The Old Leader

How does one know when a leader needs to be changed. In the lion pack, it’s when the old boy can no longer defend himself. In humans it’s usually when the company is failing or the party in power changes. But in fly fishing, it’s when the mono looses it elasticity. Mono has a bit of elasticity—the anount depends upon the stiffness of the material. Stiffer mono has less elasticity than very soft monos.

To begin the angling day, most fly fishers straighten the leader. Being a plastic, the mono “remembers” that it was wound on the reel, and so remains coiled when it’s pulled off the reel. Straighten the leader by stretching it and holding it in a stretched position for several seconds so that the plastic “remembers” that it’s supposed to be straight. If it won’t straighten by stretching, it has lost its elasticity and needs to be replaced.


  1. Scott G. says:

    I tend to hold both ends of the tippet and give it a gentle snap. I find that old, brittle tippet will snap when I do this and new tippet will have a stretchy feeling. Do you think this damages the tippet?

    A month or so ago I put a brand new, name brand leader (that was well within the expiration date on the package) on. Every time I would get a take the fish would disappear with my fly. It took my about half a day of this frustration to figure out that the new leader was brittle. After changing it, no problems.

  2. Gary Borger says:

    Hi Scott,Thanks for your comment. A simple snap on fresh material shouldn’t hurt it, provided your snap is less than the braking strength of the tippet–which I assume you’ve already figured out. I just stretch it and run my fingers along it to feel for nicks or abrasions. And yes, one can get new, brittle leaders or tippet materials from time to time; that’s another reason to stretch ’em out well before fishing.