Basic Leader Formula - A.J. McClane's [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Basic Leader Formula - A.J. McClane's

01-25-2001, 08:42 AM
AJ provides this simple rule of thumb for leaders - 60/20/20

meaning that the butt = 60%, taper = 20%, tippet = 20% of overall length;

Butt compounded once again 60/40 of length,
tippet compounded into two or three sections,
tippet solid.


Therefore, for a 9 foot SWFF flats leader with 12# flourocarbon I use: 38" of 30#, 25" of 25#, 11" of 20#, 11" of 15#, 22" of 12# flouro.

For sinking lines and bigger flies I use 40# butt and taper down to 15# tippet.


Long summer - same as flats but with three-part taper down to 10# or 8# tippet

Winter sinktip leaders of 4-5' in length similar to SWFF sinking w/ 40# butt down to 15# or 12#


Dry line - 20# butt full compound down to 6# for streamers and 4# for larger dries, 3# or 2# for midges, etc.

These are all rough overviews using maxima spools in sucessive line strengths, which makes up the bulk of my leader strategy.

Anything fancier or finer I buy.

What about you?

01-25-2001, 09:18 AM
Juro, this all to complicated for me.. I use tippet contruction for trout and other freash water, but for years my striper contruction is a 10 to 12 inch butt section pemenently attatched to the fly line (usually 30 pound test or more) and then a loop upon which I will attach my mono from a spool. five to six feet of 15 (or 16 or 17) pound test or 20 pound test. Thats it, If it's cut or whatever, I will just take off more on the spool. I can't say it has lessened my luck and is a speedy way to get back into the action. On the flats my initial section would be longer. I have even worked the tippet down to 3 or 4 feet in heavy or rip surf conditions.

01-25-2001, 09:39 AM
For salty fish, I agree with John. A single piece of 16lb. mono or fluro attached to a short butt is all I ever use. I have been having problems with tailing loops, but perhaps that is more a casting stroke problem than a leader problem?

For trout, I've been buying tapered leaders and replacing the tippet as needed, but I'll try the 60/20/20 formula come spring.

01-25-2001, 02:35 PM
Following L.Kreh's very simple formula, I like a 3-piece butt section with each piece half the length of the previous section and a 2' tippet.

9 ft. leader:
4 feet of .024
2 feet of .021
1 foot of .017
2 feet of fluorocarben tippet, 12lb.

John Desjardins
01-25-2001, 08:57 PM
For trout or panfish in water without weeds:
44"-25# 22"-20#, 11"-12#, 6"-8#, 6"-5# then 30" of either 5X or 6X. This works out to ~ 10 feet Like Juro, all the lines are Maxima.

In weedy waters, or if I dont feel like tying a leader, I buy a 7.5' 3 or 4X leader, cut off 15-18" of the tippet and tie on a 5 or 6 X tippet ~ 30" long.

I've used some shorter leaders, for small streams, based on George Harvey's formulas that worked well but I can't find the formulas.

For salt water, where I am a beginner, I've used 36"-40#, 18"-30# , 12"-25#, 9"-20# and 6"-15# with a Perfection loop to which I attach a 12# tippet which has a Bimini- surgeons loop combo. A packet of pre tied tippets stays in my bag to minimize time spent tying knots on the water.

01-25-2001, 10:00 PM
Why has no one mentioned the leader butt in relation to the tip diameter of the flyline in use?

Trey Combs in "Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies" says "The butt section is a continuation of the fly line taper by having a stiffness approximately that of the fly line tip."

Joan Wulff (Fly Casting Techniques) says, "The tip end of a fly line will range from about .042 in heavy lines (#10) to perhaps .025 for the very light ones. Use material for the butt section of your leader that is roughly two-thirds of the fly line's diameter. If you don't have a micrometer, use, as a guide:

.021 for lines #4 and 5
.023 for lines #6 and 7
.027 for lines #8 and 9"

A 40# butt of Maxima is .024. According to Joan Wulff that would be about right for a 7 weight line. Has anyone tried larger butts than 40#?

What are your opinions of the above?


