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Casting long leaders

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Mangrove Cuckoo
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Casting long leaders

#1

Post by Mangrove Cuckoo »

The use of long leaders is popping up all over the fishing situations I sometimes participate in.

Out front, tarpon anglers have been calling them essential for many years now. Here we are talking 16 to 20 feet of leader that is being cast from heavier tackle... like 10 to 12 wt setups.

Now, with historically low water in the creeks where I travel to trout fish, again the necessity for similar length leaders is being touted. It seems the creeks are so low and slow that wading, being seen, or even plopping a weighted nymph or bobber will spook the trout.

For some reason I imagine that casting a small dry fly on such a leader is probably easier to turn over than a tarpon fly. The latter I find pretty hard to do.

So... here is my question... what are the major parameters for turning over such long leaders? Is it leader construction or casting technique, a combination of the two, or what?

BTW... I am not really interested in the long leader / heavily weighted nymph trout techniques that have become so popular of late. I don't think the minimal length of "flyline" outside the tip of the rod is similar to casts that have a large percentage of flyline involved. But maybe I'm wrong about that too?

Thanks!
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Re: Casting long leaders

#2

Post by Paul Arden »

Hi Gary,

What I suggest to those learning to cast long leaders with a heavy single fly, is to practise just casting the leader and fly, initially with no flyline outside the rod tip. Once this is learned, flyline can be used as well, gradually increasing lengths to full distance.

Leader only for me is a very wristy only action. And I often use Torque Twist.

To ensure turnover I would use extra line speed and check the shoot.

Leader configuration can help too. Particularly I’m thinking a twisted leader.

My issue about using a long leader for shots is starting the cast. Fly in hand becomes very difficult to get going. Fly on the water, as in Snakehead, has its problems too.

I suspect one of the reasons anglers might be preferring a longer leader is if the flyline is an overweight brick on a string and landing with a crash! Certainly I’ve been hearing from anglers wanting lighter lines rod redfish because 8s are “too heavy” and spooking fish. But their 8s are 9 or even 10s… and often bricks.

Cheers, Paul
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Willy Franzen
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Re: Casting long leaders

#3

Post by Willy Franzen »

Paul Arden wrote: Thu Nov 23, 2023 3:23 pm Hi Gary,

What I suggest to those learning to cast long leaders with a heavy single fly, is to practise just casting the leader and fly, initially with no flyline outside the rod tip. Once this is learned, flyline can be used as well, gradually increasing lengths to full distance.

Leader only for me is a very wristy only action. And I often use Torque Twist.

To ensure turnover I would use extra line speed and check the shoot.

Leader configuration can help too. Particularly I’m thinking a twisted leader.

My issue about using a long leader for shots is starting the cast. Fly in hand becomes very difficult to get going. Fly on the water, as in Snakehead, has its problems too.

I suspect one of the reasons anglers might be preferring a longer leader is if the flyline is an overweight brick on a string and landing with a crash! Certainly I’ve been hearing from anglers wanting lighter lines rod redfish because 8s are “too heavy” and spooking fish. But their 8s are 9 or even 10s… and often bricks.

Cheers, Paul
Paul, can you elaborate on why a twisted leader will help with this? I've never fished one. I spend a lot of time fishing for bonefish (and whatever else) in Aruba. The fish get a lot of pressure now, so I've generally moved to 13-15 foot leaders. The extra length does seem to make a difference-but I still need to lead the fish 10-20 feet to avoid locking their jaws (it takes a lot to actually spook them, but you can turn them off the feed quite easily). The problem with leading the fish this much is that they often change directions, and the bottom is rubble, so letting a fly sit on the bottom is troublesome too--it gets stuck. A more delicate presentation with a longer leader, should allow me to lead the fish a bit less, which would help eliminate those problems.

The flies range between weightless and quite heavy depending on the depth I'm fishing. And the wind is almost always blowing hard from behind--though it can be more of a cross wind if the fish is swimming parallel to the shore. Sometimes the casts are just the leader, and sometimes it's a 70-80+ foot cast.

