Follow my leader
Jon Beer offers a step-by-step guide to furling leaders. Knowledge of Meccano may help
A guide to furling leaders with Meccano by Jon Beer
IKNOW WHEN and where it started. It was a day of sunshine and high clouds on the eastern slope of the Lake District above Haweswater. Higher still, under the crags of Harter Fell, is a small tarn. And between the tarn and the lake a tiny stream slips down the rocks of the fell, little more than a silver smear where the mountain wiped its nose on a sleeve. But in places the trickle finds a cleft in the rocks where it gathers as a small pool. And in each of these there lives a trout. Which explains why I was standing in the sun, casting a fly over something the size of a hip-bath. I was standing in a cleft below the pool to cast. With the water almost at eye-level a few feet away, I could see everything in that little pool. I could see the little dry-fly drifting on the slight current. I could see the fly’s shadow on the sunlit bedrock beneath. And, between that shadow and me, I could see an alarming pattern of bright spots drifting across the bottom of the pool. My tapered leader had gone all curly: too long on the reel, perhaps, or fresh out of the packet. Either way, at every point where the coils cut the surface, a meniscus was focusing the sunlight into a sparkling scintilla: from below, my curly leader must have been festooned with lights like a Christmas tree. Which makes you think. There’s no point using a transparent leader if you’re going to hang lights on it. So I started looking for something a little limper. Which was when a kind Frenchman gave me a furled leader. He had made it himself and wanted me to try it. It was dark grey-green and tapered down from the thickness of a fly-line. I thanked him profusely and slipped it into my fishing bag. Where, of course, it would stay. Did he think I was mad? Experts in the fhb; ng magazines were telling me I should be using leaders of 14, 16 - sometimes 20 - feet. Presumably to lessen the chance of spooking fish with a fly line. And here was this French bloke suggesting I replace my transparent leader with something as inconspicuous as a 6 ft bootlace with just a yard or two of tippet to the fly. Crazy . So I tried it. Eventually. It had been rolled up in my bag for a year when I finally fished it out, but the coils unravelled without a trace of memory. Now this was the sort of limp I’d been looking for. A loop in the thick end linked it to the braid loop on my line: I tied a length of tippet to the tiny ring at the thin end. I loved that: I could chuck away all those spools I carried to make up a tapered leader and I could change the tippet as often as I liked without shortening the thing. This furled leader cast beautifully and sat in the surface. And here’s another thing: I sometimes use a silk line, which I grease to float. I could do the same to this furled leader – or I could treat it to sink. But there’s no pretending it’s invisible. I can see it, well enough, lying in the surface. And so, presumably, can the trout. But happily they seem to ignore it. If you can do the same you may learn to love fishing with a furled leader. I do. Furled leaders are something of a cottage industry. You’ll find them on the internet. And in some shops. Or, in the absence of a kind Frenchman, you can make them yourself. It’s not hard. I’ve been making them for myself and friends for years. Here’s how it’s done.
“Coils unravelled without a trace of memory. This was the sort of limp I’d been looking for”
The rock pool above Haweswater where Jon’s tapered mono leader shone like Christmas lights.
Neat Shorb loops are formed at the leader’s butt and tip (see page 45).
JON BEER is the president of the Wild Trout Trust. He fishes all over the world and is the author of three books: Gone Fishing, The Trout and I, and Not all Beer and Bezencenet.