01-26-2001, 06:30 AM
Actually the 60/20/20 leader configuration was originally formulated by Charles Ritz not AJ McClane.

01-26-2001, 10:15 AM
Mike -

Thanks for the clarification... I read the formula as "provided" in his epic book, but didn't know who originated it. So... tell me more about Charles Ritz!

01-26-2001, 10:17 AM

In your reply is the key for the butt section, Stiffness. It's not the diameter of the butt section that is most important, it's the stiffness. It should be the same as the flyline. This helps the energy transfer smoothly from flyline into the leader for turnover of the fly.


01-26-2001, 10:46 AM
Here is a snippet:
CHARLES RITZ ON FLY CASTING : An article by Charles Ritz
Charley Ritz, best know for his charming autobiography A FLY FISHER'S LIFE is the author of a sixteen page article on fly casting in this A.J. McClane encyclopedia. This was written in the heyday of the cane rod by a man engaged in the production and sale of high end cane rods during the moments when he was not tending his holdings in the luxury hotel industry or fishing with celebrities.
The rest of the article is at:
He was a pretty amazing man. Being rich he had a lot of time to devote to his passion. He is mentioned in many of my, errr ... ummmm.... 'old' books. He was a true fly fishing pioneer in the spirit of Lee Wulff and Joe Brooks.

01-27-2001, 11:07 PM
Mike - that's fascinating! It sounds like this man is *the* Ritz(?). I am compelled to read more on this man... thanks for the ref url, I'll enjoy digging into this. I actually know the article you refer to in AJ's book, I can see the illustrations in my head.

01-28-2001, 10:25 AM
Last year I started playing around with a section of braided mono running line blind spliced with small loops at each end. The splices overlap and the loops are treated with Zap-a-gap for stiffness to elininate hinging. With loop to loop connections it quickly attaches to the fly line and to the leader. Total length is about 24" and the stiffness seems to aid in energy transfer for turning over larger flies. Very durable and fairly easy to put together. Seems to work best when the water is not gin clear... Tight-lines!

01-29-2001, 07:18 PM
Still looking for all of the information I can get, I finally thought of Mike Conner who, I have learned, is a font of good fly fishing advice. I asked for information on leaders specific to spey rods.

With his permission, I am including his entire response for your comment/experimentation. Here it is, I look forward to your comments:

"Hi John,

I use long ( up to twenty five feet ) leaders with butts which are about 3/4
of the size of the line tip. I also use some furled leaders which match the
tip size exactly.

It really depends on how stiff the leader material is at the butt. If the
material you are using for the leader butt is a lot stiffer than the
fly-line, then you should reduce the diameter until it is about right. If
it is softer, then increase the diameter. The object of the exercise is to
get a smooth power transfer, and this will only occur if the leader and line
are about the same stiffness, more or less irrespective of diameter.

One way to test this is to connect a leader butt to the line tip with a
needle knot, and holding the line and leader in each hand about three inches
away from the knot, ( less for softer materials), simply bend the two
materials into a semi-circle, if the arc of the semi-circle is correct, ( a
circular arc ! :)), then the materials are well matched. If the knot
"hinges" or one side of the arc is out of shape, then the material is
unsuitable, or the wrong diameter. If the fly-line side is out of shape,
you need softer material, or lesser diameter, and if the butt side is out of
shape, then you need stiffer material or larger diameter.

Fly-lines vary considerably in their stiffness, and also in their tip
diameters, and so your only choice is to experiment until you find the right
butt material to suit your line. Normal nylon will usually work OK when it
is 2/3 diameter of the tip. Hard nylon will have to be less, and softer
nylon more.

Direct measurement with a micrometer is not a lot of use, as it is indeed
the stiffness which is important.

For very long leaders I have had great success with furled leader butts. You
can obtain instructions on making these here:

It is certainly worth the trouble. The leaders are much better, last a long
time, and may be custom built to your purposes. They are very much better
than braided leaders. You can also make them of a variety of materials for
various applications.

Regards and tight lines!

"Where fishing is concerned, most anglers are basically manic excessives"