What brand of leader do you use? There are a lot of good manufacturers to choose from, including Trouthunter, Umpqua, Scientific Anglers, Orvis, and the one I’ve been using for many years – RIO. I recently purchased a different RIO trout leader, the Powerflex Plus to see if I like it. Besides leaders in today’s post, you’ll find a link to the newest video on my RiverKeeper Flies YouTube channel and information about the Casting for Recovery online auction continuing through November 21.
I’ve used RIO’s Powerflex Trout leader for years. It’s been so long, I don’t remember why I chose them. I’d guess I wanted to stick with one brand of leader and tippet and the fly shop I frequented probably had a lot of the RIO brand on the wall. It might be fine to mix different brands, but I chose to stick with one.
But why did I decide to change now? One reason…strength.
I’ve been happy with the other attributes of RIO leaders which include butt section size and taper. These attributes are essential to properly present the fly tied on the end of your leader. You’ll also hear the term “turn the fly over”. The basic reason to have a leader at all is to serve as a transition from the thick end of the fly line to your fly.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. To ensure we all start at the same point, let me provide a little basic information about leaders.
A leader, no matter what length, tapers from a thick butt section close to the diameter of the fly line and progressively gets smaller over its length, hence its name…tapered leader. The last 18 to 24 inches is the final level section of leader your fly is tied to. Those 18 to 24 inches are called tippet.
Leader length usually are found in 7 1/2 feet, 9 feet, and 12 feet lengths. I generally fish with a 9 foot 5X leader, trim about 12 inches off and tie on another 3 feet of 6X. It ends up being about 11 feet. You can read more about my approach on a post I wrote a while ago called Fly Fishing Leaders. The benefit of my approach is you know exactly the tippet size your fly is tied to. I encourage you to take a moment and read it.
One leader can last quite a while. Carry a spool of tippet material to replace the 18 to 24 inches periodically. Every time you change flies, you’re removing some of the tippet. Eventually, you’ll run out of tippet and begin tying the fly on the taper, which becomes thick very quick.
Ever have a problem fishing a large fly on small tippet twisting the leader something fierce? It happens all the time to me. I’ve gone to using a non-twist knot for those situations. Matching leader size to the fly makes a lot of sense. If it works on the waters you fish, I highly recommend it. But sometimes it just isn’t possible.
Here is a list of recommended leader size matched to fly size. In addition, I’ve included breaking strength for the two materials I’m comparing.
Tippet Size in X
Powerflex Plus Test (lbs)
Powerflex Test (lbs)
4 – 8
6 – 10
12 – 16
14 – 18
16 – 22
18 – 24
I view this information as a guideline. In my home waters where I deal with crystal-clear water, using heavier tippet severely impacts the number of fish I hook and land. It’s the reason I use 6X tippet. Fish seem to shy away from heavier leaders because the leader is visible.
Put me on a Montana river and I use 4X or 3X whenever I can.
But back to my leader story.
I purchased a couple new fly lines and was ready to replace our leader and tippet. I read the descriptions of both the Powerflex and Powerflex Plus leaders and decided to give Powerflex Plus a try. The leader diameters were the same, but the Plus leader was 20 percent stronger. Look at the chart above. Fishing with 6X, I’ll be using 4 lb instead of 3.4.
Stronger leader is always a good thing! But the other components to consider are knot strength and suppleness. My real concern is how will it fish in the micro-currents of my home waters?
I tried the new Powerflex Plus leader for the first time a few days ago. It tricked this trout.
I plan to fish this new leader and will report back to you my impressions in a future post.
I finished a customer fly order recently where I tied several dozen Doculator flies in sizes 16 and 18. My customer couldn’t find these flies smaller than size 14 and contacted me to see if I would be willing to try. I did.
After finishing the order, I decided to make a video. Here is a link to my RiverKeeper Flies YouTube channel where I show a few techniques I use to tie them in smaller sizes.
Be sure to subscribe as I’ll be adding more fly tying videos in the near future.
Lastly, the Casting for Recovery online auction is live and here is the link to view all the items. The following items will directly benefit the Southern Oregon retreat, which my wife leads. You’ll notice a box of RiverKeeper Flies too.
Proceeds will help cover the costs for 14 women to attend a future Southern Oregon retreat.
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!