What if, before you even made a cast, you were set up to fail! No I don’t mean putting together the rod sections slightly out of line and I am not talking about the new line going through the guides that guarantees an extra 18 inches to your cast. Its the tiny bit of line coming at the end of it all, that insignificant length of nylon or fluorocarbon that only costs a few pence for a length. This is the deal breaker folks, the difference between a perfect cast and one that spooks every fish in the pool.
The leader, the most neglected part of fishing tackle and yet the most important!
When talking about the leader I am referring to everything that follows the fly line, this can be a section of nylon/fluoro or even a polyleader and section of tippet. It was at Henrik Mortensen’s seminars that I realised just how important the leader was, the leader was described as being a ‘mass’ and too little of it or too much would be detrimental to the cast.
I could go into the exact details, lengths and weights that you need to consider when putting it together, but, there are so many variables to adjust for such as line weight, running lines and even your fly size coming into into the equation.
What I want to do in this short blog is help you analyse when you have too much, not enough and just like goldilocks’ favourite porridge, when the leader is just right.
So you put together your tackle. Several arms lengths of nylon, your favourite fly and begin fishing. Start casting and the leader is not straightening out, it lands behind the fly line, it falls upstream and sometimes it even piles up in a heap. The culprit here is too much resistance during the cast, what it really means is there is too much leader. If this is happening, STOP! Spend two minutes shortening the leader down, re-tying the fly and get back to the fishing. You should see a change, if its still happening, repeat the process and remove some more tippet.
Change flies a few times, cut the leader back a bit more and all of a sudden you will arrive at just the right length. Your casts roll out smoothly and the leader straightens elegantly across the pool. The gently touch down and you are fishing the moment your fly drops into the water. This is absolutely vital for effective fishing. When the leader is setup properly you are one with the cast, its easy, enjoyable and most of all efficient.
Change flies a few more times throughout the day, maybe even cut out the odd wind knot (there’s another discussion) and you start to get the opposite effect. The line shoots out like an Exocet missile, it’s really going but only to reach its limit and bounce back aggressively. We have all seen those casts, they turn over abruptly and slam into the waters surface, not ideal when we don’t want the salmon to know we are there! Not enough leader severely hampers your ability to cast a long line as well, it causes the line to turn over too quickly and for those long casts this is the exact opposite of what we want.
I truly hope this short blog helps you analyse a few issues with your casting, a lot of the time we are quick to blame our rods, lines even our own casting technique. I have came out of the water myself at times and removed 6 inches of leader to fine tune the performance, it does make a difference! It is vital your fly is fishing every second it spends in the water.
So this winter, while we are all waiting for the new season to begin, head into the garden, parks or lakes and play around with the leader. I dare you to start of with 20 feet of leader, it won’t work! but try cutting it back a foot at a time, all of a sudden that line will turn over perfectly, take note and keep cutting back to see just how quickly it becomes too short. As they say in football, rugby and racing it really is “a game of inches"
Go out and give it a go, once you understand this concept fly fishing is even more enjoyable!