Friday, 7 January 2011

Introduction to Furled Leaders

Furled leaders appear to be the latest “best thing since sliced bread” in fly fishing. Some folk will probably differ and say they have used furled leaders for years and question the fuss, but I hadn’t heard of them until about two months ago – and I am increasingly hearing more and more about them. Perhaps I just had my head in the sand, blissfully unaware in my monofilament leader ignorance.

Furled leaders appear to fit into the “love them or hate them” category but encouragingly the growing legion of fly fishermen who have switched to them, and stuck with them, seems to far outnumber the dissenting voices.

I looked for furled leaders on the usual major retailers’ sites but couldn’t find any, adding to their mystery. You have to delve deeper into the fly fishing ether to find them, into the handmade cottage industry, which in itself is a good reason to buy one. It gets money into the hands of local craftsmen and, to me at least, nostalgically harks back to a bygone era before the advent of cheap, mass manufactured imports.

So what are furled leaders and what are their advantages? They date back to at least Izaac Walton’s time in the 1600’s and were originally made from horse hair, tapered by gradually lessening the amount of hair. Today, the horse hair is spared and leaders are made under constant tension using modern materials such as polyester thread, nylon or silk. They are said to be supple, with no memory and will enhance precise control and allow delicate presentation by creating less water disturbance and splash. Ideally to be used for dry fly fishing but not exclusively, as there are even furled leaders on the market with hi vis butt sections to assist with sub surface take detection. Keen to discover more, I ordered 3’ and 4’ furled leaders for line weights 0-4 for use with my 6’ 2 weight rod. They arrived in the mail today.

I still have my ingrained preconceptions about leaders. Three feet looks awfully short and it will be interesting to see how a 3 foot furled leader turns over 3 or 4 feet of tippet with a bead head nymph on the end. Or 3 feet of tippet with a dry fly and a further 3 feet of tippet to a nymph from the hook shank in the New Zealand duo style. And what of the occasions when the fish are shy to join the dance and you need to lengthen the leader to remedy their inhibitions? – just how long can you go on a furled leader?

For the time being furled leaders remain a mystery to me but I’m looking forward to experimenting and discovering just what I’ve been missing out on. I’ll keep you posted.


  1. how did you find they performed please? :)

  2. Hi Nick. I enjoyed casting with a furled leader. I found it to be very supple (they have no memory at all) and it turned over like a dream. Another advantage is that a single furled leader could probably last an entire season if you look after it. On the downside I noticed the furled leader emitted a lot of spray. In the end though, I couldn't detect a discernible advantage over, say, tapered monofilament and copolymer leaders.

    It's all a matter of personal preference and I suggest you try them. I bought mine from here:

    All the best.