Leaders are a very important part of the fishing equipment, a stronger focus on the leaders will lead to a better casting/fishing result. The most important effect is that you will simply increase casting lengths by using a properly adapted leader. How many times have you experienced that the leader does not straighten out completely when casting for a rising fish. If you manage to stretch the leader more often your casts will increase by at least two meters. During a fishing season this will add up to a large amount of additional meters. The leader’s task is, in short: to steer the fly in the best looking way out to the fish, it should in other words act as a natural part of the fly line. This demands some basic knowledge of leaders, so that you can make your own leaders in a way so that they stretch and nicely and effectively place the fly towards the fish regardless of conditions. The salmon fisherman is actually the fly fisher that needs the most variety in his/her leaders during a season, this is because the leader for fishing the spring flood should be completely different to the ones used when fishing in summer conditions.
The secret is to taper the leader so that he force is gathered in the butt section for then to be transported out to the tip section through the mid section, all aided by the tapering. Bear in mind that both the rod and the fly lines are tapered too. When it comes to leader length is this depending on many factors, be it water level, speed of the current, depth, and temperature. One very important factor in terms of choice of leader length is local knowledge, if you have fished the same beat and the same river over a long time you will know the salmon behaviour, if you know where the good lies are located you can more easily choose fly line and adjust the leader length.

The leader is divided into three different parts: butt section - mid section - tip section.

Butt section: The task of the butt section is to receive the energy from the rod and the line in a balanced way, the butt section should be fairly thick so as not to create imbalance this early in the energy transfer, which would otherwise make the presentation collapse.

Recommended butt section diameter in terms of line weights.
6 weight single handed rods: 0.48mm.
7 weight single handed rods: 0.53mm.
8 weight single handed rods: 0.58mm
8-10 weight double handed rods: 0.63mm.
11-12 weight double handed rods: 0.68mm.

Mid section: The task of the mid section is to transport the energy fro the butt section to the tip section, this is a very important task, and therefore there are a couple of issues to bear in mind here as well. If the difference in diameter between the butt and mid section is too big, the presentation will not be good, as the fly will then often go to one side due to the difference in speed in the roll out. I use the blood knot, with 2-3 extra turns with the thinner part, if the difference in diameter is larger I’ll use 3-5 extra turns with the thinnest part, this increases knot strength.

Tip section: The task of the tip section is to present the fly in the way you want it to. By varying the tippet length and diameter you can achieve many advantages in terms of presentation of the fly. Wind or its absence will make a big difference, or if it is a small dry fly or a large tube fly. Sea trout fishing in the ocean puts the same strict demands on the leader.

Using a concave tip section; will enable you to achieve a better presentation when fishing on days with little or no wind, with small flies for spooky fish. A concave tip section has a longer front taper tan the mid section, and that is why the leader will roll over more calmly and present the fly in a nice, more delicate manner.

If you choose a convex tip section;
you will be able to present larger flies in a better way, especially on days with strong winds, this is a great advantage when fishing in the ocean with a fly rod. Also with heavy salmon fishing using large flies, long casts and on big rivers combined with wind, a convex tip section will create better presentations. This tip section is shorter than the mid section and will as such turn over quicker.

It is also very important to change the tip diameter as you change the size of flies. Choosing a tippet that is too powerful compared to the size of your fly the fly will not move enough in the current, a small fly is often chosen when the river is low and the fish are spooky, but if you then use a tippet that is too thick the salmon will detect your foul play straight away. Another problem in terms of casting/presentation is that if you choose a tippet that is too light for a large sized fly, then you will struggle to stretch the leader properly, this happens because the connection between the line and fly is too weak.


A fight on a low summer river demands a lot from the quality and function of the leader, the fly must be presented nicely for spooky fish, and the leader must stand being in contact with large rocks poking out of the river in many places.


Recommended tippet diameter in terms of hook/tube size.
Hook size 4: 0.38mm.,
Hook size 6: 0.33mm.
Hook size 8: 0.27mm.
Hook size 10 – 12. 0.20mm – 0.25mm
Tube flies, wing length 4 cm: 0.27mm.
Tube flies, wing length 6 cm: 0.33mm.
Tube flies, wing length 8 cm: 0.38mm.
Tube flies, wing length 10-12 cm: 0.43mm.

Tube flies using cone heads or copper tubes; use one size up from the table above.

