Leader 911

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By Louis Cahill

When leader emergencies happen, will you be ready?

I know a lot of anglers who only carry enough tippet to change out flies. That’s a great way to get caught with your pants down. I saw it happen just the other day. I was bonefishing with my friend Bob and a nice bonefish took him around some corral. Not only did Bob lose his whole leader but the end of his fly line along with the welded loop.

That’s a great way to ruin a day of fishing, even if you have extra leaders. But not if you’re prepared. I use hand tied leaders and I make a habit of having everything I need to rebuild my leader completely. I usually have a couple of fresh leaders as well but the obsessive-compulsive side of me insists on carrying the spools.

Here’s how you handle this kind of total failure

To start you need a good solid connection to your fly line. I prefer to whip a loop in the end of my fly line. You can get the details on how to do that HERE. That a little tricky on the boat or stream so I’ll usually go with a temporary solution and whip a loop that evening.

You can tie in a short butt section of heavy leader material and tie a loop for attaching your leader or for a quick fix you tie the leader directly to the fly line. If you are trout fishing on light tackle, you can use a nail knot for this. Personally I don’t like a nail knot connection. I prefer an Albright knot. Here’s a video.

If you don’t have a fresh leader, you can build on quickly. Leader formulas vary widely and that’s another topic but they all start with the thickest, stiffest material in the but and work down to the finest at the tip. Use a blood knot to attach the sections. It doesn’t hurt to carry a tube of UV Knot Sense to coat your knots. Especially the Albright knot. This will help it slide through the guides more easily.

Don’t let leader problems spoil you day on the water. Be prepared for the worst and you’ll fish like the best.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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13 thoughts on “Leader 911

  1. I always have dental floss with me. I can do a whipped loop in a couple of minutes with the floss in one hand and the looped leader in the other. Finish the whip off with the hand whip finish you use for tying or make a loop out of the floss to pull the tag through at the finish. Finish with knot sense.

    If you want to replace/repair the whip that night I carry an old 6″ bobbin with floss loaded to the spool and do a tight whip by spinning the bobbin around the folded line using the centrifugal force to apply a tight whip.

    If you carry a nail knot tool you can make a loop with three nail knots.

    It’s the old 7Ps again. Cheers

  2. I have on occasion used the butt end of an old Leader to create the connection to my fly line. Since I was just going to recycle the old mono Leader anyway, it makes ofr an easy way to add that stiff Butt Section via a Nail or Albright knot to the fly line, then tie in a Perfection Loop and I can reconnect my new Leader via the Loop to Loop connection with no problems. The whole works will take about 3 to 5 minutes of time max and it is a rather permanent fix that will last for days, if not weeks.

  3. I whip a loop in the end of the fly line, although many lines now come with a loop. I do tie down several sections of line starting with 40 lb making a Lefty loop to loop 30 lb to 20 lb to 10 lb using a j knot which is the strongest line to line connection there is. If you’re fishing in clear water with spooky fish you want the last section to be long, up to 8 ft. If you’re anal about your knots like me coat the knots with clear hard as nails, nail polish. I’ve never had a knot fail in 35 yrs of fishing. For tarpon leaders I use a combo of bimini twists and slim beautys to a 50 lb butt end. I don’t use loops except to tie in the fly, always coat these knots as well, and the main section is 3 ft mason’s hard line to a 12″ 60-80 lb bite tippet.

  4. For the scenario above, I wouldn’t over complicate the emergency repair…if you lose your loop, connect your flyline to the butt section using an Alberto knot (easier to tie on a bouncing boat than an Albright) with whatever you have laying around – preferably with something stiff. Then loop or tie a section of straight 20,16 etc straight to your fly. Not as ideal as a tapered leader but will cast and land a fly just fine in a pinch. Tying 6 or 7 knots for a new tapered leader or trying to whip a loop on a bouncing skiff is asking for problems. Just go straight, there is not that much difference and gets you back fishing fast.

    • My original post may have seemed a bit complicated for some. It’s easy for me. I spent 18 years game fishing and one learned to stand on a pitching deck without hanging on tying knots and rigging gear.

      The big challenge was to do it on a moonless night 30 miles out to sea.

      One is always amazed at what one can do with a lot of practice. I’ve been fishing for 65 years and there is still a lot to learn so I will keep on with the 3Es, 3Ts & 3Ps. Cheers

  5. Louis,

    Would love to see a post on your hand tied leaders (materials used, conditions, construction, etc.).

    Very interested in this!

  6. “Not only did Bob lose his whole leader but the end of his fly line along with the welded loop.”

    Don’t complain if you are using loops…

  7. Pingback: Leader 911 | MidCurrent

  8. Pingback: Leader 911 – BestFitnessDirect

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