Confused! How To Tie A Leader To Fly Line?


Tying a leader with a fly line is simple, yet an important task. Along with the simplicity, there are several ways you can choose from to tie a leader with a fly line. Despite the simplicity of the method, there are several things you need to know about before tying a leader with a fly line. There are also several ways you can make the process far more simple. All these processes can leave you wondering how to tie a leader to fly line. Luckily, during our research on fly fishing, we tried several methods to tie the leader with the fly line and the method that we will be showing you below was proven to be highly effective for fly fishing.

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What is a Leader?

How To Tie A Leader To Fly LineA leader is a fly fishing equipment which is attached to the end of the fly line. It is one of the major equipments in fly fishing and you have to spend your time to choose the best leader suitable for the whole set of fishing equipments. Generally, a leader weighs heavier and is around 7 to 9 feet long. However, the size matters depending on the size of flies you will be using.

A leader is used for creating a virtually transparent attachment of the fly line and the flies so that the fish can’t notice about the fisherman trying to catch them. It also holds the tippet where artificial flies are placed. While casting the fly, the tapering from the tippet to its ending point helps the leader lie on the water surface softly.

Usually, you can find leaders which are designed and tapered with mono-filament nylon. Due to the presence of this kind of tapering, the lower end of the leader where the tippet is attached has a smaller diameter while comparing the uppermost part of the leader at the butt end. This larger section is also considered as butt section and carries most weight of the leader. For a beginner in fly fishing, using a leader with around 20 pounds at the butt section and 4 pounds after tapering down to the tip which is around 8.5-9 feet long can be the top choice for learning.


How to Tie a Leader to Fly Line

Among several methods of tying a leader with a fly line, the use of nail knot has proven to be one of the most effective methods for fly fishing. It is also one of the simplest way to tie a leader to fly line. Generally, the nail knot is one of the major knots in fly fishing which is used to connect the leader with a fly line.

With the nail knot method, you will be able to keep the leader and fly line attached for a longer period of time. Using the nail knot method can be useful for transferring the produced energy from the fly line to the leader to cast the fly at a proper distance. The nail knot doesn’t possess any amount of water for generating spray while fly fishing. This knot can also resist the hanging of leader on the fly line, instead it attaches the leader with a larger force into the fly line.

After getting proper information regarding the nail knot and its importance in fly fishing, you can now get over to the different steps involved in tying a leader with fly line with the nail knot.



How to Use the Nail Knot Method

Step 1:

First, you need to place a nail or an empty tube (i.e. straw) next to the ending section of the fly line.

Step 2:

Then, you need to place the uppermost heavier end of the leader (i.e. butt section) just against the nail and the fly line. You need to place the end at a distance of around 10 to 12 inches so that you can tie the nail knot.

Step 3:

Now, you need to use your fingers to hold the fly line and the butt section of the leader along with the nail or tube.

Step 4:

What you have to do now is to wrap the butt section end at all places surrounding the fly line, the nail or tube and the leader.

Step 5:

You should prepare around 6 to 8 wraps which are close to each other with the butt section end about the length of the nail or tube existing from left to right in the fly line, nail or tube and the leader.

Step 6:

Now, you need to pull off the tag end with the help of the empty tube or through the space created by the nail.

Step 7:

With that being done, you can now remove the nail or tube from the working area.

Step 8:

Near to the completion of the nail knot, you can again pull off the tag end so that the coils can exist together in a comfortable way.

Step 9:

You should pull off the tag end along with the leader again to place the nail knot over the fly line.

Step 10:

You can now cut off the extra tag end to prevent any sort of difficulties while fly fishing.

Now that you have tied the leader to fly line, you can now connect other fly fishing equipments to get started with fly fishing.


Things You Can Do To Make The Nail Knot Better

  • You can make your own nail knot without using any nail or empty tube easily if you are experienced with tying knots. So practice more to be the perfectionist in this.
  • There are several nail knot equipments available in the market which you might want to use to tie the nail knots quickly.
  • A variation of nail knot exists, which is known as “Double-nail Knot“. While tying this knot, two nail knots are created at the end of the fly line and the butt section of the leader.
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However, there are some of the disadvantages of using the nail knot which is listed below:

  • If you have tied the nail knot, the connection might be broken or stop functioning well while you move the fly fishing line a lot to catch the fish.
  • It can be difficult for you to replace the fly leader when you have tied the nail knot. It can even be a lot more tougher if you stay in low light areas. You will have to go through a hard time every time while you are using a new leader in case you are a fly fishing enthusiast who goes for fly fishing a lot.

If you are looking for alternatives to the nail knot method, you might want to try out any of the following methods for tying a leader to fly line:

  • Braided Loops method
  • Welded Loops method
  • Line-to-Leader Links method


How to Buy the Appropriate Leader

There are several factors you need to look for to choose the best leader to use for fly fishing. Choosing the best leader depends upon different criteria such as the type of water, the size, and type of fish, etc. Here are some tips that can help you to choose an appropriate leader for fly fishing.

Length of Leader

While looking for the length of leader, you need to know about the type of water, the fly line you will be using and the type of fish you’d like to catch. Here are some tips on choosing the best length leaders for several situations:

  • If you are going to use a fly line meant for floating the flies, it is better to go for the leaders which around 7-12 feet in length.
  • If you are going to use a sinking fly line, it is good to prefer a leader which is around 3 to 5 feet long. Choosing the leader with this length can help the fly line in sinking the artificial flies properly and quickly. It will also allow the fly to stay under the surface of the water for a long time.
  • You can also use leaders of longer lengths when you will be fly fishing in clear water of a lower level of depth. Longer leaders would also be the top priority for water which is in rest or flow at a slower rate.
  • When the water is dark and can make it difficult for you to look the objects under the surface of the water, it is better to go for leaders of shorter lengths. Using shorter leaders in water which flow very fast can also turn out to be fruitful since the fish in this kind of water condition are always ready to grab the food organisms.
  • You need to remember that the length of a leader also depends upon the time period the fish spends analyzing the artificial flies to detect whether they are natural or not. The longer a fish keeps analyzing the fly, the more the length of a leader should be.
  • Buying a leader which is around 9 to 12 feet long can be useful for fishing spooky fish in clear and shallow water. Spooky fish usually tend to show their shyness towards fly fishing lines, which is why it is better to go for a longer leader to maintain a long distance between the fly line and the fish.
  • In case of a Trout, you can look for leaders of any length.
  • If you will be searching for bass or panfish, you might want to try out leaders of shorter length. These fish don’t tend to be shy to fly line and can be caught easily.

Size of Butt Section

Butt section of leaders is equally important while choosing the best leaders for fly fishing. If you want to have a proper transition and transfer of energy from the fly line to the leader, you need to look for the butt section of a proper size.

It is good to buy a leader which has the butt diameter of around 2/3 times the diameter of the tip of fly line. In case of trout, you can go for leaders having the butt diameter of around 0.019 inches to 0.023 inches. Getting leaders of abnormally sized butt sections (very small or very huge) can destroy your day while fly fishing. These leaders may not be able to cast the fly effectively.



With the completion of our guide on how to tie a leader to fly line, we believe you have now understood the theories behind the tying process and are capable to tie it with nail knot for fly fishing. While tying a leader to fly line, you also need to look for a suitable leader depending upon several factors.

If you still have any issues regarding the method to tie a leader to fly line or want our recommendation on the best leader meeting your requirements, you can write about the issue in the comments. We’d try to get back to you right away.


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Last update on 2019-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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