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Like flylines, leader manufacturers now provide specialized leaders for specific or general purpose conditions. You can choose a leader depending upon the type of conditions you will be fishing and the type of flies you will be using. Most leaders are sold based upon breaking strength, from 0x to 7x. However, some manufacturers will base their leader selection on the sinking rate of the material and keep a uniform breaking strength close to 1x. Leader lengths are generally in 6', 7.5', 9', and 12' . You tend to choose the leader length needed based upon the type of conditions you are fishing and your ability to cast properly. Most 6' leaders are used with sinking lines and fishing small, brushy streams. A 7.5 leader is often used in streams 10-20 feet wide or using big flies or heavy nymphs with large indicators. 9' leaders are generally used for larger streams in excess of 20 feet wide with riffly conditions. A 12' or longer leader will be used on streams where the trout are spooky in flat, clear water. Basically, the best choice is to select the longest leader length that you can properly cast the selected fly.
Leaders are often connected to the flyline by use of a needle knot. This will give you a tight connection with little bulk to impede through the tiptop guide. Dave Whitlock improved on this connection with his Zap-a-gap connection which utilizes Super Glue and entails no knot at all. Some leader manufacturers incorporate a small plastic connector or braided loop sleeve to their leaders. This helps in changing leaders quickly but they do add bulk. Often, many fish with a rule of thumb, "Choose a leader abouth the length of your rod". Using this rule, the connectors do not become an issue.
Leaders are designed with a butt section that represents about 40-60% of the length of the leader. This section transfers the energy of the flyline to the tip. The Taper section is usually 20-30% of the length and will be the transition between the butt and tip of the leader. The Tip section is 20-30% of the length and is the smallest diameter of the leader for deception. You can add tippet material to this tip section to restore length, add longer length, or to make the tip a smaller diameter.

SA Mastery Trout Leaders
S.A. Mastery Trout Leaders


Model Length Weight Tippet Diameter Butt Diameter Breaking Strength Application
S.A. Mastery Trout 7.5' 2x to 6x 0.005" to 0.009" .020"-.022" 9.5 to 3.1 lbs Trout/Panfish, 20 to 50' casts
S.A. Mastery Trout 9.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .020"-.022" 14.1 to 2.4 lbs Trout, 20-50' casts
S.A. Mastery Trout 15.0' 4x to 6x 0.005" to 0.007" .020"-.022" 3.1 to 6.0 lbs Spring Creeks
S.A. Steelhead 10.0' 8.0 lb to 12.0 lb 0.009" to 0.013" .026" 9.7 to 14.7 lbs Steelhead, Large Flies
S.A. Bass 8.0' 8.0 lb to 12.0 lb 0.009" to 0.013" .026" 9.7 to 14.7 lbs Bass, Poppers and Large Flies
S.A. Fluorocarbon 9.0' 0x to 6x 0.005" to 0.011" .016" to .020" 12.9 to 3.1 lbs Clearwater, Freestone Streams
Airflo Trout Polyleader 5.0', 8.0', 10.0' Up to 12.0 Lb. NA NA 12.0 Lb. All-Purpose
Airflo Light Trout Polyleader 5.0' & 10.0' Up to 12.0 Lb. NA NA 12.0 Lb. Spring Creeks, Quick Descent
Airflo Steelhead Polyleader 5.0', 10.0', 14.0' Up to 24.0 Lb. NA NA 24.0 Lb. All-Purpose
Airflo Bass Polyleader 4.0' Up to 24.0 Lb. NA NA 24.0 Lb. Bass, Poppers and Large Flies
Rio Trout 7.5', 9.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.4 to 15.0 Lb All Purpose
Rio Trout 12.0' 3x to 7x 0.004" to 0.008" .021" to .024" 2.4 to 8.2 Lb All Purpose
Rio Spring Creek 15.0' 3x-7x 0.004" to 0.008" .021" to .024" 2.4 to 8.2 Lb Spring Creeks
Rio Fluoroflex 9.0' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.0' to 12.0 Lb. Freestone Streams
Rio Classic 7.5', 9.0', 12.0' 3x to 7x 0.004" to 0.008" .021" to .024" 2.4 to 8.2 Lb Presentation
Orvis Super Strong 6', 7.5', 9', 12', 15' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.5 to 15.5 Lb All-Purpose
Orvis Mirage 6', 7.5', 9', 12' 0x to 7x 0.004" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 2.7' to 16.5 Lb. Nymph and Streamers
Orvis Hy-Float 7.5', 9' 0x to 5x 0.006" to 0.011" .021" to .026" 4.7' to 15.5 Lb. Dry Flies
Orvis Braided 7.5', 9' 3x to 7x 0.004" to 0.008" .021" to .024" 2.4 to 8.2 Lb Presentation


