Fly Fishing Leaders – The Right Angled Leader

1 Mar

There are many people out there much smarter than me. Every time I look for the answer to one of fly fishing’s little challenges, I find there are hundreds of solutions, each effective in its own way.

I couldn’t figure out leaders and indicators. Turns out, I was using them wrong.

Despite numerous articles and videos, I still had an idea in my head. An incorrect idea that an indicator went in the middle, at the end of the butt or in the transition section of a leader. Which left the end of the leader and tippet to do the dangling. In order to reach my desired depth I was tying 12′-15′ long leaders and trying to rollcast those with indicators and nymphs. Not an easy task for me.

leader for shallow water nymphing.

The wrong way to set up a leader for deep water nymphing. Photo: Billy Williams.

This is, as stated above, incorrect. The indicator is supposed to be placed at the end of a conventional leader (what ever the length) then additional tippet material is added to 1.5 to 2 times the depth you want to drift.

An alternative to a standard leader is the right angle leader. A concept I heard about through the Orvis podcast and again in Tom Rosenbauer’s book The Orvis Guide to Prospecting for Trout.

Right Angled Nymphing Leader

The right angled leader. One alternative for nymphing deep water. Photo: Billy Williams

The idea is simple. Take a stiff short leader, like a 7.5 ft 2X, tie a loop in the end. Take whatever tippet  you are planning to tie to your flies and put a small loop in the end of that. Loop to loop connect the tippet to leader. Other variations include tying a stopper knot in the leader and attaching your tippet by means of a uni-knot to the leader.

Place your indicator either at the end of the leader loop or on the line just before the loop to loop connection.

I find this leader set up to be one of the best for fishing deep pools.  It definitely works best with at least one weighted fly to help it straighten out. If you are really fishing deep and having trouble with the casting you can use a step down to the dropper, 4X to 5X. This will make the tippet section stiffer and easier to cast.

I think it will be a lot easier to cut the whole works off to throw streamers in the next pool with this setup as well.


4 Responses to “Fly Fishing Leaders – The Right Angled Leader”

  1. Steve Culton March 2, 2013 at 4:00 PM #

    I’m particularly interested in this post because I have been setting up my nymph rigs the “wrong” way for years — and catching a bajillion trout in the bargain. In that same time, I have never constructed a leader like the one in the second picture. I say all this not to argue, but rather to agree with your point about there being many ways.

    So now I’m starting to wonder why my setup is working so well for me. Could it be it’s because I am using a tapered leader of 4x or 5x? Could it be it’s because I am using weight on the leader down near the flies? Is it because I am starting out with the metric of “place the indicator about 1.5 times the depth of the water away from the fly”? Is it that I am fishing in water that’s realistically not more that 6-8 feet deep (and that would be a few and far-between depth)? Is it that If I’m not reaching the bottom, I am adjusting the amount of weight and/or the length between the indicator and the fly (the indicator then becomes a depth regulator)? All of the above? I do not know. What I do know is that my flies are bouncing along the bottom, and I am catching fish.

    Many, many ways, and we should all fish the way we like best.

  2. hydroflynamic March 2, 2013 at 5:41 PM #

    Hey Steve, Thanks for the comment. There are a few reasons the right angled leader works for me. I tend to use weighted flies vs weighting the line, so I don’t have the extra weight to get the flies down. I tie my own leaders, and the indicators I have been using have a small hole for the line to pass through, which gets stuck on knots in the larger diameters of Maxima. Also in my previous nymphing setup, if I wanted to fish a deep seam that required roll casting, the long leaders I was using were fouling at times. So I tried the right angled leader, and it worked.
    I also have found the right angled leader to be more sensitive, I think due to lower line diameter after the indicator.
    I still throw an indicator on a regular leader setup in many situations. But for deep pools in treed streams, this works for me.
    Thanks again, Billy.

  3. Steve Culton March 3, 2013 at 10:29 AM #

    I love Maxima for my wet fly rigs and for steelheading.

    P.S. Those are some pretty spiffy sketches.


  1. blanking, fish coffee and worms. « the limp cobra - March 23, 2013

    […] Fly Fishing Leaders – The Right Angled Leader […]

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