Saturday, 20 December 2008

Gone Fishing. See you in January.

Wishing you all; Tight Lines in 2009!

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Saturday, 13 December 2008

Hand Tied Leaders Simplified

About Hand Tied Leaders

Over the years I have been less and less satisfied with off-the-shelf tapered leaders. It is at the point where I almost never use them. Sure, they are usually great fresh from the package but invariably after a few fly changes and tippet additions, the wonderfully elegant cast of a new leader starts to degenerate into the normal, slightly messy, “getting the job done but it sure ain’t pretty” cast that is the staple of my salmon fishing.

The importance of a well designed leader to the dynamics of your cast and resulting fly presentation cannot be overstated. It is easy and convenient to buy a tapered leader of the desired length and weight for general fishing which is what most of us do. A few fly fishermen tie their own tapered leaders. And, it is not just about the pleasure of making your own, practicing a bit of old lore or even the practical application of hard earned knowledge. The truth is that you can dramatically affect the mechanics of your presentation and maximize your results by matching your leader to your rig, your desired presentation, your fly size and even whether it is windy or not.

What Exactly a Leader Does?
A leader transfers the energy of the cast. A tapered leader will continue rolling over as the fly line straightens out on the forward cast. In a perfect world the last bit of energy is used up as the leader straightens out and the fly will then drop to the water gently at the end of a perfectly straight fly line, leader, and tippet.

One thing that stops many of us from making our own is that we are a bit vague about what exactly a leader does besides putting a bit of distance between the fly and the very visible fly line. Another hurdle is that most leader formulas are complex, running to the “take 60% of the remaining 30%” variety.

A Simple Leader Formula
Here is a way to build leaders for salmon fishing to match the rod, reel, fly-line combination you are using rather than a general or all-purpose formula. Once you get the hang of it you can adjust things to suit the conditions where you are fishing.

The first time you make one, take the rod and line combo you are making the leader for and lay it on a table in front of you. Select the leader material for the butt section by matching as closely as you can the stiffness (most important) and (less important) the diameter of the end of the fly line you are attaching it to.

Step One
Using a Nail Knot attach the leader butt to the fly line. This section should be half the length of the rod or to the ferrule of a two piece.

Tie the knot and then spool the material to length rather than cutting it first.




This heavy section attaching to the fly line is called the Butt.

Step Two
At this point attach a piece of leader material about two pounds lighter than that used for the butt. This section should be half as long as your rod or the length of the top section of a two-piece.

Note: In some short cast, fast water, salmon fishing it is customary to just use a straight run of monofilament and not even bother with a tapered leader. If that is the case, it is still not a bad idea to step down at least once from the heavy 10 or 12 pound leader attached directly to the fly line to the 8 or 6 pound test you will be using. Do this at the point indicated above.

Use a blood knot for this attachment when tying the leader sitting comfortably at your workbench.


A Simple Knot
Hip-deep in a raging river or perched on a river-side rock; try this knot I figured out, while oddly enough, standing hip deep in a raging Newfoundland river and reluctant to risk life and limb by wading ashore just to add tippet material.

  • Loop the butt section around the piece to be added,


Tie a six-wrap cinch knot (four-wrap if heavier than 10 pounds) in this section - tighten slightly

Tie a six-wrap cinch knot in the piece you are adding so that the two knots are like links in a chain

Moisten and tighten firmly then clip the tags. The result is a strong, tidy connection that looks like a blood knot but is simple to tie.

Back to Building a Leader:Step Three
The third piece should be attached as above, and is 2 pounds lighter than the piece it attaches to. It should be the same length as the distance from the back of the reel post to the first guide on the rod. If this piece is too heavy for the flies you will be using add tippet material in the appropriate size.

Step Four-The Tippet
Tippet length should be from the stripping or first guide to the guide above the ferrule on a two piece or the next guide above the stripping guide on a three piece. If the third piece is the weight you want to fish with extend it to the same length as you would if adding the tippet.

When finished, the leader should be long enough that with a couple of inches of fly line run out through the top guide, the leader will run the length of the rod around the back of the reel post to allow you to hook your fly in either the stripping guide or the guide above it - a convenient way to rig when walking from pool to pool.

