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How to Choose the Right Fly Fishing Leader Weight

Tags: fly fishing leader weight fly fishing leader

Amongst the many questions, amateur anglers have to deal with, one of the tops is knowing the right fly fishing leader weight to use. Before getting into it, it's important to note that in fly fishing, balance is everything. Balance in your stance, balance in your gear to fish, and most importantly balance within your gear. It's entirely possible to get a complete fly fishing gear - one where all the components have been preselected for you, but most anglers prefer setting up themselves, which is where the problem of balance comes into question. 

Fly lines are typically designed with a specific fly fishing leader weights in mind. If you're new to fly fishing, weight here doesn't necessarily mean how much it weighs in pounds, but the unit measurement - like 5-weight. The more suited your fly line and your leader are, the more natural the whole thing looks when immersed in water. You don't want a line moving at a natural speed or wave pattern that forces even the most gullible of fishes to question its the reason for being. 


Larger vs. Smaller Fly Fishing Leader Weight 

Knowing the impact of a disproportionate leader and line in the water could serve as a control measure for you. A leader that's smaller than the line will have less impact when it hits the water while a leader that's heavier or larger in diameter will have a higher impact than you want. The perfect leader will be land softly on the water but also allow you to cast to far distances. If you find yourself unable to cast to your heart's content, you probably need to check your leader's weight. 

The X-System 

Fly fishing leader weight is measured in terms of Xs. So you might see a 8X or a 5X designation on a leader. What does it mean? Generally, weights range from 8X to 0X, with 8X being the lightest and 0X being the heaviest. You might come across slight variations of the weights, say 0.012X weights. If you studied your fly fishing handbook diligently, you would have come across this. What do all these ratings mean? The X designation indicates the breaking point at the smallest part of the leader. So not only will the wrong designation lead to poor casting, it'll also make pulling your catch nay impossible. 

Choosing your Fly Fishing Leader Weight 

Right now we know 2 things. First is that getting your weight wrong can severely limit your fly fishing performance. Next, we know that you could decide not to go the whole "I'll tie my own leader" route because tapered leaders are a thing. Yes, you can get chemically attached leaders, which are super cool because it takes the decision out of your hands - figuratively and literally speaking. Chemically tapered leaders are also smoother, i.e blend so well it's difficult for poorly tied knots to spook fishes. Chemically attached leaders are also the easiest way to lose your angling rep - if you're in the midst of many the peer pressure will be ridiculous. 

The size of your leader really should depend on the size of your fly, and thus the size of your target fish. Flies can be anything from size 2 to size 28, with 28 ironically being for the smallest fishes because fly sizes are in reverse order. 

To get the ideal fly fishing leader weight, the rule of thumb is to multiply or divide the fly rating by 3. If you already have a 5X leader, the highest weight you can go on your fly is size 15. Because of the reverse nature of the sizes, up to size 15 fly would mean anything from 28 to 15. 

Bottom Line 

Fly fishing should be simple. But the amount of thought that actually goes into preparation can often make it seem more cumbersome than the reality. The best perspective to have is to see your studies of leaders and other fly fishing gear as your basic education. Once you have these foundations down part, it'll become like muscle memory - no forethought needed. 

So if there's any consolation for the amount of time you have to spend learning basic fly fishing stuff, it's that it gets easier with time and it will be worth the trouble.


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