Links to Leader Manufacturers

S.A. Logo
SA Steelhead Leader SA Bass Leader SA Fluorocarbon SA Express
Trout Steelhead Bass Fluorocarbon Express
Scientific Angler carries a number of specialized leaders. Their most general purpose leader for the Sierras is the Trout series. It is made of a nylon copolymer blend that lays straight and has a longer butt section for easier turnover. Comes in 7.5, 9, and 12 foot lengths. The Steelhead and Bass leaders are also a nylon coploymer that achieves a straight layout on the surface. Their butt sections are larger and longer for better turnover of heavier flies. The Fluorocarbon leaders are much more stiffer but give a higher abrasion resistance than the colpolymer leaders. They will also be much more deceptive with it's low visibilty character. The Express is a type 6 sinking leader that can be added to a floating line for a sinking tip capability or attached to spey lines.
Airflo Logo
AirFlo Trout Polyleader AirFlo Light Trout Polyleader AirFlo Steelhead Polyleader AirFlo  Bass Polyleader AirFlo Indicator
Trout Polyleader Light Trout Polyleader Steelhead Polyleader Bass Polyleader Indicator Polyleader
Airflo takes a different approach to leaders. The Trout and Light Trout Polyleaders all have a breaking strength to allow a 12 Lb. tippet. They differentiate the leaders by density rather than breaking strength. The Trout Polyleader has 7 densities classified as Clear Floating, Clear Hover, Clear Intermediate, Slow Sink, Fast Sink, Super Fast Sink, and Extra Super Fast Sink. Light Trout has the same 7 densities but only comes in 5.0' and 10.0' lengths. It is designed with more suppleness and shock absoption than the Trout series. The Steelhead Polyleader comes in 5, 10, and 14 foot lengths with the 7 different densities capable of withstanding a 24 lb. breaking point. The Indicator Leader comes in two strengths, Light Trout (8.0 lb.) or Trout (12.0 Lb.). Light Trout Indicator Leader is available in 5' or 8' lengths, the Trout Indicator only in 8' lengths. These Indicator leaders are helpfull in sighting the leader for drag under low light conditions.
Rio Logo
Rio Trout Rio Spring Creek Rio Fluoroflex Rio Shock Absorber Rio Accelerator
Trout Indicator Fluoroflex RioMax Classic Knotted
The Rio Trout tapered leader is designed for superb abrasion-resistance as well as high knot and tensile strength. The long, thick butt design provides smooth turnover while the supple tippet gives the fly life-like presentation. The light gray color is the most neutral and integrates visually with any background for perfect camouflage. All Trout leaders have a perfection loop on the butt. The Rio Indicator is for great for nymphing, particularly chironomids, where you need to get the leader down quickly and straight. It has a short orange butt section to attach the indicator to. RIO Fluoroflex tapered leaders are the solution when a nearly invisible presentation is required for wary fish. Fluoroflex leaders are 100% fluorocarbon with high abrasion-resistance and excellent knot strength. The leaders have a long butt section that will turn over flies effortlessly. The RioMax is a very durable leader designed for heavy streamer action, highly abrasion resistant. With the Rio Classic, each leader is hand tied with a stiff butt of hard nylon, a medium-stiff midsection and Powerflex tippet for perfect presentation. It comes in 3x-7x weights in 7.5, 9.0 and 12.0 lengths.
Orvis Logo
Orvis Super Strong Leader Orvis Mirage Leader Ovis Hy Float Leader Orvis Braid
Super Strong Mirage Hy-Float Braided  
Orvis Super Strong leaders are for general purposes, good for dries and small nymphs and streamers. It is a copolymer nylon with excellent breaking strength, suppleness, and low memory. The Mirage leaders are fluorocarbon which sinks better than copolymer nylon and provides better abrasion resistance. Fluorocarbon also has a better refractory index that enables it to be less seen within the water. The Hy-Flote leader has six hollow chambers within the nylon line for added floatation. This provides for easier mending and more subtle pickups for casting. The Braided leaders are for increased presentation for dry flies and nymphing within tricky currents. The leader provide a soft landing and can straighten very long, light tippets with a superior turnover.

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