I’m not sure if I should be calling this a review as such, this isn’t a subject I am widely cultured in. There are many manufacturers of furled leaders who are making them to all kinds of taper combinations out of all kinds of materials – needless to say I’ve not fished them all! This is more of a recommendation based on my experience with the Hemingways Grayling Furled Leader, which in the two years since I gave them a try has really changed my dry fly game.
I’ve never been a graceful caster. I’m a habitual hauler and have to focus very carefully on toning down my power application when I’m sight fishing or trying to make more delicate presentations. A few years back I made the switch from a very stiff and fast actioned rod to a far softer and slower stick and I was really struggling to land a small dry flies gently on to the surface of the water with any degree of accuracy or consistency. I had been aware of furled leaders for some time but it wasn’t until I spoke to the guys at Right Angle Fishing who distribute Hemingways furled leaders that I had considered them an option. I took their advice and got hold of a few of their 12′ “Grayling” leaders.
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First things first, I really don’t like the name! Quite what makes this leader “Grayling” I’m really not sure. I have used them on 3, 4 and 5 weight rods and they work equally well on each. What initially attracted me to these leaders was the slightly longer than average length. Most furled leaders seem to be between 5′ and 7′ but I knew that for many of the rivers I frequent that keeping the fly line away from the fish is vital. The Grayling leader is listed as being 12′ but actually when you take it from the packet you’ll find that 3′ of that is a pre fitted tippet. There is no indication of the brand or strength of this tippet, just that it is 6x in diameter. I cut it straight off.
Once you’re done with the tippet you’ll be left with a 9′ tapered furled leader with very neat loops at each end. The process of furling multiple strands of the specially treated monofilament creates a leader that is initially rough to the touch but once fully unwrapped it becomes obvious just how many benefits there are to this system. The Hemingways Grayling leader is so soft and supple, there is literally no memory to them at all. Even before you’ve attached it to your fly line with a loop-to-loop you just know this is going to turn over beautifully.
Made on a special “Jig”, furled leaders are manufactured in a similar fashion to rope, they key difference being that a fishing leader has a taper built in. I’m yet to have a go at making my own and to be honest while the versions straight off the shelf are this good I don’t feel inclined to either! I fish them with two different tippet configurations depending on conditions. I have found these leaders can turn over up to 5′ of tippet between 5x and 7x (6lb to 3lb) with no issue at all so in windy conditions or tighter situations I am very happy to do just that. If I need a little more stealth then I attach 4′ of 6lb Clear Maxima to the leader, tie a tippet ring to the other end and then fit up to 5′ of tippet from the ring. Again the Hemingways Grayling Leader turns this over just fine.
Talking of turnover, to me this is the real advantage to using a furled leader, it’s just so positive! They seem to flip over perfectly every time and under their own steam. The multi-filament nature of the furled leader seems to give an ideal mix of weight to provide turnover and wind resistance to slow things down at the crucial moment – it becomes very hard to make a poor presentation! Once on the water these leaders become barely visible, other than the little loop at the business end which has been invaluable as an indicator when fishing unweighted nymphs and tiny dries.
I have found a couple of issues that can arise if you aren’t a little diligent in maintaining them. First off, once they get really wet they sink, not uniformly though. Sometimes it can be a 2′ section that slips below the surface and you won’t even notice until you come to lift the fly from the water and it gets dragged down by the sunken section of leader. I have programmed myself to treat the leader with Red Top Mucilin which immediately solves the problem and keeps the leader on the top for another hour.
The second issue is twist which I guess is to be expected given that furled leaders are produce by twisting and untwisting the individual strands of monofilament. The twist issue has never been a problem during casting, actually it’s usually during cleaning and drying that it becomes noticeable and it is easily managed by keeping the leader under tension during treatment.
I attached my first furled leader nearly two years ago and have today decided to treat myself to a new one! The longevity of a furled leader really is one of the biggest attractions. Pretty much every trout I have caught on a dry fly in the last two years has been on that one leader and I’ve had a pretty hectic few years. Switching to the Hemingways Grayling Furled Leader has really helped with my presentation, turnover and accuracy and the folks who have used my dry fly kit in the last few years have all commented on how positive and simple to cast these leaders have been.
It’s just a small tackle item but to me it is the bits and bobs between the fly line and the fish that can make all the difference. If you get chance, have a throw with these tapered leaders, you might just find that they raise your game!