I think my leader constructions have been ok, but I'm sure I can do better. I'm wading, so generally holding the fly with a bunch of line stripped out and coiled on a Flexistripper. I've mostly been fishing an 8 weight, and I've dabbled with a Cortland clear floating line, but this year I'm bringing a 7 weight and looking to try the new Rio clear floater that is apparently coming out imminently along with the new SA Bonefish Plus in a 6 and 7 to see which works better (it's a half size heavy). The clear lines are one way to get to a shorter leader, but so far I haven't been happy with the feel of the lines or my inability to track the fly.

I'm doing lots of dabbling trying to figure out how to deliver flies more quietly to these fish with tail winds that usually range between 20 and 30 MPH. What do I need to think about for an optimum leader construction given the situation described? It seems like a twisted leader might help, and there are probably some other tweaks that will help me get the most of my shots at bones that usually tend to be pretty big.
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Re: Casting long leaders

#4

Post by Paul Arden »

Hi Willy,

So I think it helps for a number of reasons. The twisted leaders have increased weight (normally) and yet remain supple enough to roll over nicely. If I make a twisted leader out of 40lb mono, I have four strands, two strands, single strand. 160lbs, 80, 40. If you made the twisted section 8’ for example, I’m sure you’d still have enough energy to turn over another 8’+ of leader/tippet. You could go 40/30/20lbs for example.

You’d need to scale that down no doubt for what you are doing.

Anyway with the twisted leader you have a tapered leader with more weight and it’s flexible (with very little memory). Only issues are despite being clear it’s not as stealthy as single strand mono and you still need another 8’+ to be stealthy. But because of the increased weight you should have no problems rolling this out.

Another issue is stretch. I’m pretty sure I was pinging fish because of it and so I’ve gone back to currently not using it.

However they’re easy to make. Takes about 5 mins or so. I would certainly recommend testing one. It takes a few goes to get the proportions right for your needs.

I tie one mid way into this video:




There are other options I use, in particular Graeme’s hollow braid leaders steeped in varnish and linseed oil. I can’t wait to get in my yacht and go SW fly fishing because despite being opaque I’m sure braid will be an answer to fishing reefs and structure.

Cheers, Paul
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Willy Franzen
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Re: Casting long leaders

#5

Post by Willy Franzen »

Paul Arden wrote: Sun Nov 26, 2023 10:45 am Hi Willy,

So I think it helps for a number of reasons. The twisted leaders have increased weight (normally) and yet remain supple enough to roll over nicely. If I make a twisted leader out of 40lb mono, I have four strands, two strands, single strand. 160lbs, 80, 40. If you made the twisted section 8’ for example, I’m sure you’d still have enough energy to turn over another 8’+ of leader/tippet. You could go 40/30/20lbs for example.

You’d need to scale that down no doubt for what you are doing.

Anyway with the twisted leader you have a tapered leader with more weight and it’s flexible (with very little memory). Only issues are despite being clear it’s not as stealthy as single strand mono and you still need another 8’+ to be stealthy. But because of the increased weight you should have no problems rolling this out.

Another issue is stretch. I’m pretty sure I was pinging fish because of it and so I’ve gone back to currently not using it.

However they’re easy to make. Takes about 5 mins or so. I would certainly recommend testing one. It takes a few goes to get the proportions right for your needs.

I tie one mid way into this video:




There are other options I use, in particular Graeme’s hollow braid leaders steeped in varnish and linseed oil. I can’t wait to get in my yacht and go SW fly fishing because despite being opaque I’m sure braid will be an answer to fishing reefs and structure.

Cheers, Paul
I tied up a couple just to try it, and I think it went pretty well. The 4>2>1 ratio seems extreme compared to how most people build leaders, but just hand casting the ones I made and comparing them to the leaders I used last year showed me the potential. Figuring out the ratios will take a bit of work because that first section with four strands alway seems to end up shorter than I think it will. I'll also have to figure out how heavy I want to go with material. 20-25 lb seems like it might be the best choice to go to a tippet ring/swivel and then add a bunch of tippet. Or I could got a bit lighter and just keep the last section with a single strand extra long.

