Fishing with hand-tied leaders opens lots off possibilities to adjust the different parts of the leaders to perfectly suit your wishes. In doing so you also get a sense of understanding how a leader actually works, which is never a bad thing in my book.
You won't be surprised to hear that I've taken these opportunities to the extreme and I've tried out as many different leader formulas as I could get my hands on. At the moment I am using a slight variation of the well-known Ritz-leader. A bit more about that in a minute, because when using hand-tied leaders you inevitably run into the problem off figuring out your knot of choice to tie the different parts of the leader together.
And before you start bloodknotting vigorously, hold on to your hat because I want to bring to your attention an alternative I have been using for quite while and which has served me well.
The knot in question is known as The Slim beauty. Originally it is meant as a way to connect a (thick) shock-tippet to the class-tippet in heavy duty saltwater flyfishing. At first I started using this knot to do just that when I went pikefishing. Until one day I was tying a dryfly leader with bloodknots.
For some strange reason I kept breaking my leader on the knots and figured I could give the slim-beauty a go. An excellent explanation of how to tie the knot can be found here. Check this first and then read on...
... in the original saltwater-formula the thin part of the leader is doubled up and fed through the figure of eight in the thick part. This is being done because off the big difference in diameter between the two.
When tying a dryfly leader these differences are much smaller. So, when tying my own leaders I've discarded the doubling up off the thin part.
Using this knot has a few advantages. First of all it is very slim and small indeed. It is less bulky then the bloodknot, especially in the butt-section of the leader. This is nice because it slides through the guides easily. I like this because I prefer to fish with a fairly long leader. Secondly because the knot consists of two separate pieces you get a lot off control over how the pieces draw together. If you go and try the knot I would advise you to take your time when drawing the pieces together. This makes all the the difference between and OK and a perfect knot.
Finally back to the leader-make up itself. Like I said earlier I've been using the Ritz 60/20/20 formula again after trying all kinds of other formulas. I confess wholeheartedly that I am a bit of a freak when it comes to gear and the technical stuff. If you meet me somewhere in the near future I might all be very different but I'll let you in on my thougts about leaders at this very moment. Because all of this is very personal I would love to see your comments and ideas about the subject so don't be shy and leave a comment below this entry.
Ok, back to the Ritz again. What I am looking for is a leader that turns over nicely and which i can adapt easily to different circumstances. Like all of us I guess, but anyway. My standard leader is about 4 metres long, including the tippet. This means the butt/section is 2,40metres with 80centimetres off taper and 80cemtimetres of tippet. When making my leaders I only tie the butt and the taper. At the end of the taper i tie the smallest perfectionloop I can make (loop is about 1mm) and when fishing I choose the tippet somewhere between 80-120cm, depending on how well I want it all to straighten.
If I fish with very small flies and very fine tippet I add a 20cm piece of 0.16mm between the perfection loop and the tippet.
That's it. My bit about leaders. Oh, and for those who want to know. I use Maxima Chameleon for the leaders, because it is easy to straighten, holds knots well, and because it brown which I think is pretty funky.
For tippet I use G-line by Gamakatsu (the blue spools), which is very good and -being a typical Dutchman- cheap!