Tapered leaders: are nice to use, as you don’t have to make the leader yourself, these are also knotless, which is an advantage when using small flies and a floating line. They come in lengths from 9-12 feet for trout fishing. They also come in lengths of 9, 12 and 15 feet for salmon fishing. These are very good leaders for general fishing, and they also come in fluorocarbon materials.

Tippet spools: When you need to adjust your tippet to a larger extent for everything from sinking lines to floating lines I like the tippet spools. These can be bought in all diameters for both salmon and trout so that you can make the whole leader from butt to tip. The big advantage is that you can adjust the leader more easily, I have all the spools in diameter from 0,17 mm to 0,71 in my fishing bag, enabling me to make new tippets at all times when changing fly lines based on river conditions.

Floating lines: are used by the salmon fisher a bit later in the season when the river becomes lower and warmer. Now it will be an advantage with longer leaders, the bigger the distance between the fly and the line, the better for the fishing. Lengths of around 9 feet are standard, this will do for many situations, but when the river gets extremely low and clear with spooky fish, a longer leader is an advantage. Many people find it hard to cast with long leaders, but there are a few tricks to be used in order to handle leader lengths of up to 5-6 meters, where the goal of course is to stretch the whole leader towards the fish. I often use fluorocarbon for the butt or mid section as these leaders are stiffer and have a fabulous ability to stretch the leader all the way. When I use it for the butt section it is because I fish a dry fly, and then I want to make sure the fly still floats. When I use it for the mid section for long leaders the fly choice is often a nymph or a small salmon fly, then the floatability of the fly does not matter. Often I will also use fluorocarbon for the tip section, especially when fishing swift currents. Regardless of fly choice when fishing for spooky fish, whether it be the butt or mid section using fluorocarbon I achieve the advantage of all the flies being pulled subsurface. Remember that when nymph fishing the fly can be pulled quite deep when using fluorocarbon for the whole leader.

Tapered leader for floating line fishing for summer salmon.

  Butt section Mid section Tip section
6 weight, single handed rods: 0.48mm = 1,5meters 0.38mm = 1.5meters 0.28mm = 1meters
7 weight, single handed rods: 0.53mm = 1.5meters 0.43mm = 1,5meters 0.33mm = 1meters
8 weight, single handed rods: 0.58mm = 1.5meters 0.48mm = 1,5meters 0,33mm-35mm = 1meters
8-10 weight, double handed rods: 0.63mm = 2meters 0.53mm = 2meters 0.38mm = 1,5meters
11-12 weight, double handed rods: 0.68mm = 1,5m 0.58mm = 1,5m 0.48mm = 1,5m, 0. 38mm = 1,5m

Floating/sink lines: Today these lines are the most widely used lines by the salmon fisher, from the Guideline range we have: floating/sink 1, floating/sink 3, and floating/sink 5 (Streamdip), with these three lines you will be well prepared for fishing different conditions. The advantage of these lines is that you combine speed and depth, this is very provoking for the salmon, and anything provoking the salmon it will attack.

Floating/sink 1: When it comes to leader lengths for this line, I say that this line has been established as a standard fly line for the salmon fisher. The front part of the line will fish the intermediate water levels. Thus this can be used as an all-round fly line. For this line I use a leader length of 2,5-3,5 meters for most situations, the shortest for swift currents and the longest for slow currents. For extremely low summer river fishing this line can be use as a “summer sinking line”, then used with leaders of 1,5-2 meters. Otherwise this line follows the table above in terms of butt section for certain line weights or thickness. Also use this table for tapering of leaders for floating lines, but now in shorter sections.

Floating/sink 3: ust the name of this line gives me the “salmon trembles”. I use this line when the spring flood has calmed down, and I use it for a variety of water levels/conditions throughout the season. This is the best “summer sinking line” I know of. This is also the line with which I have the highest average weight of salmon caught. One thing: this line must never be compared with a sink 2/sink 3 line. I use leader lengths of between 1,5-2,5 meters for this line, depending on the speed of the current and depth. The shortest one for fast currents and the longest for slow currents, just as with the floating/sink 1 line. This line demands great knowledge of leaders if you are to take advantage of its fantastic fishing abilities. On a low summer river when fishing this line I often need a think tippet (0,20-0,25 mm) as the fly might be a small nymph. With an 8 weight rod and a 0,58 mm butt section it will be a bit tricky to taper it so that it can be fished in a way that gives nice presentations. The secret then is to use Frog Hair fluorocarbon, this material has knot strength strong enough for me to taper it using a concave tip section, where the tip is around 20 cm longer than the other parts. This makes for better presentations. I always use a fluorocarbon butt section for the floating/sink 3 line, this offers maximum balance when casting. .