What I do
The most common weights I use are 12 pound, attached to the fly-line, a ten pound middle section and an eight pound third section with no tippet for salmon. For grilse it is the same but with a six pound tippet added to the shortened third section. For trout fishing the lighter fly line allows for a 10 pound to 8 pound to 6 pound taper with a 4 pound tippet. If you practice the simple knot described earlier you can easily tinker with the lengths of various sections while afield to make it easier to drive a big bomber into the wind or delicately present the tiniest of dry flies.

A Funny Thing about Fishing Hand Tied Leaders.

On my last trip to Newfoundland, Ian Gall who is a Master Guide, fine fly fisherman and superb raconteur gave me a hand-tied leader.

It tapered in nine feet through a beautiful series of blood knots from around 12 pound test to about 4 pound test. An additional 3 feet of tippet made for a 12 foot leader that cast so amazingly that the dry fly I was using would make one perfect circular ripple when it landed.

The first time I used it was on an evening’s still-water fishing. Trout were rising all around me but ignored everything I tried, both wet and dry.

I thought about that leader tucked in my vest pocket and figured that maybe crashing the fly into the rings of a rise was not subtle enough.

Trout this size didn’t get that way by being stupid. I finally bit the bullet and spent some precious evening fishing time tying on the new leader and tippet.

I was struck again by the craftsmanship of the fine, symmetrical blood knots so evenly spaced.

Tying on a #12 elk hair caddis and stripping about twenty feet of fly line I waited for a fish to show within reach, the line coiled in my hand and the fly flicking out in a slow false cast.

I could feel the difference in control and the slightly changed timing but the adjustment was automatic when a slow roll revealed a fish in range.

The caddis looped out and straightened about a foot above the rise form.

The green bodied fly landed within the rings, barely a ripple betraying its artificial origin.

The fly had hardly settled when the water erupted as a big Brook Trout swung around and Pow! He nailed one of the knots in my leader.

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Saturday, 6 December 2008

A Visit to the Henry’s Fork and the Snake River

Well I guess one has really arrived as a blogger when people start sending stuff to review.

Yesterday in the mail I received a DVD from a company called DryFly Media. The concept is simple and simply enjoyable. They send a videographer to some of the most famous and beautiful fly fishing rivers in the USA and record nothing but the river as a fisherman would see it if he were scouting for rising fish or just pausing on the bank to enjoy the view.

The sound track is the gurgles and wild sound of the environment. The video they sent me for review runs about 80 minutes. It is an absolute pleasure.

I watched it the first time with an eagle-eye for risers and now just let it play in the background for the sights and sounds of the fishiest places I’ve ever seen.

In this case it is the Henry’s Fork and the Snake River. Also available in the series are The Gallatin River in southwest Montana, The Madison, the Yellowstone and the Missouri.

I encourage you to visit the website as well as checking out their blog.

Oh yeah, if you like the idea and are thinking of buying one or two drop me a note before you order. They have offered a discount for readers of this blog.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

Steve Dobson’s Fisherman’s Blog Wins an Award

Here is something that has been on my to do list for quite a while and like all such things it has been waiting so long now that it is almost easier to let it slide than to act upon it. Nonetheless, I am a fisherman and will take the opportunity to brag since given the chance.

This blog was given an award a while ago by “Picture This”, a blog featuring the most amazingly beautiful photography. It is authored by the same fellow who writes about fishing in Fiji at “Xstreem Fishing Fiji”.
I just wanted to publicly say thanks for the award and the compliment of receiving it.

The author of these sites goes by the nom de plume Fish Whisperer.
Here is what has to say about himself:

“I am an avid angler. I would fish every day if I could, and I am lucky to have a partner who loves fishing also; although she usually catches bigger fish than me. I fish mainly tropical saltwater but when in Australia I fish fresh water as well. I am also a photographer.
I have been living in Fiji for over 9 years. During this time I have had to give up shooting film as the humidity and temperature do not agree with negatives and prints.

Since leaving film I have rediscovered my photography through the digital revolution. I now use a Canon 5D with a 24-105mm lens for all of my work. I take pictures of what moves me. I focus on images that I find unique in shape, pattern, color and texture. I look for faces that tell a story. I do not use long lenses for the sole reason it makes me have to engage my subject. Whether it is a person with whom I will have to communicate to get a good shot or an object that forces me to physically move towards it and out of my own comfort zone. I feel that this give my images a more real feel to them. I am constantly learning and exploring with my photography.”

Now that the snow is here along with the grey days of winter, a visit to Fiji via the web is even more enjoyable.

You can check out his writing and fantastic photography at:
Picture This and Xstreem Fishing Fiji

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