There are a plethora of different opinions on what type of leader to use while fly fishing. And as there are as many different species one can target on fly, there are either materials, material combinations and opinions one can choose from as well.. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and as you better your fly fishing and get deeper into your fly fishing career, you can make the adjustments that suit you, and the species you are targeting. Almost any fish species can be caught on a fly, so experiment and have some fun learning along the way – that’s what it’s all about in my opinion.
There are 3 basic types of fly leader material that one can choose from when starting to fly fish. Monofilament, fluorocarbon and bite wire.
Monofilament: Many people like mono because it sinks slower than any of the other line types you can buy. It is relatively inexpensive and virtually available at every single tackle shop that has ever existed. Depending on what you’re looking for, the stretch ability of mono might be a good thing, or a bad thing, it‘s up to you and what you’re fishing for. Mono is the stretchiest material out there and may be of the opinion that it’s too forgiving in setting the hook.
Fluorocarbon: 100 percent fluorocarbon is fast becoming a reliable choice for fly anglers for leader and tippet material, though it sinks a little faster than mono, it’s still usable for top water or dry fly presentations. Sub surface, fluorocarbon is basically invisible and many anglers find that an attractive attribute when fishing for spooky fish. Fluorocarbon is much more expensive than mono, and holds the distinction of being a little stiffer, however, it doesn’t stretch nearly as much as mono and has a better hook-up ratio due to its lack of forgiveness.
Bite Wire: May as well also call it goat rope! It’s very visible underwater, comes in much higher tests vs diameter in comparison to mono or fluoro, it’s expensive and can sometimes be a tough material to handle. Ie: knots etc. It has one sole purpose, to prevent toothy critters from biting through your leader. There is no stealth or stalk ability with bite wire. You are preventing chew-throughs. Ambush predators with teeth are the clientele of bite wire.
You can build your own leaders using different pound test materials if you are not a fan of manufactured tapered leaders. Start big, and every couple of feet decrease your test until you get to your desired tippet strength. A uni-uni knot is all you need to know to build your own leaders. That said, it’s much easier to purchase a tapered leader – again, the choice is yours.
These are the basics when it comes to leader and tippet choice for fly anglers. Try them out and as you become more comfortable with the materials you like, make some adaptations to target new species or to throw different flies.