Examples of "light fishing" leaders for floating/sink 3.
7 weight, single handed rods: 0,53mm = 70cm, 038mm = 70cm, 0.20mm – 0.25mm = 90cm.
8 weight, single handed rods: 0.58mm = 70cm, 0.43mm = 70cm, 0.25mm – 033mm = 90cm.

Examples of "standard" leaders for floating/sink 3 and Streamdip (*).
7 weight, single handed rods: 0.53mm = 80cm, 0.43mm = 80cm, 0.27mm – 033mm = 80cm.
8 weight, single handed rods: 0.58mm = 80cm, 0.48mm = 80cm, 0.33mm – 0.38mm = 80cm. *
8-10 weight, double handed rods: 0.63mm = 80cm, 0.53mm = 80cm, 0.33mm - 0.38mm = 80cm.*
11-12 weight, double handed rods: 0.68mm = 80cm, 0,53mm = 80cm, 0.38mm – 0.43mm = 80cm.*

Examples of "short" leaders for floating/sink 3 and Streamdip (*).
7 weight, single handed rods: 0.53mm = 50cm, 0.43mm = 50cm, 0.27mm – 0.33mm = 50cm.
8 weight, single handed rods: 0.58mm = 50cm, 0.48mm = 50cm, 0.33mm – 0.38mm = 50cm.*
8-10 weight, double handed rods: 0.63mm = 50cm, 0.53mm = 50cm, 0.38mm = 50cm. *
11-12 weight, double handed rods: 0.68mm = 50cm, 0.53mm = 50cm, 0.38mm – 0.43mm = 50cm. *

Streamdip, Floating/sink 5: This line delivered already at its first outing, I wanted this line from Arild Snekkenes, I knew it would make a great fishing fly line so the expectations were high for the first fishing trip of the 2006 season on the River Gaula. Some challenges arose when designing this line, as the weight distribution between a floating, sink 2 and sink 5, which is how this line is constructed, could create an imbalance when casting. But thanks to Guideline’s vast experience with creating specialist lines this line is a dream to cast. As of today the line comes in weights between 8/9-11/12, and only for double handed rods, but it is no problems to adjust the lightest version so that it will suit a single handed rod in classes 8 or 9.

For the 2008 season I hope that this line will come in 7/8 and 8/9 weights for single handed rods. This line fishes deep enough to be used when the river is fairly high, this includes both spring and summer floods. Fishing actively with these lines means that you can fish much deeper in a much easier way than with other lines, and as I have written several times before, fishing the fly deep and fast will mean that you will always have good chances of catching a salmon. The leaders for this line follows the same table as the examples under floating/sink 3 from 8 weight single handed rods and upwards, with the exception of the “light fishing” table.

Sinking lines: are mostly used when the river is high, there are a multitude of different sinking lines that will make our fishing more effective regardless of conditions. Within the Guideline range there are lines ranging from hover/intermediate to S1/S2 - S2/S3 - S3/S4 and S4/S5. Having the right leader is important when using a sinking line, where the whole idea is to get down deep as quickly as possible at all times in relation to which sinking rate you use. One rule can be: faster sink rate = shorter leader. The choice of sink rate is determined by the size of the river, is the river high the challenge will be to get through the surface current quickly enough, and then it is important to have the right leader length so that it will not “hang” for too long in the surface film, the goal is to fish the fly at the same level as the fly line. The “shortest” leaders in the table are tapered using only two different diameters (including S2/S3). Again I will refer to local knowledge when it comes to create the best leader lengths at all times. I always use fluorocarbon leader for sinking line fishing.

Recommendations for "short" leaders for sinking lines.
Sink 4 - sink 5:: From 60cm – 1meter.
Sink 3 - sink 4: From 70cm – 1,1meters.
Sink 2 - sink 3: From 80cm – 1,2meters.
Sink 1 - sink 2: From 90cm – 1,5meters.
Hover - intermediate: From 1,5meters – 2,5meters.

Use the table when choosing butt section diameters in relation to line weights.

Polyleadere: These are also good leaders to use, if combined with a floating line it will create a sort of floating/sink line as well. Remember that when using shooting heads the head must be adjusted, made a bit shorter/lighter than when using ordinary leaders. This is because an 8-10 feet polyleader weighs between 5-7 grams. So the weight of the polyleader must be calculated with the shooting head so it becomes right in terms of the weight your rod can handle.

I hope this article will help you to make better leaders for your fishing. Tight lines!

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