Published Feb 9. 2016 - 8 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 12. 2023


Why would you Do It Yourself? The answer might seem simple, but it wasn't, once Paul Kalbrener started thinking about it.

Baby Squid fly's, something you wouldn't find in every fly shop.
Spey hackle shrimp.
Epoxy Head Cuttling
A dandy emerger.
Something you won't find in every fly shop.
Paul Kalbrener

The question, as I recall was, Why would you build your own leaders?
Well the answer is simple or maybe not so simple, once I start thinking about it.
I believe at the time I said something to the effect of, catching a fish on a self made leader, on a fly I tied myself, with a rod the I built, is the finest fish that I ever caught, blah, blah, blah...
The truth is: I like to fiddle around. No I don't play in a blue grass band, but I like spend time in my hobby room doing things related to fly fishing. And that was where I came up with the idea to build my own leaders.

Starting out in fly fishing,

the first thought of Do It Yourself was fly tying. I remember going into the fly shop to buy some flies, and coming out with a dozen flies and about $20 dollars lighter. And I was buying the ones on sale!
So I thought I would start tying my own, save a bunch of money, and of course the fish I catch on my own self tied fly will be the finest fish ever.
Ha! Save money!?
I think if the money I have spent on fly tying stuff was used to buy flies, I could probably buy all the flies in that fly shop today. But of course that wouldn't be the same, because there really is something special about catching fish on your own tied flies. Plus it's a great hobby.

Before you know it
A well organized fly tying box? Not really.
Coastal seatrout fly patch.
A couple of Woolly Buggers
Fly tying with friends over a sip of Whiskey.
Fly tying won't save you money
Paul Kalbrener - Martin Joergensen
A mess of rods.
Top quality burl and champagne cork.
Rod building
Paul Kalbrener

Then came the day

I had bought a high end rod from one of the big flyrod companies, and thought now I am really into fly fishing. What a beautiful and very expensive rod. But after about a year the cork started to lose its smoothness as the cork filling started to wear off. One of the guides came loose. The reel holder started acting funny and I thought to myself: I can do that better
So I bought myself a rod blank and all the components, and started reading, books, go on the internet with lots of questions to fellow rod builders.
As it turned out, I can do it better.
With the first rod, came the second, then the third... and, and, and.
I usually build one, or two rods a year, not always for myself and not for profit.
Components paid and a good bottle of single malt is my going rate. The rods are built using high quality components, using blanks from companies with a very good reputation in the blank industry, and the costs are at least half the price of the top end rod that I had purchased.

A 5 piece blank, built with only 4 of the pieces.
A 5 piece blank, built with only 4 of the pieces.
Paul Kalbrener
My DIY rod tubes.
DIY rod socks.
My DIY rod socks and tubes.
Paul Kalbrener

The new hobby of rod building

got me thinking. I will need, rod socks and rod tubes to store the rods. For the first couple of rods I actually bought socks and tubes when I ordered the blank, but over the last 5 years or so, I have made my own.
My wife has a very good sewing machine that she uses for quilting, and with a piece of cloth that I buy, I sew my own rod socks. So far I have sewn eight or nine rod socks from that one piece of cloth. Plus in the garage I've got a bunch of tools, mostly collecting dust, but every once in awhile I take them out, for my self made rod tubes, I've got some made out of wooden strips that I glued into a rectangular, or a hexagon tube. Rain pipes have been covered in fake leather with a zipper, and lined with silk cloth. I even once tried making a cardboard tube, but that didn't work very well.

Maple wood, made into Hexagon rod tube.
Drain pipe rod tube.
DIY rod tubes.
Paul Kalbrener
Are not the prettiest, but they get the job done.
My landing nets.
My landing nets.
Paul Kalbrener

Speaking of tools

, they have also been dusted off for building landing nets. I believe my billfold was guilty this time. As I started fishing for seatrout on the Danish coast, the little landing net I was using for stream fishing, just wasn't going to cut it for the monster seatrout that I was going to be landing. Jeez, what an imagination I had back then!
Anyways, the price for a new “seatrout” landing net was more than I was willing to pay, considering the new rod, reel, waders, boots, jacket, and flies I had just purchased for this new fishing experience.
I bought myself a piece of ash, which I cut into thin strips, bent them around a form that I had cut out, and glued them together, I bought the mesh in the local fly shop for a small amount, and presto a new landing net for monster fish!
Since then my expectations have been toned down a bit and my common sense has gone up, and the last two nets I built have been more to the size of the fish that I actually catch.

Your own leaders
Two used for butt section of leader, most often replaced.
Your own leaders
Martin Joergensen - Paul Kalbrener

Getting back to the first question,

why build your own leaders, one of the reasons, and probably the best one, is that I can build them to my liking, and for the exact type of fishing that I'm doing.
There is great tool on the GFF site called “LeaderCalc” and it has leaders recipes for almost every situation.
In the beginning I would measure out the exact length of each piece, plus one inch for the blood knot, and tie it to the exact formula of the LeaderCalc.
Now, after gaining some experience, I just spool off 0.55, or 0.50mm mono for a butt section, 60% of the total length of the leader, using a blood knot tie on a middle section using 0.45 through 0.35mm about 20% length of the leader, tie a perfection loop on the end, and then the tippet for the last 20%, again using a perfection loop. With the perfection loops I can quickly change tippets and a leader can last me a complete season or more.

Self made Shooting Heads.
Tool holder made from drift wood.
Shooting Heads and tying tools.
Paul Kalbrener

A few other things

that are some of my DIY projects include shooting heads cut from cheap mill end DT lines that I order through the internet or cut from used flylines from fishing buddies, flea markets, E-bay etc.
Read “Hennings Setup” here on GFF to get a good idea about shooting heads. I've made a stripping basket from a children's stool that I bought at IKEA for 2 Euros. Just looking through the GFF site you will find people making there own reels. Even tying vises, although that's a little out of my league. I don't have that many tools in my garage.

It's not only that feeling

that I caught that fish on a fly that I tied, with my self made leader, using the rod that that I built. Its the ability to customize your fishing equipment, adding a certain color, sparkle, or material to your flies. Using high grade cork for the grip, exotic wood insert for your reel seat, single or snake foot guides, or a color combination for the wraps on your rod.
It's having something different from the norm that gives me a good feeling when I'm on the water, and maybe, just maybe, gives me a slight advantage in the pursuit of the next fish.

I have about 1,000 dry flies in my boxes, but only use about a dozen.
Map of Denmark and flies for coastal seatrout.
Flies for a lifetime.
Paul Kalbrener
One fine fish, with my own fly, leader, and rod.
One fine fish, with my own fly, leader, and rod.
Paul Kalbrener

Log in or register to pre-fill name on comments, add videos, user pictures and more.
Read more about why you should register.

Since you got this far …

The GFF money box

… I have a small favor to ask.

Long story short

Support the Global FlyFisher through several different channels, including PayPal.

Long story longer

The Global FlyFisher has been online since the mid-90's and has been free to access for everybody since day one – and will stay free for as long as I run it.
But that doesn't mean that it's free to run.
It costs money to drive a large site like this.

See more details about what you can do to help in this blog post.