Another View on DIY Leaders

Jo has made several posts on his personal leader setup. I really like the customization he has used to create a leader perfect for the techniques he uses. So I thought I would add another word on making your own leaders, but with more emphasis on how you can do it to keep costs low and still catch fish!

I do most of my fishing on your average, medium sized, stocked rivers. For these rivers I primarily use a 9 foot leader going down to 5x or occasionally 6x. But before I continue, lets just get one thing straight… leaders these days are a RIPOFF! I mean, you can easily spend $4 or $5 for a single 9 ft. 5x. leader these days. Which is why I make my own for way less…

To starts, go to your local Dicks Sporting Goods or Walmart (or probably many other similar stores) and get a small spool of South Bend line. They cost $1 each for 100 yards, and come in almost 4, 6, 8, and 10 pound line. Then, while you’re there, get a cheap spool of 15 or 20 pound line (or both). They sell them for $2-3 these days.

Basically, by investing about $7 in a few spools of line, you can tie hundreds of leaders fit for whatever situation you need. Here are a few formulas I use for my standard leaders…

  • A 7.5 foot 5x leader is standard for most of the small streams I hit. I make them from…
    • 3 feet of 15 lb. line > 2 feet of 10 lb. line > 1 foot of 6 lb. line > 1.5 feet of 4 lb. line
    • Or… 4 feet of 15 lb. line > 2 feet of 8 lb. line > 2.5 feet of 4 lb. line
  • An 8 foot 3x leader is my go-to for throwing streamers…
    • 3 feet of 20 lb. line > 2 feet of 15 lb. line > 2 feet of 10 lb. line > 1 foot of 6 lb. line
  • A 9 foot 6x leader is a standard nymphing leader for most (non-Swift) rivers…
    • 2 feet of 15 lb. line > 2 feet of 10 lb. line > 2 feet of 6 lb. line > 1 foot of 4 lb. line > 2 feet of 6x tippet
  • And I don’t fiwsh the Swift often, but when I used to, I used…
    • 3 feet of 15 lb. line > 3 feet 10 lb. line > 2 feet 8 lb. line > 2 feet 6 lb. line > 1 foot 4 lb. line > 2 feet of 7x tippet
A few things to note…
  • These leaders aren’t exact… leaders ending in 4 lb. line aren’t actually quite the same as leaders ending in 5x tippet. Same with 6 lb. line and 3x tippet. There are slight differences in the pound line, but I don’t really care, because they still work for me.
  • Every “>” represents a blood knot. If you don’t know how to tie one, check out the video below.
  • These can be modified in any way – the ones I listed are what works for me. 
This video shows how to tie a blood knot, which is the only knot you need for tying leaders.
So that’s how I get my leaders, and they work for me in almost every situation. Go buy yourself some line spools, master the blood knot, and then kick back during the next sucky Red Sox game and whip out a few dozen leaders. I store mine in a leader wallet, but I don’t see why you couldn’t just put them in small ziplock bags.
Disclaimer: I did not come up with the idea of using these cheap South Bend Spools for tying leaders at the smallest cost. Thanks to a guy named Tom (maybe you’re reading this?) I met on the Deerfield for teaching me this tip.
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