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Like flylines, leader manufacturers now provide specialized leaders for specific or general purpose conditions. You can choose a leader depending upon the type of conditions you will be fishing and the type of flies you will be using. Most leaders are sold based upon breaking strength, from 0x to 7x. However, some manufacturers will base their leader selection on the sinking rate of the material and keep a uniform breaking strength close to 1x. Leader lengths are generally in 6', 7.5', 9', and 12' . You tend to choose the leader length needed based upon the type of conditions you are fishing and your ability to cast properly. Most 6' leaders are used with sinking lines and fishing small, brushy streams. A 7.5 leader is often used in streams 10-20 feet wide or using big flies or heavy nymphs with large indicators. 9' leaders are generally used for larger streams in excess of 20 feet wide with riffly conditions. A 12' or longer leader will be used on streams where the trout are spooky in flat, clear water. Basically, the best choice is to select the longest leader length that you can properly cast the selected fly.
Leaders are often connected to the flyline by use of a needle knot. This will give you a tight connection with little bulk to impede through the tiptop guide. Dave Whitlock improved on this connection with his Zap-a-gap connection which utilizes Super Glue and entails no knot at all. Some leader manufacturers incorporate a small plastic connector or braided loop sleeve to their leaders. This helps in changing leaders quickly but they do add bulk. Often, many fish with a rule of thumb, "Choose a leader about the length of your rod". Using this rule, the connectors do not become an issue.
Leaders are designed with a butt section that represents about 40-60% of the length of the leader. This section transfers the energy of the flyline to the tip. The Taper section is usually 20-30% of the length and will be the transition between the butt and tip of the leader. The Tip section is 20-30% of the length and is the smallest diameter of the leader for deception. You can add tippet material to this tip section to restore length, add longer length, or to make the tip a smaller diameter.

SA Mastery Trout Leaders
S.A. Mastery Trout Leaders

Leaders


Model Length Weight Tippet Diameter Butt Diameter Breaking Strength Application
S.A. Freshwater 7.5' 0x to 6x 0.005" to 0.011" .017"-.022" 14.9 to 3.3 lbs Trout/Panfish, 20 to 50' casts
S.A. Freshwater 9.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .020"-.022" 14.1 to 2.4 lbs Trout, 20-50' casts
S.A. Freshwater 12.0' 0x to 6x 0.005" to 0.011" .017"-.022" 12.7 to 3.3 lbs Spring Creeks
S.A. Anadromous 9.0' 18 lb to 14.0 lb 0.011" to 0.013" .022" to.026" 18.0 to 14.0 lbs Steelhead, Large Flies
S.A. Bass 9.0' 8.0 lb to 18.0 lb 0.008" to 0.013" .021" to.026" 8.0 to 18.0 lbs Bass, Poppers and Large Flies
S.A. Fluorocarbon 9.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .016" to .022" 10.6 to 1.8 lbs Clearwater, Freestone Streams
Airflo Trout Polyleader 5.0', 8.0', 10.0' Up to 12.0 Lb. NA NA 12.0 Lb. All-Purpose
Airflo Light Trout Polyleader 5.0' & 10.0' Up to 12.0 Lb. NA NA 12.0 Lb. Spring Creeks, Quick Descent
Airflo Steelhead Polyleader 5.0', 10.0', 14.0' Up to 24.0 Lb. NA NA 24.0 Lb. All-Purpose
Airflo Bass Polyleader 4.0' Up to 24.0 Lb. NA NA 24.0 Lb. Bass, Poppers and Large Flies
Rio Powerflux Trout 7.5', 9.0', 12.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.4 to 15.0 Lb All Purpose
Rio Indicator 10.0' 2x-6x 0.005" to 0.009" .021" to .024" 3.4 to 10.0 Lb Stillwater, Indicator
Rio Fluoroflex 9.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.0' to 12.0 Lb. Freestone Streams
Orvis Super Strong 6', 7.5', 9', 12', 15' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.5 to 15.5 Lb All-Purpose
Orvis Mirage 6', 7.5', 9', 12' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.7' to 16.5 Lb. Nymph and Streamers
Orvis Braided 7.5', 9' 3x to 7x 0.004" to 0.008" .021" to .024" 2.4 to 8.2 Lb Presentation
Snowbee Fluorocarbon 9' 2x to 5x 0.15mm to 0.24mm NA 3.0 to 8.0 Lb. Stillwater, Spring Creeks
Snowbee Monofilament 9' 2x to 7x 0.10mm to 0.23mm NA 2.4 to 10.0 Lb. All-Purpose
Snowbee Knotted Droppers 12,15,18' 3x,4x,5x NA NA 4.1 to 8.0 Lb. Nymph and Wet Fly
Snowbee Tapered French 12' and 16' 5x and 7x 0.10mm and 0.15mm NA 2.4 and 4.1 Lb. Dry/Nymph

 

