Tips & Tactics # 8 – How to repair a tangled leader

I walked up to a fisher-person on the stream and said hello. I had noticed she was fishing with intensity but seemed to have a rather short leader and what looked like a large fly. I thought maybe she had a trick in her book that I didn’t know. As we passed the time of day, she pulled in her rig and I could see a massive tangle of leader and tippet. “Oops!”

So intent on repeated casting, she had not taken the time to check the fly or leader. We began to untangle it when I suggested we just cut it off.  “I don’t have another leader.”  I asked her how long since she had changed the leader and she said it was the original. She was a newbie.

Good for her! Out here giving this sport a try and learning on the fly, as they say.

I pulled out some 4x and 5x, tied a few blood knots making a decent 9 footer. She was back in business.

This was not the first time I have come across a fellow angler who either didn’t know to attend to the leader or one who was not aware that s/he was fishing with a mess on the end of the line. It is also quite common that new fly fishers don’t quite understand all this talk of tippet, leader, line and backing. I know it took me a while.

The leader/tippet is perhaps the most critical part of your tackle and it needs to be properly maintained and cared for. It is the most vulnerable part of the connection you hope to establish with a fish. Its length, strength, visibility and condition can be the difference between catching a fish and getting skunked, or worse, losing the one you have been waiting for.

So make sure the leader and tippet are in good shape. Check them often throughout your day on the water; have a few extra leaders on hand in the lengths and sizes you expect to need, as well as some tippet spools.

Check YouTube for how to tie a proper blood knot and practice it as often as you can – like by adding fresh tippet before your 9 footer becomes a 7.


Caught on the Main Stem Delaware in September with a good leader!

For more tips take a look at How to Fly Fish for Trout, the FIRST Book to Read.

Tom's Fishing Stories

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