought some fresh tapered leaders, trimmed off the tipet and butt and remade them - seems simpler and less hassle.

04-10-2003, 07:17 AM
i bought the orvis leader kit and it came with a little book and i know that orvis has a book on making leaders and knots i'll post them tonight

04-10-2003, 07:25 AM
Leadercalc is provided free on www.globalflyfisher.com

As it is continuously updated and revised, it would seem to me that having it on disk would be superfluous (that big word means "perfuming the goat").

Just keep in mind - virtually all leaders, regardless of source, are based on the old formula from A.J.McClane's book that calls out 60% butt, 20% step-down and 20% tippet. This is a formula that has stood the test of time, and works VERY well! Write it down or memorize it - you won't go wrong. How many reductions you use to accomplish this is your choice (But I've got it down to 3 or 4 total pieces, depending on overall length. I hate knots - they are always the weakest point of the connection!)


04-10-2003, 07:41 AM
First thing to do is search here in the Forum... we've discussed this at length before.

For good measure, the best rule of thumb is to use the 60/20/20 rule and fine tune from there. AJ McClane prescribes proportioning the leader in three basic sections:

1) butt
2) taper
3) tippet

so that 60% is butt, 20% is taper, 20% tippet

On the back end, the diameter for good transfer from fly line is a consideration. For the front, presentation of fly. The transition from butt to tippet should consider avoiding radical step-downs for dry line leaders.

For short stout sinktip leaders, three sections suffice. 4-6' 15# winter steelhead for instance, or striped bass fishing on a sinking line. I extend the tippet for short leaders to keep the knot away from the working end, in other words fudge the 20% rule on the tippet end.

For longer leaders, the butt section should be split into 60%/40% itself. The taper into two 50% sections or thirds, depending on the step-down desired to the tippet. The tippet can be either one-pc or split 50% with a step down as well.

To keep things simple, I use Maxima spools by pound which automatically provides a reasonable step-down in diameter for you. I burn a lot of leader in a year but the tippet is where most is cycled, taper next, butt section often lasts a third to a half of a season if a durable line like ultragreen maxima is used.

For example, for stripers on an intermediate clear line I use a 7' 6" foot leader with 15# flouro tippet and a 40# butt. (all left column numbers are maxima pound test ratings except for flouro tippet, the bottom most item):

40 - 30" (60% of 60% of 7 feet = ~30")
30 - 20" (40% of 60% of 7' = ~20")
25 - 10" (half of 20% of 7' = ~9", round to 10")
20 - 10" (same)
15 - 20" I usually extend to 24" to provide a fly changing buffer - this is flourocarbon not maxima

Why did I break from the 60/20/20 rule to extend taper and tippet? Because 30-20-10-10-20 is a mnemonic device I have memorized completely. In fact I've tied so many of these in several seasons of guiding that I don't even need to measure to come within an acceptable margin of error anymore. In fact I always extend fresh end tippet because I use palomar knots, the strongest knot, which take a little more line to create - 24" but you see the value of the mnemonic I hope.

Note: You can throw the 15# and either the 20 or 25# in the chest pack and not worry about tippets for a day of fishing even if gatormouth comes to the party.

For a long spey leader, I use the following:

30 - 60"
25 - 40"
20 - 20
15 - 20
12 - 20
10 - 20
15' leader

On rivers like the Thompson:

35 - 60"
30 - 40"
25 - 40"
20 - 20"
15 - 20"
15' leader - (push the bigger diameter to the tippet)

Once again as long as you have the desired tippet spool in your vest you are good for the whole day.

Trout leaders (stillwater 9'):

25 - 40"
20 - 20"
12 - 8"
10 - 8"
8 - 8"
6 - 10"
4 - 14"

You can play with the line ratings and slide the lengths around but AJ was right - the 60/20/20 rule is about as complicated as one really needs to get for normal everyday fishing!

When I get some time I will put together a calc program, although any calc program will lack the merit of human logic and intervention which as you can see here is the most important element of the process.

I knew a guy who used a $20,000 CAD system to design a deck for his kidney shaped pool. He provided blueprints to the carpenter and told him to cut the wood according to his plots. The carpenter didn't like the idea, wishing to cut the wood as the deck went down to iterate the fit from one piece to the other. My co-worker argued thinking he was going to save labor costs. So the carpenter cut all the wood according to the fancy plan which was +/- .01 in the $20k computer. Well reality struck as the project got underway - half of them didn't fit due to compounded tolerances and angular imperfections in the non-digital domain so the project ended up costing much more.

My point - use the simple guideline, don't be afraid to use common sense to reach the real goal - a workable leader logic that you can remember and benefit from.

The greatest benefit of tying your own is the ability to refurbish a damaged leader while standing knee deep in the water. With the exception of extra-fine trout leaders, I never buy tapered one-pc leaders. Hmmm that probably explains why I never buy tapered one-pc leaders :D


John Desjardins
04-10-2003, 08:50 AM
Nobody mentioned it here but one thing that you will quickly learn when you tie leaders is how much extra line you need for the knot. So when you cut off a section of line it needs to be longer than the length of line in the formula. I've found that I need to add ~5-6" extra per blood knot to the segment length.

And from experience don't cut all the sections for multiple leaders ahead of time. It can be a fun job figuring out what is what after the child picks them all up and runs around asking whats this dad? .

