Monday, September 16, 2013

A Wetfly Leader For Trout

    Pretty much always a good rule-of-thumb, ‘simplicity’ should ever be the core principle of rigging terminal gear for trout fishing -- & simplicity means minimal clutter. 

I've come to prefer store-bought tapered leaders over knotting my own together, as they turn over nicely, & fish cleaner with fewer tangles minus the multiple knot connections.  And the cost of a good tapered leader is not much of a factor if the leader is made semi-permanent with the addition of a rigging ring. These are catching on, & may be available at your local fly shop. The ones I’m currently using are the #2 rings from Feathercraft. These are tiny, about the size of a #8 hook eye – & smaller models are available, though I can’t imagine dealing with anything smaller than the #2 ring which is plenty obscure.     

Here’s my leader: a store-bought 7-1/2 foot tapered fluorocarbon leader, tapering to 4x (6 or 7lb test), as a butt, to which I fasten a #2 metal rigging ring. Now I’m never cutting into my tapered leader to splice in a new tippet – I tie the tippet to the ring, quick & easy. The 7-1/2 foot tapered butt is good for leaders from 9 to 12 feet, fishing 3 to 6lb test tippets, or down to as light as you like. If I want to go longer, say, 15 feet, I splice a 2 foot section of 4x or 5x to the ring, then splice the tippet to that.

If you generally fish shorter &/or lighter leaders, purchase a 7-1/2 foot leader tapering down to 5x, cut a foot from the 5x end – making a 6-1/2 foot butt, tapered to somewhere in the neighborhood of 4x – tie the ring to that, & add as light a tippet as you want to make an 8 to 10 foot leader.

To make a high-stick nymph rig, attach a second fly to the ring with a short length of tippet. And the ring makes a good stop for a bit of sink putty, if needed.

The extremely lethargic aside, anglers knowing they don’t have to cut back & re-splice the leader to freshen tippets are less apt to neglect that necessary chore, as, wah-la, it only takes a moment to tie to the ring – no cutting back & splicing, & no fly-snagging tippet loop-loops. 

I keep the rings stored on a snap swivel, which holds them for tying & drawing tight to a leader. I like a Palomar knot for attaching the ring, second choice, a Uni or San Diego knot – either of these is stronger than a clinch knot & won’t crinkle the leader. 

The tiny rigging ring is undetectable & does not interfere with presentation in any way that I can discern. The ring is so small & light that it will float on the surface film, so I use them with mono dryfly leaders as well.

I get impressive mileage out of my tapered leaders by adding a rigging ring, with one leader now in service for four years, cut back only a couple inches each year for a fresh knot – & that rig gets used almost daily in summer.

I’m not crazy about handshake loop line/leader connections on terminal rigs meant to fish trout with dryflies & soft-hackle wetflies. Loop to loop connections are clunky things. Double nymph set-ups snag on them, and they add bulk. More bulk means more stuff for trout to notice & be suspicious of. Noisy suspicious bulk: lines them down. I fish a lot of small soft-hackles pot-shooting surface feeding trout & want the softest delivery possible, so I prefer to nail-knot the leader butt to the flyline – which is better for high-stick nymphing too, as loop/loops hinge, & also deaden the transmission of subtle takes. (Short-line, high-stick nymphing is an intuitive art, in which the practitioner wants the cleanest connection to the fly possible.) And the nail-knot connection is practical with the semi-permanence a rigging ring provides. The leader butt will generally outlast normal wear & tear on the first couple of inches of flyline above the connection, so no need to freshen the connection any more often than you would with loops.

I like a fairly stiff material for the leader butt, which aids in creating open loops while casting, keeping double-nymph rigs from tangling; & a softer material with as much stretch as possible for the tippet section[s]. Pull & stretch the leader before fishing -- if it doesn't straighten out & remain straight until you wind it back on the reel, don't buy that kind anymore. Some that work for me are the Orvis Super Strong; Umpqua; & Cortland, the least expensive & usually available locally.            

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:   


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    1. Chef, it is good when the light goes on.