Why Leader Material Matters
The latest rod or reel looks great to others in the car park or on the bank, but I feel it’s really the simple things we should all focus on. Leader material matters!
The two most important parts of a fly anglers tackle are the “leader” and the “fly.” Firstly they fool the fish into taking and secondly, they physically connect us to our quarry. Although relatively inexpensive these two items are all too often overlooked by the vast majority of anglers. This is probably because they don’t have a logo emblazoned on the actual product. Simply put, leader material matters.
As a result, people often don’t take leader selection as seriously as they should. I often hear the statement that “the leader doesn’t make that much difference as long as it’s clear.” This statement is utter rubbish.
The leader and the properties of the leader make a vast difference when fishing your chosen method. From tiny dries on a chalk stream to large lures through the depths of a reservoir, the impact of the material can be enormous depending on the method and conditions.
Fulling Mill currently sell three different types of leader material. Mastercalss, World Class V2 & their Masterclass Copolymer each of which has it’s own unique qualities. They have recently made a number of improvements. For example, a silicone Pro-Band has been added to the full range of Masterclass fluorocarbon to protect the material and to make it infinitely easier to handle.
Where the World Class V2 is concerned, from December on all spools will carry a much chunkier and thus more easily handled, black Cotton retainer band. This band replaces the original black rubber band, and was brought in to reduce friction burn. This problem can accumulate when the angler pulls the leader from the spool and the line rubs against the rubber retainer band. In some cases, this causes an undesirable change to the properties of the line. This NEW cotton band has put an end to any worries of friction building up. Fulling Mill is only too aware that thin leader materials need care at all times as there is less margin for error. It’s this attention to detail that help provide a top quality product.
My take on the different types of leader materials is as follows :
It’s 100% fluorocarbon, very thin, very supple, and has excellent knot strength and reliability. I was testing samples of this product and providing my thoughts & feedback for over 2 years before Fulling Mill released it commercially. When match fishing I always use the best products available, no matter who the manufacturer/retailer is. I’m 100% confident in this product and that it helps me catch more fish. Yes, I really think it is that good. For me it is quite simply the best fluorocarbon on the market and it’s all I ever use when match fishing.
It’s 100% fluorocarbon, ultra reliable, and has good knot strength. I would describe this as one of the “thicker” leader materials on the market, but it’s well priced with above average performance. It’s best suited to fishing lures rather than nymphs, as it is quite stiff.
Copolymer is actually a nylon monofilament. It’s very thin and supple for it’s stated breaking strain and it sinks very slowly compared to fluorocarbon. It’s ideal for fishing dries (remember to degrease your leader) or flies that you want to hang in the surface film.
Thin vs. Thick
Generally, very thin leaders are more supple and provide better presentation especially in difficult conditions. In clear, calm water, you will undoubtedly get more takes when using them. However, as they’re so thin they’re more susceptible to tangles and are easily damaged by standing on the leader or friction burn when tying knots. Lubricating the knot well is essential.
Thicker leaders are stiffer so don’t tangle as much. They also help turnover larger flies. However, presentation isn’t as good so in difficult conditions (clear calm water) you get significantly fewer takes. Being thicker they are however more resilient.
View it simply as a trade off, you have accept one type of leader in a single breaking strain can’t cover every situation or method. Balance what is correct for you, the conditions, and method you are fishing.
Choosing for the Conditions
When fishing stillwaters I routinely carry 3 spools of leader material, as I’m happy this will cover almost every eventuality.
Colored water, high winds.
I will always use a thicker leader material when fishing flies deep (over 12ft deep), in dirty coloured water or in high winds. When conditions are this severe, there really is no need for fine leaders and delicate presentation. The waves or water clarity disguise all the minor flaws. When targeting Rutland Waters’ large browns, I’m invariably using large flies fished at depth. I need an ultra-reliable leader material that I know won’t let me down when playing that fish of a lifetime. I also prefer a slightly thicker leader material as it provides a little more security from the abrasive teeth of the large browns. My go to leader material is therefore 10lb Fulling Mill Worldclass Fluorocarbon V2.
However, in normal fishing conditions when there is at least 6ft+ water visibility, I use a thin, supple leader material. This will give me the best presentation possible. It allows my flies to hang my flies and fish naturally, so to produce more takes. I also need a material with good knot and dropper strength as it’s pretty common to “double up” and hook multiple fish at once especially when fishing methods such as the “washing line.” So, for every style except dries my go to leader material is Fulling Mill Masterclass Fluorocarbon in 10.71lb. I simply cannot rate this material highly enough, it’s just exceptional in every department. If I was restricted to just one spool of leader this would undoubtedly be it!
For Stillwater dries or fishing the washing line method when the fish require your flies to be held ultra high in the water, then I would choose Masterclass Copolymer in 7.99lb. It’s a very thin, supple slow sinking leader material that is perfect for light wire flies or small hooks. When fishing dries you can literally “park” your flies out there and wait for the fish to find them, rather than repeatedly casting and spooking the fish. Just remember it’s essential to “degrease your leader” with mud/fullers earth etc. This will ensure that it will cut through the water’s surface film. If you don’t do this, your presentation will be compromised, and you won’t be as successful.
When you start to add up the cost of a typical days fishing it soon mounts up….rods, lines, day tickets, travel, food, waders etc. Why would you try and save a couple of pounds on the 2 most important aspects of your tackle when you’ve spent so much already? Leader material matters too much for that. It just doesn’t make any sense.
The correct flies and correct leader are essential, especially if you want to fish multiple methods well. Just remember to keep your leader in a dark place out of direct sunlight and away from extreme heat and it will easily last 12–15 months with no loss in performance. Do not leave it on the dashboard of a car on a hot summers day (I once made this mistake) and expect it to be ok!
To read more from Rob Edmunds, check out all of his articles here!