Leader Materials Revisited

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

So which is actually stiffer, monofilament or fluorocarbon? 

A while back I wrote an article on understanding leaders. While talking about the different materials used in fly leaders I mentioned that mono is stiffer than fluorocarbon and I got called out in the comments by a couple of readers. Rightfully so. One of my pet peeves is when people talk about fly fishing from a narrow perspective, forgetting that there are many different kinds of fly fishing, and damned if I didn’t do it myself.

So what’s the answer? Which is stiffer, mono or fluorocarbon?

The answer is, it depends.

When I wrote that mono is stiffer, I was thinking about casting and I was thinking as a saltwater angler. I totally ignored how most anglers use the material. One of the fundamental differences between the two materials is that mono absorbs water and fluorocarbon does not. As mono absorbs water it gets softer and becomes very supple. So, if you are a trout angler, and you are choosing tippet materials, mono tippet will be softer and give you a more life-like drift.

When I wrote that mono is stiffer, I was thinking of saltwater fishing, where my leader spends most of its time in my hand, high and dry. When the material is dry, it is stiff and does a great job turning over my fly. It made perfect sense in my head but left a lot of trout anglers asking WTF? A great test you can do yourself to determine the stiffness of materials is to hold a piece of each material, in the same diameter, with the same length outside your fingers. Press the two ends together and see which bends deeper. There are lots of variations in leader material, including the fact that the stated diameters are often not accurate. It never hurts to check.

So there you go, an overdue explanation. If you have not read the article “Understanding Leaders Means Better Fly-fishing,” I highly recommend it. See if you can find anything else I screwed up!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Leader Materials Revisited

  1. You have some things confused here. Fluorocarbon is monofilament. The opposite of mono is not fluoro, it’s braid. You mean nylon where you are saying mono.

  2. Another factor? In the same wt rating, isn’t Fluoro thinner than Mono? Wouldn’t a thinner tippet (Fluoro) be less stiff than thicker (Mono) in the same wt rating?

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