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ESN Leader Formula

Well, I’ve previously discussed my tippet section with some winter tips, and I’ve also shared more than I know about euro-nymph fly line and how it differs from traditional line. The only thing left is to discuss the leader butt section- the monofilament section from the fly line to the tippet. It’s pretty basic but it changes from time to time. 

Like everyone else starting to euro-nymph a few years back, I had to build my own ESN leader because there weren’t any commercially available. I did my research and came up with a plethora of different formulas from the “experts.” Most people said to start with 20lb mono but I found this just too stiff and thick. Especially when attaching it to thin ESN line with a nail knot! By the way, if you plan to ever get good at tying nail knots, you’ll need to tie about 100. I know this because that’s how many I tied while making our Tracer ESN line system before I got good at it. So don’t feel bad when your first nail knot takes a long time and comes out ugly. Cut it off and keep trying. Only 99 to go.

 My leader butt section starts with 6 ft of 15lb Maxima Chameleon or Sunset amnesia. Both tie great and have low memory so the kinks come out quickly when fishing and stay out during the session.

If I want to be stealthy on the water I’ll use brown Chameleon. But I often regret this choice when the sun goes down and I can’t see my line. High vis red or green Amnesia is much better in low light. 

Next I tie on a 3ft section of 12lb Amnesia in high vis red or green using a blood knot. Again, if stealthiness is required, I’ll use Chameleon brown, clear, or white mono.

My last section before the tippet is 2 to 3 ft of 10lb bi-color sighter line or Amnesia. I tie this to the 12lb amnesia using a triple surgeon’s knot. It’s the easiest knot but bulky with heavier lines so I only use it when tying sighter line or tippet together

The tippet ring I use at the end of the sighter is 2.5mm. 2mm can be very difficult to feed 10lb sighter when the ring is on the swivel clasp that tippet rings often come attach to when new.

Save some aggravation and just use the larger 2.5mm size. 

My last tip with the leader section is that it doesn’t last forever. The high viz pigment in the line fades quickly in the sun if you fish a lot. 12 and 15lb will probably stay stronger than you’ll ever need, but the sighter will fail much sooner so change that section when you notice fading.


By Jeff Sasaki


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