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Home Fly Fishing Gear How to Choose a Fly Line Leader


How to Choose a Fly Leader



Rio Classic Knotted Leader



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     Although most people tend to take fly line leaders for granted, they are actually a very important part of the fly casting and delivery system. Thus, it is useful to be aware that not only do leaders come in different lengths ranging from 6 ft. to 15 ft. and different tippet sizes ranging from 0X to 8X, there are also different types of leaders and these different types perform differently from each other. For instance, the most common type of leader is the modern Knotless Tapered Leader which is extruded from semi-liquid nylon and is available at most any fly tackle dealer. However, many experienced fly fishermen feel that Knotted Tapered Leaders "turn over" better than Knotless Leaders do, even though they are an older form of leader technology. These leaders are made by using Blood Knots to tie different lengths of different diameter tippet material together according to a specific formula. Last, many fly fishermen are now exploring and implementing an even older form of leader technology called a Furled Leader. These leaders are made by twisting together several strands of the same diameter uni-thread, nylon, or fluorocarbon according to a specific formula and are capable of turning over up to five feet of tippet material; thus imparting very lifelike performance to a fly as it drifts.

Fly Leader Size

Tippet Size 

Tippet Diameter 

Approximate breaking strength in pounds 

Balances with fly sizes: 




22, 24, 26, 28 




18, 20, 22, 24 




16, 18, 20, 22 




14, 16, 18 




12, 14, 16 




6, 8, 10 




4, 6, 8 




2, 4, 6 




1/0, 2, 4 




5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0 




5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0 




5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0 



Fly Leader Length

Leader Length 

Best suited for… 

6 foot 

Sinking fly lines of all types, sunfish, bass, trout in tiny, brushy streams. 

7.5 foot 

Trout in streams from 10-20 feet wide, intermediate and sinking tip lines in lakes and saltwater conditions where the fish are not terribly spooky. Also streamer fishing for trout with big flies or with heavy nymphs and big indicators 

9 foot 

Trout streams larger than 20 feet wide where the water is mostly riffled, or else the fish are not spooky. In salt water when the fish are in shallow water under bright, clear conditions. 

12 foot 

Trout in most lakes with floating lines. Trout in streams with flies smaller than size 16 when the water is flat, low, or very clear. 

15 foot 

Spooky trout in extremely clear water in both lakes and rivers. 






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