Winter Dry Leaders

The right terminal connection for winter dry-fly fishing.

  • By: Chad Mason

Weeds are usually not a problem in winter, so I use knotted leaders for winter fishing. They turn over better than most packaged knotless leaders I’ve tried. Most often I use an 8-foot leader constructed with a relatively “steep” taper as follows:

33 inches of 0.022” Maxima (butt section)

22 inches of 0.017” Maxima

11 inches of 0.013” Maxima

8 inches of 1X Maxima

8 inches of 3X Maxima

8 inches of 3X Climax I tie the butt section to the fly line with a needle knot.

The transition from Maxima to Climax near the end is particularly important, acting as a hinge between stiff and supple materials. I put a loop in the end of the Climax.

Tippet is then affixed to the leader with an interlocking loop. In this manner, tippet can be removed without shortening the leader. A tippet of supple 6X monofilament is about right for dry flies in the size 18 to 20 range.

Fluorocarbon is great, too, for people who (unlike me) aren’t too cheap to buy it. Two feet of tippet brings my total leader length to 10 feet. The stiff part of this leader system turns over with alacrity, leaving only the short Climax section and the tippet to “puddle” on the cast. The “puddling” of these last 32 inches is advantageous, because it gives me several seconds of drag-free drift even in tricky currents. With an accurate cast, that’s usually enough time to get the job done without mends, reach casts, or other compensatory histrionics that might spook fish.