These are the 5 fly fishing leaders that most guides and hardcore anglers use when fly fishing Montana. There are often many variations of these, especially for nymphing, but these knots can be really efficient which is critical while fishing from a drift boat. Keeping the flies rigged and in the water equals more fish.
The 3 knots we use are as follows.;
Most guides use this for any line connection fresh or saltwater. This can be a more difficult knot to tie than some but can be very strong for anything from 7x to 100lb. When tied correctly, the elongated football shape of a properly cinched blood knot is slim and sleek. This small profile makes it easier to pass thru guides and the water.
The improved clinched Knot/ loop or Davy:
These knots are great for tying to hook-eyes or the dropper fly off a hook bend. The Davy provides a small profile when tying really small flies in the 18 -22 range.
no-slip mono loop:
The loop knot can help add action to flies like hoppers or streamers. We have found the hookup ratio decreases with the loop knot ,but on patterns such as Grass hoppers and bigger stoneflies it can make a big difference in action and trigger more bites.
Tailwater dry fly fishing leaders
Our go to Missouri River leader setup is much longer, so a good fast action fly rod and reel like Orvis H3 D or a Sage X make a big difference. From the fly, line start with a 12ft 4x leader and tie off 3 or 4 feet of 5x tippet to the fly. From this fly, tie another dry fly or emerger pattern on to 12 to 18 inches of 5 or 6x. Consider using an extra length of tippet not only for stealth, but for retying of multiple flies throughout the day.
Freestone River dry dropper rigs
This leader and tippet system is used on pretty much any freestone river. Begin with a 7.5 ft 2x or 3x leader and tie on a 3x or 4x piece of tippet to bring the leader to 9ft. From the top fly, tie 12-18 inches of 3x or 4x tippet do a dropper fly. On larger foam flies you can use fluorocarbon for the dropper, but everything else is should be monofilament.
Strike Indicator Nymph fishing rig
Begin with a 2 to 4 ft piece of 20lb mono tied to a small tippet ring or tiny swivel if you like. This section is where my airlock indicator is connected to the fly fishing leader. You can simply adjust it up and down according to water depth. I use the tippet ring to connect the rest of the rig because I like that I can tie light tippet on from the top to get the flies down very fast. Tying 4x to the butt section can be difficult and is not necessary with the tippet ring. Everything below the tippet ring is fluorocarbon to sink the fly quickly. From the tippet ring I use 4 to 6 foot of 3x.
High Water Nymphing
High water or runoff days we may want 7 to 9 foot to the non toxic split shot. During normal lower water you may want 5 to 7 foot to the weight. On the bottom knot I will crimp my split shot weight. The knot will stop it from sliding down. Below the split shot I will tie 12 inches of 3x or 4x depending on the size of the fly. From the hook bend of that fly tie on a piece of 4x, unless it is a very small fly ,like we may use on the Missouri.
Short leash nymph
The short leash rig I will usually put under the same leader I use for dry dropper rigs on a freestone river. Consider using this rig when you want 2 nymphs in shallow water flats. Begin with 7.5′ 2x or 3x monofilament leader, once again depending on size of the fly. From there tie on a piece of fluorocarbon 3x or 4x that’s 2 to 3′ long. Just above this, on the main part of the leader, put a small indicator or a pair of stick- on Palsa type indicators. Below the first fly, tie a second on a 12” piece of fluorocarbon 4x to a smaller fly. These rigs are especially effective later in the day when bugs are moving up in the water column.
Streamer fishing leaders
This is the simplest rig on the list. If you want to be simple, attach 4′ of 12 pound fluorocarbon to your fly line via a loop to loop connection, then tie your fly on using a loop knot. To aid in turn over do 2/3s of the leader in stiff 20lb fluorocarbon and the rest in 12 lb.
Supplies for building Leaders can be found at your local fly shop.
I always keep a spool of 20 pound mono in my boat bag.
Other tippets material are listed below.
12lb,2x,3x,4x,5x fluorocarbon tippet
2x,3x,4x,5x,6x in monofilament
1” air lock indicators.
Palsa stick-on indicators
Good pair of Nippers
To sum things up. Knots are the most important thing you can learn especially when when it comes to rigging for bigger game fish. You only need to know a few. A line to line connection, some sort of clinch style knot and a loop knot. Find 3 that you like and become proficient at tying them. In order to become proficient buy cheap spool of mono and practice with until you get them dialed in. You won’t be sorry.