Links to Leader Manufacturers


S.A. Logo
Anadromous Leaders SA Bass Leader SA Fluorocarbon Sonar Leaders
Freshwater Anadromous Bass Fluorocarbon Sonar
Scientific Angler carries a number of specialized leaders. Their most general purpose leader for the Sierra is the Freshwater series. It is made of a nylon copolymer blend that lays straight and has a longer butt section for easier turnover. Comes in 7.5, 9, 12, and 15 foot lengths. The Anadromous and Bass leaders are also a nylon coploymer that achieves a straight layout on the surface. Their butt sections are larger and longer for better turnover of heavier flies. The Fluorocarbon leaders are much more stiffer but give a higher abrasion resistance than the colpolymer leaders. They will also be much more deceptive with it's low visibilty character. The Sonar is a type 6 sinking leader that can be added to a floating line for a sinking tip capability or attached to spey lines.
Airflo Logo
AirFlo Trout Polyleader AirFlo Light Trout Polyleader AirFlo Steelhead Polyleader AirFlo  Bass Polyleader AirFlo Indicator
Trout Polyleader Light Trout Polyleader Steelhead Polyleader Bass Polyleader Indicator Polyleader
Airflo takes a different approach to leaders. The Trout and Light Trout Polyleaders all have a breaking strength to allow a 12 Lb. tippet. They differentiate the leaders by density rather than breaking strength. The Trout Polyleader has 7 densities classified as Clear Floating, Clear Hover, Clear Intermediate, Slow Sink, Fast Sink, Super Fast Sink, and Extra Super Fast Sink. Light Trout has the same 7 densities but only comes in 5.0' and 10.0' lengths. It is designed with more suppleness and shock absoption than the Trout series. The Steelhead Polyleader comes in 5, 10, and 14 foot lengths with the 7 different densities capable of withstanding a 24 lb. breaking point. The Indicator Leader comes in two strengths, Light Trout (8.0 lb.) or Trout (12.0 Lb.). Light Trout Indicator Leader is available in 5' or 8' lengths, the Trout Indicator only in 8' lengths. These Indicator leaders are helpfull in sighting the leader for drag under low light conditions.
Rio Logo
Rio Trout Rio Indicator Rio Euro Nymph Rio VersiLeader
PowerflexTrout Indicator Fluoroflex Euro Nymph VersiLeader
The Rio Powerflux Trout tapered leader is designed for superb abrasion-resistance as well as high knot and tensile strength. The long, thick butt design provides smooth turnover while the supple tippet gives the fly life-like presentation. The light gray color is the most neutral and integrates visually with any background for perfect camouflage. All Trout leaders have a perfection loop on the butt. The Rio Indicator is for great for nymphing, particularly chironomids, where you need to get the leader down quickly and straight. It has a short orange butt section to attach the indicator to. RIO Fluoroflex tapered leaders are the solution when a nearly invisible presentation is required for wary fish. Fluoroflex leaders are 100% fluorocarbon with high abrasion-resistance and excellent knot strength. The leaders have a long butt section that will turn over flies effortlessly. The Euro Nymph  is a uniquely designed tapered leader, and ideal for European nymphing techniques. The leader starts with 9’ of a milky-white tapered nylon for visibility,  which is then attached to 22” of RIO's 2X, two-tone Indicator Tippet material, for maximum visibility in all light conditions, and to make subtle strike detection easier. The leader ends with a tippet ring, allowing anglers to attach their own tippet to match the water type and conditions.RIO's Trout VersiLeaders are designed for the fly fisher who needs a quick-change option for converting a floating line to a sink tip. Each VersiLeader is tapered for the best in performance and has a 12lb nylon core coated in PVC. A neat, bullet-proof welded loop at the butt end allows for fast rigging.
Orvis Logo
Orvis Super Strong Leader Orvis Mirage Leader Ovis Polyleader Orvis Braid
Super Strong Mirage Polyleader Braided  
Orvis Super Strong leaders are for general purposes, good for dries and small nymphs and streamers. It is a copolymer nylon with excellent breaking strength, suppleness, and low memory. The Mirage leaders are fluorocarbon which sinks better than copolymer nylon and provides better abrasion resistance. Fluorocarbon also has a better refractory index that enables it to be less seen within the water. PolyLeaders are like mini fly lines that are constructed the same way with a PVC coated monocore. They are tapered and act as a natural extension of your line tapering down to your tippet. They cast beautifully, and come in four densities that allow you to fish the entire water column. They are available in Clear Floating, Intermediate Sinking (1.5 inches/second), Fast Sink (3.9 inches/second), and Super Fast Sink (6.1 inches/second). Each leader has an exposed monocore tip to attach your tippet in whatever fashion you prefer from blood knot to triple surgeon's, or tie a perfection loop for a loop-to-loop connection. The Braided leaders are for increased presentation for dry flies and nymphing within tricky currents. The leader provide a soft landing and can straighten very long, light tippets with a superior turnover.
Snowbee Logo
Orvis Super Strong Leader Snowbee Copolymer Nylon Leader Snowbee Knotted
Knotted French Leaders
Fluorocarbon Monofilament Nylon Knotted Mono w/droppers Knotted Tapered French Leaders  
Snowbee's Fluorocarbon Leaders combine the benefits of fluorocarbon, with the convenience of a tapered leader. These 9ft leaders are ideal to assist presentation and turnover whether stillwater or river nymph fishing, especially in crystal clear waters with extended fluorocarbon tippets.Snowbee has a range of top quality tapered Monofilament Leaders, using our super strong, low diameter copolymer nylon material. The 9ft leaders have a long taper and short tippet for easy turn over, “ready to go” general use, while the new range of “Camo” colored leaders are designed specifically for dry fly and light nymph fishing, especially in enclosed situations where a “stealth” approach is all important.Snowbee's Knotted Mono leaders with tied droppers. Ideal for lure, nymph or wet fly fishing, for trout, steelhead and all styles of fly fishing. With a stepped taper, these leaders turn over teams of flies neatly every time. The French Knotted Tapered Leaders are hand-tied, knotted tapered leaders for the specialist river fisher, looking for the perfect “turnover,” delicate presentation, and precision casting. Available in two models, both tied using top quality copolymer, including camo colored for extra stealth and elasticity when using ultrafine tippets and extensions.