Hand Tied and Custom Leaders

Hand Tied and Custom Leaders

November 20, 2011 7:39 pm Published by 2 Comments

Two Exceptional Leaders

Hand Tied and Custom Leaders

Since I have been guiding and working in fly shops I have noticed that many anglers (myself included) don’t put enough emphasis on leader selection.  Our leader is crucial in how our line casts, how our flies are presented in regards to turnover and accuracy and how our fly drifts on the water.  The overwhelming majority of anglers choose your standard tapered leader offered by companies such as Rio, Umpqua, Orvis and Dai-Riki.  While these leaders are adequate for a wide variety of fishing situations, there are other leaders available to anglers that would greatly improve their fishing success in specific situations.  Below I will discuss three of my favorite custom or hand tied leaders that I have found to improve my fishing.


George Harvey Dry Fly Leaders

The classic Harvey “Slack Line” leaders, when tied properly are meant to land on the water with a series of S curves in the lower 1/3 of the leader.  The slack created by the S curves allow your fly to drift naturally and soon as your fly and line hit the water.  This is crucial when fishing on technical waters such as spring creeks with tiny flies in gin clear slow moving water.  If you try to manipulate your fly once on the water you often create drag and most likely put down the fish.  If your fly lands on the water without any slack your fly will of course, immediately drag.  With a standard tapered leader it is much more difficult to get those s curves in your leader that are crucial to getting a drag free drift that will catch the toughest of trout.  I especially like to use this leader when I am fishing from a position directly up river from a feeding trout and I have to feed slack into my drift once my fly is on the water.  I fish this way quite a bit during the black caddis hatch on the Bighorn and on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks.  Since these leaders are not tied commercially that I know of I will include the formula here for a 5x leader:

Diameter followed by the Nylon Length

.017′ Maxima 10″                                              .008″ Supple Nylon 12″
.015″ Maxima 20″                                             .007″ Supple Nylon 18″
.013″ Maxima 20″                                             .005” Supple Nylon 22-30”
.009″ Maxima 12″

George Anderson Hand Tied Leaders

These hand tied knotted leaders are effective in the widest range of fishing conditions found in Montana.  The key to these knotted leaders is the fast taper from the butt section down to the tippet.  This quick taper from the stiff, heavy diameter butt section to the thin, supple tippet section creates exceptional turnover which results in better presentation of your fly and are simply more enjoyable to cast.  The tippet is also attached using the Stu Apte Improved Blood Knot which has 100% knot strength.  I really like these leaders in the 9 foot 2x or 3x for fishing large dry flies such as hoppers and stoneflies, in 7 ½ foot 3x for nymph fishing on freestone rivers because they turnover split shot and heavy nymphs with ease and the 12 foot 6x leaders for technical dry fly fishing on large western rivers.  The one application that I do not use these for is nymph fishing on the Bighorn.  The knots on the leader can collect floating grass too easily. These leaders are hand tied and sold in Livingston, Montana.  yellowstoneangler.com

Trouthunter Knotless Tapered Leaders

Produced in Japan by one of the top leader and tippet manufacturers, the Trouthunter leaders have become the top knotless leaders on the market.  The Trouthunter leaders are offered in an 8 foot, 10 foot and 14 foot lengths.  When Trouthunter Leaders and tippet hit the market the 14 foot leader designed by Rene Harrop is what caught my attention.   Rene published his fourteen foot leader formula in his second book Learning from The Water; his leader had to be hand tied until now. His leader design is ideal for technical, big river dry fly fishing with small dries on rivers such as the Henry’s Fork, Missouri River and Bighorn River.  The Trouthunter 10 foot leaders are ideal for nymph fishing the Bighorn and Missouri rivers, especially during high water.  When selecting a pre-packaged nymph leader I always select a leader one size heavier than the tippet I am fishing.  For instance I typically fish 4x to my first nymph on the Bighorn, therefore I would start with a 3x leader and add 4x tippet.  I feel this approach offers increased turnover of the nymph rig.  The Trouthunter products are available at trouthunt.com.


Categorised in:

This post was written by Bighornangler


  • Tom says:

    Gosh, there are so many variations to the George Harvey leaders, makes me wonder. I know they are only guide lines, but I guess everyone thinks they have the best formula.

    • mtangler says:

      I suppose they shouldn’t be called George Harvey leaders and this point. They should just be called slack line leaders, all having the same purpose in reducing surface drag.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.