Leaders are a critical element in making accurate presentations and fooling spooky trout. For 4-weight rods, when you are fishing at shorter distances, (most of the time), it is particularly important that leaders turn over well. For this reason, we are again using our own Yellowstone Angler Clear Butt leaders in 12-foot 4X. Sure, most of these 4-weight rods will turn over a 9-foot leader, but having to turn over a 12-foot leader requires a rod to perform at a higher level. A 12-foot leader also gives you a stealthier presentation.
For most of my fishing with a 4-weight rod in critical conditions I’m using one of our 12-foot leaders down to a 5X or 6X tippet, but in the Shootout we stick with 4X Rio Powerflex as a tippet in order to minimize breaking off the yarn indicator. Our hand tied leaders, using stiffer clear Maxima for the butt and midsections, turn over better and more accurately than any of the knotless leaders on the market.
At short distances like 25 feet, you don’t have much line out of the tip of the rod, so the best leaders must flex like an extension of your fly line. The stiffer clear Maxima butt sections on our leaders achieve this. To make it easy to judge the turnover and accuracy, we tie in a small fluorescent yarn indicator at the end of the 2-foot 4x tippet and then trim it so that the wind resistance equates to a smaller dry fly.
When I’m fishing dry flies I’ll use a 12-foot leader most of the time as this keeps the fly line farther away from the fish, minimizing the number of fish you spook while casting. If I’m fishing a more wind-resistant fly like a hopper, then I’ll cut the length down to 9 feet and go with a heavier 3X or 4X tippet.