Take Me to Your Two-Piece Leader

Pre-assembled leaders with loop connections are the bomb.

Pays to be quick to “reload” when bull reds or fall bonito are on a tear.

If you fish very long you’ll probably find that the way you do things evolves over time. You learn things and get better. A bout of fishing for little tunny several years ago quickly taught me to use my current favorite leader system, the two-piece leader.

Tunny, a.k.a. bonito, are fabulous flyrod fish, particularly in the fall when they are migrating. They immediately find and exploit any weakness in your tackle, be it reel, rod or leader. They reveal any flaws in your fishing technique. If you get into a bunch of them, you can expect several different things to break.

In this instance the fish kept breaking my leader. I would have to stop fishing and tie a new one. Tying quality knots when fish are breaking all around you is difficult at best.

Thinking about it one evening after a particularly harrowing day it came to me in a flash of insight: tie big-game leaders. Make leaders like the ones used for tarpon, only without the bite tippet. I tied several, putting the extras in a labeled Ziploc bag.

It worked great. If the leader broke it was either at the fly or where a wind knot had formed. There wasn’t much I could do about the latter, but in the other case all I had to do was tie on a new fly. Problem solved.

If the tippet got a wind knot and needed replacement, there were several spares already made up. Changing was as simple as unlooping the old one and looping on a new one. Not only was it was a tremendous time-saver, we caught more fish because of it. No hurried, badly tied, untested knots were used. All the tippets had been tied and tested in the comfort of a living room, far from the pressures and distractions of being surrounded by feeding fish.

Author bags up tippets with loops for rapidfire replacement. Butt section, with loops at either end, seldom needs changing.

I use this system for almost all my fly fishing now, even for bluegills.

The leader consists of just two parts, the butt and the tippet. The diameter of the butt needs to match the diameter of your fly line. For “light” fly lines, 5-weight or less, use 20- or 25-pound test nylon. For “medium” fly lines 6- through 8-weight, use 30-pound test. For heavier lines use 40-pound test.
To make the butt, take a “wingspan” (the distance between your outstretched hands) of monofilament and tie a small loop at both ends. I use a double surgeon’s loop, but the perfection loop may be even better. Loop one end of the butt section to the loop on the end of your fly line.

Make the butt longer or shorter according to the demands of the fish where you’re fishing. Well-educated fish demand a long leader. A wingspan-and-a-half may be better.

To make the tippet take a wingspan (adjust as needed) of fluorocarbon leader material, typically 12- to 20-pound test depending on species targeted. Tie a short (six inches or so) doubled line at one end, using a Bimini twist.

In that doubled line tie a double surgeon’s loop. Loop it to the butt section.

Tie a fly on at the other end and you’re ready for any non-toothy species the waters toss your way. Toothy fish require a bite tippet of some sort, a topic for another day.

Some object that the lack of stepped-down taper won’t allow the energy to travel smoothly down the leader to turn the fly to turn over. This is nonsense.

In the hands of a good caster, that fly reaches speeds of 50 or 60 miles an hour. The inertia in the weight of the hook on any saltwater fly will turn the leader over, and any weighted fly will certainly turn it over. Feathering the line with the line hand at the end of the cast will unroll that cast every time.

If you carry a couple of extra tippets in a labeled Ziploc bag you’ll never have to tie the knots while out on the water, a decided advantage when the fishing is hot and heavy.

Give this efficient leader system a try. All you give up is a leader full of knots and the chance of breaking off your trophy fish. FS