Poly leaders- Explanation please

Bob Jones

Still truckless now farther away
I haven't been able to find descriptions or sizes and weights and usage information. Many places seem to have very limited stock or none at all. That's why I haven't asked them about the usage. Some of these places just don't inspire confidence that you'll get the right answer. I think that if they are weighted they must help the line lay out better. Do they work the same for single hand and double hand and float and sink? What are the standards for matching up to your set up. I thank you for any help you may have. Bob

Red Shed

"junkyard spey"
Poly leaders work pretty well. I stock the Airflo poly leaders in the salmon/steelhead (5', 10', 14') sizes as well as the Rio Spey Versi leaders (6', 10', 15'). The grain weights and sink rates can be found on page 2 of my Airflo spey lines page and on page 2 of my Rio spey lines page.

There aren't really any standards as to what works with what. Some people have better casting ability then others which screws the standards idea up alot. Some people cast these right off the line tip while others feel the line should be cut back some. Many of us use a 2' or 3' mono butt section with poly leaders which acts as a kind of compensator letting the poly leader sink and stay down a little better. When using a butt section as I've described most people find opening the casting loop lets things fly somewhat easier.

Poly leaders are used a lot with scandi heads and baby skagits. A search on Spey Pages using the terms "poly leaders" should show you more info then you may want to know.


Active Member
Mike's post not withstanding, these are all I ever use; and I've been a 'fluck chucker' for more years than many of this Fora were a 'gleam in their father's eye.' Just my .02 cents but it's a 'cross section/how fat are the things vis a vis sink rate. 'Fatter' has more cross section/more push by water current to push same up. Less, ya it will eventually happen, that's hydraulics .. nature works. But the Pollies get down faster, and stay there longer.


Bob Jones

Still truckless now farther away
Fred Has that little Rogue got places that require a spey rod? When my son was living down there we went down to fish for steelhead and just waded down the middle and cast to the sides. Just kidding, I've only fished it the one time, was going to go back and fish the holy water but he moved to Bend. I did like your river and it was good size for me to fish. We started up near the hatchery and worked our way down. This was a few yes ago and we had rain and snow most of the time. Back to my question Hve you used the floating poly leaders and if so do they perform well? i'm curious about the weight helpinig or hindering the tip lay out straight. thanks Bob
Think of poly leaders like this; A normal leader of similar length and taper. A 10 or 14ft leader is not going to turn over an intruder well, neither will a poly. Some poly leaders float some sink they still turn over flies like a good normal leader.

Now IMO if you are fishing a scandi / or longbelly and feel you need to get down, use a poly. If you are fishing a Skagit use a tip.

Bob Jones

Still truckless now farther away
Thanks Hat That sounds right I think and certainly worth trying. I have the ability to try that with my outfit now. Bob Thanks to Poppy, Joe and Fred also, At least I think I know more now and can start with some thing when i get to the water.
PH, I'll give you my unrequested opinion. They get down different due to the difference in cross section exposed to the current and their mass in respect to cross section. People need to understand poly leaders don't carry much mass and thus are subject great effect from the resistance of the fly in the currents. Think of it this way, Poly leader vs full sink intermediate, My poly will get down much faster and deeper to start, then the effects of the current take effect (drag) as the fly swings, at some point the fly starts to rise towards the surface. If the current speed is fast enough the fly will skate. FSI, will sink slower, attain its depth and swing, and swing, and swing. On the hang down it will take a much longer time to bring the fly to the surface ( it won't wait that long).

I have tried these two systems one pass after another in multiple runs (such as Chapel) and feel the both have there strengths, you just fish them differently. Same goes for Scandi, Skagit.....you adapt your casting and presentation to the conditions and the equipment you are using at that time. If you change equipment consistency becomes more difficult.

It's fun to play around but find something that works and fine tune, tune, tune and continue to tune.
Since there is not so much here to confuse anyone, I'll add my .02 worth. Floating hat is correct in that (most) poly leaders, being lighter weight than a full fledged sink tip, cast nice, get down good, but lack the mass to turn over big stuff. Case in point: I have a Rio 15 ft type 8 sink poly leader that weighs 58 grains. I also have a Rio 15 ft type 8 sink tip that weighs 150 grains. The 150 grain tip is Tungstin coating built on a 35 lb mono core, so technically you could call it a poly leader. Both being type 8's, they sink at the same rate. Both being 15 ft long they will stay down throughout the swing pretty much the same. The 150 grain tip will turn over the average intruder type fly. The 58 grain tip, no way. However, and this is important, the 150 grain tip will not turn over even a small fly if the fly line it is attached to tapers down to less than .070 diameter at the tip! In fact it will cast like sh!t! It will not even turn itself over! Well, if you put a lot of power into a very short cast it will. But it ain't pretty.

Most poly's come in "trout" and "salmon" sizes, which have breaking strengths of something in the neighborhood of 10lb and 20lb. This relates to the mono core they are built on. Some can also be had in varying line wt designations, such as that 58 grain tip, which is for a 7 wt. (I think) And a lot of the lighter ones will cast reasonably well looped directly to the tip of a fly line. Like someone said, find what works for you and then fine tune, fine tune, and continue to fine tune.
If you're using a skagit head and want to get down and stay down with a big fly, use some t-14. Different lenghts of t-14 is all you need to cover most winter conditions. Remember, use a short leader/tippet, to keep the fly down with the sink tip. In my opinion, polys are the wrong tool for the job, in this situation.


Bob Jones

Still truckless now farther away
Hey guys this is a lot of help. all I have to do is decide how to use it for my set ups. Now has anyone got anything to say about the floating poly leaders? are they worth using at all? thanks to all of you that answered. Bob


Active Member
I guess I'm really confused now. If sink tips are primarily used for winter steelheading, and poly leaders don't turn over big flies and swing too fast up through the water column, what application do they serve?