Production Leader Tying Techniques
By Steve Schweitzer
production leader tying? Tying more than 2 leaders at a time!
But, if you are like me, you find out that tomorrow you may go
fishing, so you scramble to tie just enough leaders (usually 2)
to handle the day and go on with life.
time to make, especially to get out the material, find a formula
you like, measure, cut and tie. But, I've found that taking an
evening or two to tie up a variety of leaders to suit my fishing
needs for quite a few trips saves me many rushed prep-time hours
in the long run. Preparation and organization are the key elements
of production leader tying. But haste in quick production techniques
will leave you fishless if you don't tie sturdy leaders! This
short piece will lay out the essential elements of tying leaders
in bulk more quickly, more easily, with fewer faulty knots and
help you use LeaderCalc
to your advantage.
time to prepare all materials; organize them in a logical
fashion and have all tools and formulas ready. Here, I am
preparing to tie about 30 leaders for spring-time seatrout
fishing with GFF partner Martin Jorgensen. These leaders are
more complex (9 segments) and must be durable to withstand
the hardheaded fighting of searun brown trout in the Baltic
tying hundreds of leaders since the production of Leadercalc
in 1999, I've learned many tricks that help speed the tying
process. First and foremost, organization is key. The process
is not unlike production tying for fishing flies.
Laying out precut pieces
of mono next to the spool helps you determine which piece
is next (in case you loose track or are interrupted) and easily
identifies the diameter if a piece or two is brushed of the
elements I find useful are:
an entire table space. A kitchen dining table or a large
coffee table in front of the TV are my favorite venues
work with a window open! That is a surefire way to have
a gust of wind disassemble your organization! You'll also loose
track of the mono diameters.
your oldest material first. This ensures your material is
always the freshest you own.
your material with the date you purchased it to help determine
the oldest-first rule.
- A standard
12-inch (30cm) ruler doesn't cut it. Use a 15" or 20"
ruler (50cm) for portability. Or better yet, use a seamstress
cloth measure spread across the table length for accurate measurements.
scissors or a nail clipper is a must. Used to trim tag ends
of your knots as close as possible.
are required to tighten perfection or duncan loops effectively
in heavy butt section materials.
must decide on the balance of time-consuming finesse leaders
(more segments, more complex tapers) versus less time-consuming
and less complicated tapers of 3-5 segment leaders. Your purpose
should direct you: dry fly fishing may require a delicate turnover
(= more complex taper), whereas streamer fishing may require
something close to straight mono with just a few segments.
and cut segments a tad longer than the formula requires
to compensate for the tag ends that are discarded. I usually
measure off 1.5" to 2" more in length (3-5 cm's).
are guidelines only. If the formula calls for a segment
to be 6" (15 cm's), 5" or 7" (13-18 cm's) segments
won't make a big impact on the leader's performance. Getting
within a tolerable range is acceptable. It's the overall proportion
of butt to mid-taper to tippet that counts. Drastically modifying
any of those three elements will have a noticeable impact on
the leader's intended performance.
the percentage of butt vs. mid-taper vs. tippet. One element
I never go without is the percentage composition of the leader.
This simple 3-metric schematic tells me almost exactly how the
leader will perform. LeaderCalc doesn't calculate this automatically
for you, you must do this yourself. (a future version of LeaderCalc
may just have this built in!)
I use LeaderCalc's
notes and formula description to my advantage. I include
the leader's percentage relationship (Butt%, Mid-Taper%,
Tippet%) somewhere on the label. This tells me what I
need to know in one glance.
For example: (butt, taper, tippet) LEADER A: 55%-35%-10% compared
to LEADER B: 40%-20%-20% tells me a few things: First, LEADER
A has a stiff, long butt section, a medium drop-off in the taper,
and a short tippet. This leader would work well for streamers
or heavy flies. LEADER B has a shorter butt section (less energy
transfer) a shorter mid-taper, but a longer tippet. This leader
would be good for a more delicate presentation of lighter flies
efficient with at least these three knots: Perfection or Duncan
loop, Barrell-knot (also called the Blood knot) and Surgeon's
knot. Other knots are nice, but these four are proven effective
and can become quick to tie with a little practice. See
all the knots here.
(Blood knot) Rule of Thumb: for the butt section, using
3 wraps on each side of the barrel knot is sufficient. For the
mid-taper, 4 wraps is sufficient. If you use barrel knots for
the tippet section (I use the surgeon's knot), 5 wraps is sufficient.
the container for the tippet spools or a nearby trash can to
accept the clippings of the mono tag ends. These little
clippings are wily and can hurt your feet if stepped on, not
to mention they can damage a perfectly good vacuum cleaner!
Tie two or three of a few formulas. Share with friends and
get their feelings on how the leader performs. If the consensus
is the formula isn't worth your time, make notes in LeaderCalc
and avoid tying that particular formula in the future.
best to wet loose knots with saliva before pulling them taught.
Amidst leader-tying guru controversy, I pull my moistened knots
together quickly; sometimes producing a "chirp". Some
prefer to slowly pull them tight to ensure the knot is formed
correctly...I don't seem to have that problem using the quick-pull
method, but to each his own.
give untested leaders to friends! You certainly don't want
to at the pointing end of a finger when a fish of a lifetime
is lost because your special-secret leader didn't hold up to
CONFUSED ABOUT KNOTS?
See all the knots here.
PRODUCTION TYING PROCESS
Once a leader is finished,
promptly place it in a plastic sleeve, marked and ready for
use. It's amazing how leaders can get tangled, brushed away
or lost if not packaged soon after being tied. You would hate
to loose all that hard effort, wouldn't you?!
of steps I go through in preparation to tie leaders in production
- In LeaderCalc,
select the desired leader parameters and print out the formula
sheet. Highlight or underline the formula using a ruler and
marker to make the formula easier to find on the paper as you
are tying the leader.
out leader labels in LeaderCalc with the appropriate information.
Be sure to calculate the B%, MT%, T%)
STEP TO SPEED! On your table top: Organize the required
spools of material in descending sequential fashion, just as
you would build a leader. The photographs illustrate this clearly.
and cut 2-4 segments of each diameter in preparation to tie
2-4 leaders at a time. Add a little extra to compensate for
the tag ends you will discard. Measuring and cutting 2-4 at
a time ensures you will have consistent leaders with consistent
the tying process from the butt to the tippet. What
knots should I use?
the entire leader completely to test all the knots. Many times,
I have had a hastily-tied knot slowly slip and come apart during
- Only after
you have tied and tested an entire leader, cut the tag ends
off. Each knot should be uniform and secure.
the leader agaqin after cutting tag ends off. This will test
the leader one last time to see if any knots will have the potential
three or four fingers as width, wrap the leader, beginning at
the tippet, in a neat loop for placement in a small plastic
Do you have
suggestions for production leader tying? Tell
us about them!