How do you know if you're twisting the leader too tight/not tight enough? And what are the drawbacks of each? How do you manipulate the leader to make sure everything is as it should be? Just pull it all tight?

There's so much to like here. Better turnover. Easier to get the leader in and out of the tip top (which becomes necessary when landing fish on a long leader). And even the stretch may help. I've had some very large bones blow up blood knots on the take--usually they are going the opposite direction and catch me mid strip. Their mouths are soft, so I'm not sure the stretch will be a problem in terms of setting the hook, but we will have to see.

Will report back in a month or so!
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Re: Casting long leaders

#6

Post by Paul Arden »

How do you know if you're twisting the leader too tight/not tight enough? And what are the drawbacks of each? How do you manipulate the leader to make sure everything is as it should be? Just pull it all tight?
The two strand part is easy. As much as possible without it twisting the whole leader! Furling makes much tighter twists and that rolls out just fine.

The four strands is more complicated. To make this longer I insert nearer the J knot. Too close however and it can be difficult to “set” everything nicely. Too little and the resulting four strand section is very short. To set it nicely, I alternately push the inserted line away from the tippet end, and work the loop with my fingers to assist it back down the leader. I take my time with this activity. Especially with a long doubled section. Not only are we pushing strands up, but also feeding strands around the loop and back down.

This last bit is where the challenge is. So I work up from the end of the four sections, and expand the loop from inside by spreading my fingers, trying to work strands back down again… and repeat.

If it’s too loose at the four strands it can slip while playing fish. So as tight as possible without deforming things.

If that doesn’t make sense I’ll add some photos!!

Cheers, Paul
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Re: Casting long leaders

#7

Post by easterncaster »

Great stuff there Paul - Thanks!
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Re: Casting long leaders

#8

Post by Willy Franzen »

Paul Arden wrote: Wed Nov 29, 2023 5:51 am
How do you know if you're twisting the leader too tight/not tight enough? And what are the drawbacks of each? How do you manipulate the leader to make sure everything is as it should be? Just pull it all tight?
The two strand part is easy. As much as possible without it twisting the whole leader! Furling makes much tighter twists and that rolls out just fine.

The four strands is more complicated. To make this longer I insert nearer the J knot. Too close however and it can be difficult to “set” everything nicely. Too little and the resulting four strand section is very short. To set it nicely, I alternately push the inserted line away from the tippet end, and work the loop with my fingers to assist it back down the leader. I take my time with this activity. Especially with a long doubled section. Not only are we pushing strands up, but also feeding strands around the loop and back down.

This last bit is where the challenge is. So I work up from the end of the four sections, and expand the loop from inside by spreading my fingers, trying to work strands back down again… and repeat.

If it’s too loose at the four strands it can slip while playing fish. So as tight as possible without deforming things.

If that doesn’t make sense I’ll add some photos!!

Cheers, Paul
Pictures would be very helpful. Do you have a length ratio preferred for each section? I'm sure you can vary it just like any other leader, but I'm looking for a general direction in terms of how long my 4 and 2 strand sections should be. I think the single strand section is a bit more dependent on whether it will be my tippet or if there will be more sections connected to it, but as it gets longer, I'd imagine you also want the 2 and 4 strand sections to be longer as well.
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Re: Casting long leaders

#9

Post by Paul Arden »

I do four full arm stretches, so 24’, and then one more of 4’. I double the line at 2 arm stretches so 12’ and start twisting. The result is double twists to a J knot with 4 feet of single length. If you want a longer tippet then leave more than 4’ initially.

For the four twists I insert approx 3/4 down the doubled section ie close to the J knot and work it back. It goes a long way back!

I then cut back the single strand to length that I want/ add wire etc. I’ll take some photos. :laugh:

Cheers, Paul
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Willy Franzen
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Re: Casting long leaders

#10

Post by Willy Franzen »

Paul Arden wrote: Fri Dec 01, 2023 4:20 am I’ll take some photos. :laugh:
Bumping for photos!
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