January 14, 2000 - Ask ten different saltwater flyfishermen what leader system he employs and chances are you’ll get ten different answers. From expensive extruded leaders to complex variations of the knotted variety each of us has our own personal favorite. I personally have sampled countless concoctions over the years but have settled on a very simple solution to this saltwater leader dilemma. Due to the fact that I now insist on simplicity in all aspects of my angling chores, so it is with leader construction.

These past five or six years have seen many new monofilament and fluorocarbon products specifically designed for saltwater angling. In many instances this has only added to the confusion regarding proper leader construction. The saltwater leader configuration I am suggesting has served me well for over five years and I have yet to have a failure of any type, knot, loop or otherwise.

The butt section: Both butt and mid are constructed from RIO hard saltwater mono. It is 36" long and attached to the business end of the flyline with a nail knot. That’s correct, a simple nail knot. For this task I use 33lb (.0265") RIO. This diameter will turn over even the largest flies and is very conducive to tying a secure knot. More importantly, RIO mono will straighten out to a wire-like consistency with only modest hand pressure, even though it has been stored on a spool for extended periods of time.

The mid section: To the butt is attached another 36" section of RIO 22lb (.022") using a blood knot. Use no more than three turns (not the traditional 4 or 5) on each side of the opening to which the tag ends of the knot are secured. This will allow the blood knot to properly bind encasing the tag ends. It’s a good idea to lubricate the knot with enzymes from your mouth prior to tightening, thus eliminating any "burning" of the monofilament during this process. Another tip worth mentioning when dealing with hard materials such as RIO, during the tightening process, modestly snap the knot to secure it, that is, do not simply apply gentle pressure causing the knot to tighten prematurely thus leaving the tag ends insecure. A perfection loop is now constructed to the remaining mid.

The tippet section: For most fishing I will then attach a 36" section of RIO 13.2lb (.017) to the mid using the loop to loop method. This enables me to replace tippet freely without distorting the integrity of the entire leader. When sight or flats fishing, I will replace the RIO tippet with Orvis IGFA 20lb Mirage flurocarbon. Why so heavy ? It’s simple. RIO 13.2 hard mono and Orvis 20lb mirage are literally the same diameter (.002 differential). So far this entire system has worked like a charm.

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