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Fly Fishing Learning Center

How to Choose the Right Leader Length

The length of your leader depends on water conditions, not on the length of your fly rod. While it is easier to cast shorter leaders, especially in the wind, fish in shallow water are far more easily frightened by a fly line landing on top of them than a leader landing above them so use the longest leader you can comfortably cast.

When fly fishing during windy conditions or in small streams where fly casts will be short, go to a shorter leader for better turnover.

Leader Length Best suited for…
6 foot Sinking fly lines of all types, panfish, bass, trout in tiny, brushy streams
7.5 foot Trout in streams from 10-20 feet wide, intermediate and sinking tip lines in lakes and saltwater conditions where the fish are not terribly spooky. Also streamer fishing for trout with big weighted flies.
9 foot Trout streams larger than 20 feet wide where the water is mostly riffled, or else the fish are not spooky. In salt water, fish in shallow water under bright, clear conditions.
12 foot Trout in lakes with floating lines. Trout in streams when the water is flat, low, or very clear
15 foot Spooky trout in extremely clear water in both lakes and rivers.