Leader Strength for Saltwater Fly Fishing


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Leader Strength for Saltwater Fly Fishing

Into my inbox the other day came the following email-

“What is your choice of  pound test for your fly leader? Why have you selected that weight?”

My response was, “In saltwater I carry 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, and 60 pound fluorocarbon. I use all of them.”

Thinking about this, it’s an unsatisfying answer. Let’s look at Leader Strength for Saltwater Fly Fishing.

I use two piece big game leaders. On #6 and #7 weight rods my butt section is 30 pound nylon. That does not change. Only the tippets do. Since it’s winter as I write this, we’ll start there.

Keep in mind that any tippet you choose has to be a compromise between getting bites (thinner is better) and preventing breakoffs (thicker is better). Also keep in mind that what works for me may not work so well for you. Another thing to keep in mind is that windknot you just got cut the line strength 50 percent. Finally, not all fluorocarbon is created equal. My preference is Seaguar blue.

Historically, water in the local lagoons during winter was low and clear. Unless I was targeting big fish (over 20 pounds), the tippet would be a length of 12 pound fluorocarbon. There have been times when I couldn’t get a bite and thought I should lighten the tippet, but man I hate breakoffs.

If I were targeting big fish, black drum or redfish, I would up the tippet to 15 pound fluorocarbon. Again, I don’t want breakoffs.

If I travelled to where there were oysters or barnacles I would use 20 pound fluorocarbon.

Snook fishing in most places in Florida requires at least 20 pound fluorocarbon. It’s not thick enough and they often cut through it, but it’s hard to get a bite if you use anything heavier. They see well.

As the local water warms and more stuff starts growing in it, leader diameter increases to 15 or 20 pound fluoro, depending on fish size anticipated. For safety reasons, twenty pound fluoro is the heaviest tippet I will use (Imagine using 50 pound leader and the line gets wrapped around your finger with a big, hot tarpon on.). If the business end requires anything heavier I add a bite tippet with a Hufnagle or slim beauty knot.

As the water warms and snook and tarpon start showing up, 20 pound tippet or a 30 pound bite tippet (for baby tarpon) may be necessary.

For tripletail a 30 pound bite tippet is a good idea. For cobia 40 or 50 pound is better. For big tarpon 60 pound is better. They will go through it but it’s hard to get a bite with anything heavier.

Obviously wire is needed for some fish. That article can be seen here…

So Leader Strength for Saltwater Fly Fishing depends on a number of factors. If you want to maximize your chances with any opportunity that presents itself, you will carry everything you might need, which is why I answered my email the way I did.

Copyright © John A. Kumiski 2016. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute this work in any manner or medium without written permission from the author, John A. Kumiski, 284 Clearview Road, Chuluota, FL 32766.