One relatively recent development in the world of spey fishing is the broad use of polyleaders. Since polyleaders are a bit of a mystery to some folks, we asked Charles St. Pierre, Northwest spey fishing and equipment guru, to do a little writeup for us on what these things are all about.
Here’s what Charles has to say about polyleaders.
As with most recreational pursuits, fly fishing is a sport that is driven by passion, performance, and technology. Fly fishing and fly casting performance are often measured by different criteria depending on the fishing situation, but there’s always one thing in common – the essential connection of the fly line to the fly. Collectively, we refer to this connection as the “Leader”.
The term “Polyleader” was first coined by Airflo. Rio Products also produces a “Versi Leader” system that is similar to the Airflo product in construction and use. As their names imply, these are leader systems that vary in material composition, length (from 6 to 15 feet), and sink rates (from floating to 7 inches per second or “ips”). The construction of the polyleader involves using a level core of monofilament and then applying a supple tapered coating in a wide variety of densities for different presentations.
The purpose of tapering the leader is to store the energy from the fly line on the forward cast and then dissipate that energy smoothly as the cast unrolls and straightens before it settles on the water’s surface. The taper of the leader essentially becomes an extension of the forward taper of the fly line to create the most accurate and efficient presentation possible with the fly.
By contrast, when two lines of varying diameter and density are connected to each other and then cast, they often “hinge” and are unable to transfer and sustain energy to fully and accurately turn over the fly. Hinge is virtually non-existent with tapered leaders. This creates tighter loops that will defeat nearly any wind and can be used effectively with all but the largest flies. In the case of the sinking leaders, the taper also works to lessen drag – and that allows the leader and fly to sink deceptively fast within the water column. In many cases, polyleaders sink as fast or faster than level sinking line of equal or slightly greater mass and density.
Both Rio and Airflo manufacture these leaders with welded loops that attach via loop to loop connections to any fly line. The front end has an exposed core at the tip to attach varying lengths of tippet.
Smoother and more efficient turnover in most fishing conditions, greater accuracy, variety of use and application, and efficient sinking properties make us big fans of these leaders. They just might become the most versatile fishing tool in your bag too.