Top Tips On Tapered Leaders

Paul Procter's Top Tips About Tapered Leaders!

Including all the information you need about tapered leaders. River and lake recommended leader lengths.

Not so long ago, fly fishers’ used level lengths of monofilament as leaders, which were referred to as ‘casts’. These worked well enough when using three flies on short levels of mono, like a team of wets positioned some three feet apart, as the flies provided sufficient impetus to generate turn-over. However, when it came to delivering a single fly on leaders of more than 8ft there were definite problems, especially if the imitation in question was small and wispy.

Of course there were those who constructed rudimentary tapers by knotting together various thicknesses of mono that gradually reduced in diameter. These worked absolutely fine and still do today. These days however we have the convenience of knotless tapered leaders, which makes selecting and using tapers much more convenient.

Naturally there are countless leader lengths, tippet breaking strains and of course brands that need consideration and all of a sudden, selecting the correct taper begins to look complicated, especially to those who are new to fly fishing.

Have Confidence In Your Set Up

The Essential Fly tapered leader range possess a profile that is one continuous taper from the butt section to the tippet. This means they’re extremely reliable and stable in the air, resulting in pleasing turn over and the confidence that your leader will unroll every time.

As you can see below, The Essential Fly Tapered Leaders come in a variety of tippet breaking strains!

How Do They Work?

Many believe that tapered leaders actually concentrate energy from the fly line, which is ‘funneled’ down the leader. If this were true then the leader would actually speed up as the cast concludes. Yet, what actually happens is the leader dissipates energy evenly, to make it unroll evenly and in a controlled manner.

Therefore the leader actually begins to slow down in the final moments of the cast, allowing it turn over gently to land our fly with little fuss.

The Essential Fly leaders are 12ft in length and come in various tippet diameters. Where a longer leader is needed, it’s simply a matter of knotting on a level length of mono as an extended tippet. This is best done by loop-to-loop connection.

Or better still, using a tippet ring. This now acts as a permanent attachment to your tapered leader, which means you’re not ‘chewing into your tapered leader each time you change fly. Of course, after a few fly changes, it’s simply a matter snipping off the now reduced tippet section and replacing with a new, longer length. This way, your tapered leader stays intact for longer.

Choosing Leader Strength

Understandably, everyone is different in of terms the tippet strengths they use. As a rule, I prefer to fish as heavy, or as strong as possible as this way you can hurry fish to the net, which is vital when practicing catch and release. Here are a few guidelines regarding tippet diameter, or breaking strains for trout fishing.

Lakes, Hill Tarns and Stillwaters

For fishing on natural lakes and hill tarns where the trout aren’t huge a leader tippet concluding in 5.2lb (4X) is about correct, as you can add a further level tippet (as discussed above) of approx 4lb breaking strain. On reservoirs, or other stillwaters where large trout are in the offing then look to a taper leader with a 9.0lb (1X) tippet, so a 7lb length of mono can be added.

TEF tapered leaders display a chart on the package to give beginners a helping hand in selecting a leader in relation to fly size.


When it comes to river trouting a 5X tippet of 3.9lb is adequate, when a length of 3.5lb tippet can be added if required.

Of course these are merely suggestions and you can stray outside these guidelines for what you feel is more appropriate to your style of fishing. For example, if a large lure/streamer is being knotted on then perhaps 0X (10.6lb) taper would be a wise choice.

Attaching The Leader To Your Fly Line

Perhaps the best way to attach your leader to the fly line is by the loop-to-loop method as most fly lines come with a welded loop at the business end. One of the best ways to form a loop in the butt section of a tapered leader is the perfection loop:

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