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Nymph Leaders
A Simplified Analysis
Gene Macri

There is no one nymph leader that handles every situation in fly fishing. Most fly anglers have the wrong nymph leader for the type of fishing they want to achieve. I have come to that conclusion after instructing and guiding for over 35 years. There is a lot of mumble jumbo about leaders. This started with the great fly angler George Harvey. George Harvey was a fantastic fly fisherman and a great guy but his basic theory on leaders is against the laws of physics and is wrong. Many fly angler still believe his theory and to this day tie up leaders to his specifications.


Massive Brook Trout taken on a nymph from

The type of leader you use for nymph fishing depends upon the type of fishing you are doing. It's that simple but you would never know it from the books, magazine articles, and millions of web pages produced on this subject. Here's some advice:

  1. For spring creek nymph fishing--keep as many knots out of your leaders as possible. The knots cause drag, catch on plants and debris and sometimes can spook the trout. Do not use braided leaders they throw water droplets everywhere and can spook trout you don't even know that they are there. Don't make your leader too long. It can cause as many problems as being too short. I like 9 to 10 foot leaders. Don't get too fancy with your leaders on these spring creeks. Most of the time you'll be fishing one fly and occassionally two at the most. Too much hardware and you'll spook the trout. I like a 7.6 foot leader tapered to 3x. I tie 10 inches of 4x to this and then add about 20 inches of tippet. This doesn't seem to spook the trout and gives me plenty of drift.
  2. For smaller freestone streams I use the same 7.6 leader tapered to 3x. I tie a 4x tippet of around 16 inches. I tie one dropper above the blood knot of around 5 inches. If I fish tandems I tie 12 inches of 4x leader material and then another 8 inches of 4x of the hook bend for the second fly.
  3. I use some standard wet fly and nymph leaders with knots for larger waters. These don't seem to bother the fish like they do in smaller waters and spring creeks.

A talk on leaders and a discussion about nymph fishing at

These are my standard nymph leaders. Of course, for specialized fishing I have more. But these three leader rigs I use for over 75% of my nymph fishing just by adjusting the length, and size of the tippet depending upon water depth, speed of the current, and size of the fly. By making it simple I can spend more time concentrating on my fly selection, fish behavior, and strategy rather than making excuses and wasting time with leaders. I suggest you try and see how it works for you.




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