I found this old spool of tippet material and it got me thinking about the huge changes in the line we use these days compared with when I started fishing in the late 1960’s.

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When I began to fly fish for trout the only line available to make leaders was nylon, and some of that was pretty dodgy. These small orange spools of ‘Sythex’ nylon made by the French company Perzon were the mainstay of all my leaders for many years and most of my early successes were on 3 or 4 pound breaking strain. It had a slight greyish colour to it but was fairly reliable on the whole.

Next on the market was a widening range of other nylon monofilaments. New names appeared and each angler soon found his or her favourite. Maxima was, and still is, very popular but I never took to the dark brown colour it came in to start with (of course it is now available in green and clear).

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I keep a spool of this in my bag, ‘just in case’

I like Maxima as a spinning line but not for making fly leaders. Each to his own I guess.

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The Don near Alford

Somewhere along the way I tried out Drennan sub-surface green nylon and decided it was the one for me. Very reliable and available in handy small spools, it soon found a home in my fishing bag and there seems to a spool of it in every pocket of my waistcoats and jackets. I still use this brand extensively to this day and have no complaints about it’s performance.

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Sub-surface green

These days I use fluorocarbon for much of my trout leaders. The reduction in diameter combined with greater strength has definite advantages in some scenarios. I guess I use mono for most of my spring fishing with wets and deeply fished weighted nymphs and change to fluoro when the water warms and the fish become spookier. Brand wise I like Frog Hair and Riverge.

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Frog Hair

When it comes to salmon leaders I stick to the ever faithful Drennen sub-surface green in 8, 10 and 12 pound breaking strains for my grilse fishing but have become fond of Climax 98  for heavier nylon when using big flies. I like its stiffness and ‘knotability’ and it comes on handy week spools which click together. Dropper lengths stand out really well and to date I have encountered no issues with breakages.

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I don’t make up leaders in advance but instead make them as required on the water. This is for two main reasons:

  1. I chop and change lengths and droppers so frequently that I would need to carry a huge number of variations with me. It would just be unfeasible to cart around so many leaders.
  2. I once lost there fish in short succession on Lough Conn due to an old leader which had deteriorated over time. The first one was a very good trout which snapped me very soon after he jumped. The next one appeared to rub against some underwater obstacle, so I didn’t think too much about it. Number three was a smallish fish which a clearly saw and was shocked when the line parted in mid-fight. Belatedly, I tested the leader and it snapped like sewing thread. Lesson learned, all be it the hard way, I junked all remaining leaders and have never looked back.
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Lough Conn, looking down the lough from Castlehill Bay

I look back on the days when all I had to use was ‘Synthex’ and can honestly say that I caught more fish then than I do now with all my modern, near invisible leaders. Back in the day there were more fish around and much greater fly-life, meaning the fish were easier to catch. Fishing pressure must have been lighter too I presume. Nowadays we use wonderful line to fool ever spookier fish.

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a blast from the past……………..

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