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How long is long?

September 13, 2012

Last column I mentioned I was experimenting with one of the ideas put forth by Rene Harrop in his book, “Learning from the Water.” This is a book to read and then reread. A number of Mr. Harrop’s observations will cause the reader to stop and think. One such instance is his chapter on leaders. I usually tie my leaders to be nine or 10 feet in length. Both Bonnie and Rene Harrop use leaders from 14 to 18 feet in length. He suggests that at first you try a leader 14 feet in length. He writes that, “most who can handle a 10-foot leader will experience little difficulty adapting to this longer length, assuming they are fishing the right taper.” Pay attention to his last four words. Ha, it is easy for a flyfisher as skillful as Rene Harrop to write those words. I imagined that if I were to attempt to use such a long leader it would probably wind up draped around my cowboy hat. Then again, perhaps it would not. There was only one way to find out.

In the book, Mr. Harrop gives us the various dimensions that would make a leader 14 feet long. I tied up a leader staying as close to his dimensions as possible. Lord, that leader was long. I went out to the lawn to cast my leader. It would be kind to say that the results were merely disastrous. At least I did not drape it around my Stetson. Discouraged, but not defeated, I sat down to think. Mr. Harrop prefers a four weight, medium fast graphite rod, nine feet in length. He casts a double taper plastic fly line. I had been using an eight-foot bamboo fly rod, with a five weight silk line. Hmmm, suppose I discarded his dimensions and used my successful 10-foot leader formula? Aha! Lengthen the butt section and tweak the mid section, but keep the ultra short fast step downs to the tippet section. My 14-foot leader dimensions are considerably different from Mr. Harrop’s. Once out on the lawn, I was delighted to discover that my leader was not difficult to cast and turned over perfectly. I was able to easily send the little orange practice fly 40, 50 or even 60 feet. Would the same results hold if my leaders were 15 or 16 feet long? You just know I have to find out the answer to that question.