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Get leaders by clicking here. 

Leaders are an important part of your tackle. They join your fly line and the fly. Leaders should have some elasticity, convey energy efficiently, be aero dynamic, provide a drag free drift and obscure your presence from the fish.

For most situations, I recommend leaders made of monofilament. Furled and braided leaders provide no elasticity, don’t convey energy efficiently, aren’t aero dynamic and form an elbow.


All monofilament is not the same. Some is hard and stiff,(Maxima) some is soft and supple. (Varivas)

Hard stiff monofilament provides elasticity, conveys energy efficiently, is aero dynamic, and doesn’t form an elbow, but it drags as soon as it hits the water.

Soft supple monofilament doesn’t convey energy efficiently and isn’t’ aero dynamic but it drifts beautifully.

Anytime you buy a leader off the rack your buying a compromise. It either isn’t stiff and hard enough or it’s too soft and supple. That’s why I build leaders. I want the advantages of both.

A leader is composed of three parts, the butt, (the thick part),

the transition (which tapers from thick to thin),

and the tippet, (the thin end of leader), for our purposes, roughly a third a third and a third.

We identify leaders by their length and the diameter of their tippet. A nine foot 6x leader is nine feet long; the diameter of the tippet is 6x.


Here is what the “X” system is all about. X is an unknown variable. If you want to know the strength of your tippet, the unknown variable, X, is nine. Subtract the 6 (6X) from 9, you get three pound test.

If you want to know how thick your tippet is, X is 11. Subtract the X value 6, from eleven. You get five thousandths of an inch.

 The recent advances in polymer technology, monofilament has become stronger and stronger so the strength aspect of the X formula sometimes isn’t valid, but you get the idea, the larger X value, the finer the tippet.

Gary Borger is  one of the most cerebral anglers I’ve ever met.

When he did a school at the shop he introduced me to his variation of  George Harvey’s leader formula.


Gary uses hard stiff monofilament for the butt and part of the transition, and soft supple mono for the rest of the transition and the entire tippet. The resultant leader casts and drifts well.

Here are Gary’s formulas for top and bottom leaders. I gleaned them from his excellent book “Presentation.”


Top Water

One foot-Maxima Camelion .013, hard stiff mono

Four feet- Maxima Camelion .010, hard stiff mono

Four feet-4 or 5X, soft tippet

Six inches-7 or 8X, soft tippet


Four feet- Maxima Camelion .020, hard stiff mono

One foot- Maxima Camelion .013, hard stiff mono

Four feet-2 or 3X, soft tippet

One foot-5 or 6X, soft tippet

All sections are connected using a “double surgeons” knot.

Uni Body Leader

A uni body leader eliminates the necessity of changing leaders on stream.

The butt and part of the transition are permanently attached to the connecter. It’s built with hard stiff Maxima Chameleon monofilament.


Only the lower part of the transition and the soft subtle tippet are changed.


The upper part is built with four feet of .020, one foot of .013 and four feet of .010 maxima chameleon.


To fish the bottom add 6 to 8” of 2, 3, 4 or 5x. If 6 or 7x is necessary add 4”  to the 4x.


When fishing the film add 2 to 4 feet of 2, 3, 4 or 5x soft subtle tippet. If 6, 7x or finer is needed add a foot to the 5x.


All sections are connected with a double surgeons knot.


Get some strike indicator material by clicking here. 

This strike indicator material is specially made fly line. The coating can be slipped from the core, leaving a hole int the center of the line.


To remove the coating, pinch between your thumb nail and forefinger and pull sharply, or use a wire strippper.


Make the indicators 1/4-incch long for dry flies. 1/2-inch long for small nymphs, and 3/4-inch long for large nymphs.


Use this material when hand tyeing leaders. 


Two indicators of different colors allows you to visualize varying currents in the water column.



st ind mat

The knots between sections prevent the indicators from sliding onto the tippet.

They last forevere because they are positioned above the breaking point.

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