04-10-2003, 09:00 AM
Thanks everyone for thier imput here!

Bob - Leadercalc is exactly what I was looking for. Can't beleive I hadn't stumbled across this before.

Juro - Thanks for your insights here and I look forward to seeing your own calculation progam - esp. for saltwater applications.

My main interest here is tying trout leaders for spring-creek type situations. Most of my fishing is 5x or finer and the composition can have a lot of bearing on your presentation, say during a sz. 22 bwo hatch. My frustration with the extruded leaders is that no matter what the manufacturers say, you can't have your cake and eat it too with prefab leaders. The turnover of a stiff butt section and the suppleness of a limp tippet section can not be acheived by a gradual taper of one material. This is especially apparent when fishing big dries or a hopper/dropper rig when it's windy.

While we're at it - has anyone experienced problems with blood-knotting floro to floro in finer diameters? This would be for the mid section of the leader of say a 6x leader. A surgeons knot will hold the connection for the tippet but I'm looking for the transfer of energy that can only be acheived by a blood knot.

Thanks again to all,


John Desjardins
04-10-2003, 09:09 AM
Dave, I'll check at home for the recipe I use to duplicate the Maxima leaders that have a chameleon butt/UG tippet. I think it ends up as a 9' 6x.

04-10-2003, 09:16 AM
Thanks John,

Have you been out yet this spring? I did pretty well out in Ware last weekend and will be out both days this weekend as well.

I'll be the 6'4" guy with the red sunglasses driving a black explorer. Stop and say hi if you're on the water.

John Desjardins
04-10-2003, 09:20 AM
I'm hoping for a short outing Saturday morning, before the annual brush fire. Last weekend was a washout with the wife suffering from a stomach bug.

04-10-2003, 11:11 AM
Knots in fluoro. whether tying to fluoro or mono, can be a problem with fluoro because of friction. Just remember these two tricks -
1. wet the knots well before tightening;
2. Pull tight with a "jerk".

For fluoro tippets, the blood knot can be used, but most of the fishers around here (me included) use a three or four turn surgeon's knot for that portion of the leader. Yeah, we use blood knots for the rest of it.

For your consideration....


04-10-2003, 11:30 AM

You bring a question to mind.

Which is stronger or more efficient, a blood or a 2x or 3x surgeon's knot???

I like the surgeon's knot, but a blood knot is smaller and neater.

John Desjardins
04-10-2003, 12:04 PM
Originally posted by mjyp

Which is stronger or more efficient, a blood or a 2x or 3x surgeon's knot???

I like the surgeon's knot, but a blood knot is smaller and neater.

I've found that when tying up leaders off the water I tie a good strong blood knot. On the water I tie weak blood knots (buck fever ?), but I tie triple surgeons well. So for me at least, its a split as to what gets used.

04-10-2003, 12:10 PM
If I am repairing the taper section of a leader or tying a saltwater leader, I will always use a blood knot.

Almost always use a surgeon's for the leader/tippet connection because it's so easy.

I think a blood knot is the strongest provided you can seat it right and not burn the mono when tightening. Gives you a straigher connection from section to section too.

John Desjardins
04-10-2003, 05:53 PM
This is what I have for recipes, All are for Maxima so I have them in # test rather than dia.

~ 9'- 5X
# test Length
25 24" Chamelon
20 12" ""
15 8
12 6
10 6 Switch to Ultragreen
8 8 Ultragreen
5 10 ''"
3 32

For 7-8 x cut the 3# to 12" and use 30" for a tippet.

saltwater 15# 5'
40# 20"
30# 10"
25# 5"
20# 5"
15# 20"

04-10-2003, 05:56 PM
i couldn't find the booklet i'll post it when i find it

i always use a blood knot

04-10-2003, 06:39 PM
Notice I said a triple or quadruple surgeon's knot. It seems as strong as a blood knot, but is probably as large in the "quad" form. But it is easier to tie - especially with cold, numb hands.

I tie my leaders up ahead of time, and keep them in money envelopes for convenience. Sometimes, on stream and with cold hands, I just replace the whole leader, rather than having to screw around tying on a new tippet. I can do that easier in the comfort of my own home!

(Oh, I forgot - I albright knot a short piece of heavy leader material to the tip of my fly line, waterproof it well, tie a perfection loop in the short piece of mono, and I have a permanent loop connection. All my leaders have loops, so making the change of leaders is easy. Why don't I use a nail knot for the connection??? Easy. Nail knots are known to slip on newer technology lines with mono cores; albright knots apparently don't. I was told this by one of the line manufacturer's reps.)


04-11-2003, 08:15 AM
Thanks John,

Now I just have to find somewhere local that sells good hard mono for leaders.

Bob - I use the albright the same as you for my SW lines. Works great.

John Desjardins
04-11-2003, 08:37 AM
Stiff butts:

Use the Chamelon, or go up a size in what your using and add a 6" section to the transition region. I've used Mason in the salt water leader recipe and it is stiffer than the line with an 8 wt.

Nooksack Mac
04-11-2003, 07:59 PM
In building leaders, I've always used blood knots for all of the transition sections, both for their small mass and for the fact that both upper sections come out straight, not offset. I can't recall a blood knot ever failing me, even though it's weaker on a % basis than some other knots. For connecting the tippet section to the next section up, I use uni-knots. I'd still like to find a stronger line-to-line connecting knot.