Nick Hart offers advice on how to solve the frustrating problem of a leader that refuses to sink!
We have all experienced those frustrating occasions when a carefully presented dry fly has been refused. But Why? Was it the fly, did we disturb the fish or maybe it’s just not feeding? All plausible excuses that we can take comfort in; until the fish in question pops up to nail another natural off the surface!
Choice of artificial pattern is of course paramount to success, but if you are sure that the colour, size and overall silhouette is right and yet the fly is still refused the problem could well be your leader. When fishing with subsurface techniques only the diameter and variety of leader is of importance, which generally leads us to one of the abundant varieties of fluorocarbon on the market. Fluorocarbon sinks naturally and does not need treating with a putty or liquid degreaser, but it is also generally too dense for Dry Flies.
When fishing on or in the surface film with Dry Flies I use a supple Co Polymer such as Rio Powerflex, preferably in a knotless tapered format with a sacrificial length of tippet spliced in to prolong its life. This rig provides superb turnover, ensuring the fly lands as far from the fly line as possible but may well ride high on the surface, especially when fishing in calm or flat (soft) water conditions. If this is the case then even the most carefully presented fly is quite likely to be refused. Imagine a nice juicy steak with a length of rope hanging out of it; would you eat it?! Fish may not be intelligent but they are highly instinctive and quickly able to establish if their next meal is all that it seems.
The root cause of a floating leader is the grease that we transfer from our hands, hair and clothing which if left untreated will gradually build up on the leader. To combat the problem we must apply an agent to degrease the leader in the form of a putty such as Orvis Mud or Dick Walkers Leda Sink. I have tried both of these products at one time or another and found them to be very reliable; but only when wet! Many anglers use Leader Sink Putty when it is dry and this will do nothing more than cake the leader in a highly visible sludge which will definitely not sink.
Instead, open up the pot and give it a good dip in the margins of your chosen venue, making sure you work the water into the mixture. Now rub your first finger into the liquefied concoction, then between your thumb and finger, prior to application along the entire length of the leader. Work on small sections at a time and apply liberally. Putty style sinkants have the ability to reduce leader flash which is very welcome and by continually reapplying the degreasing agent the leader will begin to sink the moment it touches down.
Liquid Leader Degreasers such as Loon Henrys Sinket will further assist the process but will not reduce the flash which so often spooks fish. Use Liquid sinkants in conjunction with (and even mix into) a putty sinkant for improved results, but apply sparingly. When finished flick the leader onto the water to see if your efforts have been rewarded. If not, repeat the procedure, adding further liquid to the putty until the desired result is achieved.
With practice you will find that even the lightest leaders can be persuaded to sink, resulting in a very natural presentation. Put it all together and you can look forward to elation rather than frustration as a Trout confidently sips down your dry, unaware of the leader just millimetres away!
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