From the November/December 2002 issue of Fly Rod & Reel Magazine. Copyright 2002.
BlueSky Furled Tapered Leaders
By Buzz Bryson
The idea of using furled, tapered leaders has always held a certain amount of appeal for me, perhaps because of their centuries-old origins in Britain, where they were made of horsehair or silk. But this was just one of those things I never got around to trying despite having heard my fellow contributing editor Darrel Martin wax enthusiastic about them. Then BlueSky Flyfishers offered to share their expertise and some of their leader products with me.
For those unfamiliar with them, furled leaders are essentially multiple strands of fine-diameter material (horsehair, silk, Dacron, nylon or other material) spun together. A quick, and perhaps significant distinction should be made here between furled leaders and braided-butt leaders. The difference is that the latter have a hollow core, which can collect water, then “spray” it during subsequent casts. It’s not that a furled or even a regular monofilament leader won’t also do this-but it’s a matter of degree.
The typical furled leader is a two-piece arrangement, consisting of the furled, tapered butt and body section, and a tippet. BlueSky’s furled leaders are all five feet, nine inches long, excluding the tippet. Before the furling begins, that length starts with some 90 feet of nylon monofilament, by the way.
There are four different sizes: Ultra Light (for 0-3 wt. lines), Light (for 3-5 wt. lines), Medium (for 6-8 wt. lines) and Heavy (for 7 wt. and heavier lines). Each comes with a loop in each end for attaching to the fly line and to the tippet. As a loop-to-loop-connection fan, those made perfect sense to me. The loops are small, and the neat part is that within a reasonable range, you can easily vary the tippet size and length without changing the furled section. A very versatile setup.
Tippets-typically of two to six feet-can be attached in several ways. One is via a simple clinch knot, which while quick and easy is not the strongest way if you’re using a single piece of tippet. A better way, recommended by BlueSky, is to tie a short length of heavier material (say 4X if you want to use a 6X tippet) to the tip loop. Loop that and then connect that via a loop-to-loop with the 6X tippet. What you’ll likely be amazed by is how easily the furled leader will turn over even a fairly lengthy tippet section.
There are several purported advantages of a furled leader, including efficient power transfer, turnover, tighter loops and delicacy and ease of casting. Because the mass of the leader (relative to the line) is an important consideration in achieving a smooth turnover, furled leaders can be more effective than regular nylon ones. That is in part because a straight piece of monofilament of equal mass would be too stiff.
When I cast these leaders, they turned over smoothly, consistently and with minimal effort. Sure, they are more expensive than standard leaders, but they will last longer. And by simply replacing the tippet section, you can easily get multiple seasons (yes, seasons) from one of these furled leaders.
We often make much of a rod’s ability (or lack thereof) to act as a shock absorber in order to protect a light tippet against a heavy fish. Well, a furled leader can improve your odds further. The furled construction allows for approximately 15% stretch, increasing the margin of error. This is not an undesirable feature when a 20-incher sips your spinner and you respond with a too-heavy hand. Alas, I had no such fish take my flies when trying the BlueSky leaders.
At a suggested retail price of $11.95, one might shy away from a furled leader. I did, but wish I hadn’t for so long.
Presented here with permission of FlyRod & Reel and the author.