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The leader is the most often overlooked component of fishing

Bruce Ajari

One of the most overlooked portions of an angler’s equipment is the connection between you and the fish – the leader. Whether you baitfish, troll or flyfish, this portion of an angler’s line is extremely important.

Most anglers will use a leader of a lighter test to attach their hook to in any form of fishing. There are several reasons that most anglers take this approach.

First, many anglers feel that a lighter leader will be less visible to the fish. This is probably not the case. In my experience, fish can see line of any diameter.

What seems to matter is the amount of drag the line imparts on the offering, particularly when there is a current.

Second, if fishing the depths, a lighter line will sink quicker than a heavier one because of the narrower line diameter. Most trollers know this fact. The lighter the line the easier it is to get down.

Third, if an angler hooks something, a leader lighter than the rest of the line can save his or her main line. The line will typically break at the lighter test poundage.

For fly fishers, leaders are even more important, particularly if the angler is trying for a delicate presentation. Because the weight of the lines must deliver the fly to the target, they are tapered. This allows the line to straighten out properly. The leaders are also tapered from a larger diameter to a thin one over the length of the line.

The leader is comprised of a butt section, midsection or section that tapers, and a tippet section that the fly is tied onto.

There are three factors that influence how a leader will perform; length, diameter and stiffness of material. A fly fisher can build his own leader or buy a store-bought tapered leader. I build some leaders and also buy the pre-made ones depending on what type of fishing I am doing.

If you need a really long leader – 20 feet or longer – you will generally have to build this length yourself. Most pre-made leaders stop at about 15 feet.

Pre-made leaders are typically knotless, which can really have some advantages if you are fishing in dense weedbeds.

The ones that anglers make are put together with a series of blood knots. These knots can be collection points for weeds or algae.

We find this to really be the case in the fall when the weeds are dying off due to the colder water temperatures and shorter days. Using a knotless leader really helps in this situation.

We often make strong leaders for fishing lakes such as Pyramid Lake. These leaders are typically short – four to nine feet – depending on your preference.

For the very short versions, some anglers just use one section of line. We usually use some form of stiff abrasion resistant line, like Maxima. This really helps us throw the two large flies that we use.

Much of our fishing in the fall requires the use of heavier leader material. It seems lake fish are not too leader-shy due to their urge to feed for the coming winter or spawn.

In streams, much of the fishing for the large fish is coming via streamers at this time of year. Streamers are large flies that represent baitfish and also need a stout leader to cast.

One additional component that an angler will need with their leaders is a selection of tippet materials. Because the tippet connects the fly to the leader, any changing of flies shortens this section.

Most pre-made leaders will tell you on the package how much tippet section is on the leader. All you need to do is to have an extra spool of material in the proper diameter. This is usually denoted as 3x, 4x, 5x etc. Once the tippet section gets shorter than 20 inches, I will usually replace it with a new section. You can usually get by for some time without having to change to a fresh leader.

Leaders can also be constructed to give the angler an aid in presenting the fly. A good example of this is a lengthened tippet section, which will generally promote a longer drag free drift. This is because the additional tippet allows the line to pile up and these coils of line allow the fly to float a little longer before the line straightens out and creates drag on the fly.

The leader is an important and often overlooked component for the fisherman. If you are beginning angler, pay particular attention to this part of your tackle. It can really make the difference between success and failure.

Fishing report

The colder weather, rain and snow should spur the activity in local lakes, streams, and reservoirs.

Boca – (33,849 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair to good. Anglers fishing from shore are having good success. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Boaters are having fair success on Kokanee. Most are using a combination of flashers and a wedding ring or Kokanee Bug with a piece of white corn.Flyfishermen near the inlet should have fair to good action using a variety of nymphs, streamer, and emergers.

Donner – Fishing has been fair to good. Most anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had some success. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair to good success. Kokanee fishing has also been fair to good. Most are trolling Ted’s Bugs, Kokanee Bugs or wedding rings with white corn behind a flasher.

Martis Lake – (Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. Zero fish may bagged or possessed) Fishing is fair to good. Most use nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Damselfly imitations or the A.P. Small midge patterns have also been good at times. Streamers that imitate small fish, and woolly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quiqley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams, and Griffith’s gnat are good.

Truckee River – The release from the dam at Tahoe City has been cut to 201 cubic per second. Fishing has been fair to good. Bait, lures and flies have been successful in the river between Tahoe City and Truckee. In the wild trout section below Truckee, flyfishermen are using nymphs such as the caddis larva, prince, birds nest, hares ear or pheasant tail with good success. Streamers are always good during the fall now that the water has cooled off.

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