Matching leaders or butt section to lines?

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Along the same line as my earlier query on how to attach leaders to lines is another related question: how do you match the size of your leader or butt section to a particular line?

In the past, I simply nailknotted a chunk of 30# Maxima or other clear mono to the end of the line, tied a perfection loop about 4" to a foot down from the tip, trimmed the excess and called it good.

Trouble is on lighter trout lines, 30# Maxima is often stiffer than the fly line and so a hinge develops at the nailknot making casting a challenge at best and a disaster at worst, depending on the size and weight of the fly.

I was interested to read AK Best's method for matching leaders and lines. He starts with a leader (NOT a butt section) whose butt measures about 2/3 the diameter of the tip of the fly line. Thus a typical .023" leader butt would match up with a .035" line tip. He then holds a length of them side by side to see if the leader is stiffer than the line. If it is, he measures the fly line back to where the taper starts to increase in diameter and cuts at that point, usually a foot or two from the tip.

Having recently bought a particularly limber line, I tried this technique. But the leader butt was STILL too stiff, so I measured back down the leader until it was .021" and cut it there (about 2-1/2 feet.) The line tip and the leader were about the same stiffness at that point. I simply added more tippet on the skinny end of the leader to make up for the length I'd cut off on the butt end.

The resulting line/leader now turns over a LOT better than it did before I doctored it up but I'm still not sure it's opimal. Problem is, most leaders come with a .023 butt and the longer tippet doesn't always cast well with a heavier pattern like a weighted nymph.

Am I missing something more obvious? What works for you?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


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