making the connection

 

Getting into fly fishing can be very intimidating. There are so many techniques both on and off the water that need to be mastered. You would think that a person who has spent a few years spin fishing would easily transition into the hobby but there are a few barriers. I have been asked the same question by many experienced anglers over and over. They sheepishly ask, "Mark, how do I connect a leader to the fly line?", afraid to get another incoherent lecture on entomology or casting technique.

Well let me tell you how I do it. There are several ways but I really like using a Gray's loop. It gives me the weight-savings and smooth presentation of a needle knot and a loop which allows for a quick leader change. I typically use it on both sides of my line but I will put a chinese handcuff type connector on the backing side on this line so you can see how that is done too.

 

 

instructions

Equipment

  • Leader Connector
  • Sharp Scissors
  • Lighter
  • 10lb Monofilament
  • Dubbing needle

Instructions

We will start by showing you the simplest leader connector out there. This is the chinese handcuff style connector. They are easy to use, strong and can be fixed in the field with just snippers and a lighter. Downside is that they are very heavy when casting delicate flies on 3 weight rods. I am going to use this to connect to my backing where it won't be an issue. The front connector will be a Gray's Loop which is much lighter and more streamlined.

Before I attach the connector, make sure you are connecting it to the proper side of the line. With most double taper lines this isn't as big an issue as you will flip the line when it begins to wear anyway. A WF or weight forward line must be put on the reel properly to work well as the head of the line heavier than the tail. Orvis clearly labels their lines to make this easy...

...Ahh that's better...

Start by sliding the loop over the line. This may take some coaxing and the ends will tend to fray. Don't sweat it . They usually give you plenty to work with. Since this will only be used to connect backing, I use the entire length of the sleeve. I want strength and don't care about weight here. If a brook trout gets me to my backing, being stealthy is the least of my worries. If you plan on using the loop for the head of your line, you may want to trim the sleeve back a bit to reduce weight.

By bunching up the sleeve, it will expand and allow you to slide the line inside.

The sleeve is completely on the line now. As you use the line you will notice the fly line will move back from the head of the sleeve a bit. This is normal. The more it moves the tighter the sleeve holds it.

Trim the frayed ends to clean up the end of the sleeve.

 

Slide the shrink tube over the top of the loop. This can be done before or after the loop has been slid over the line.

 

Position so half the tube is over line and the other half is over the end of the loop.

 

 

Use a lighter or other heat source to shrink the tube to the line. Take your time! You don't want to damage either the loop or the line with the flame. If you have a heat gun it will work much better than a lighter. Mine is somewhere around here.

The final connection gives me a great loop to attach backing or a leader and a very strong connection. It is a bit bulky and I only use these for backing connectors or larger size fly lines. If you use a heat gun you can avoid the burn marks from the lighter.

 

 

Now I will create the loop to connect the leader to the line. I am going to use my favorite type of connector which is a Gray's Loop. Before I can do that I need to remove the factory loop that was placed on this Orvis Wonderline 3. It is really great that the line companies are finally shipping lines with loops. I can't believe it has taken this long before this is becoming common. Wish they did this before I knew how to make a sweet Gray's Loop! The factory loop is similar to the one we just made but with a monofilament knot connector instead of a shrinkwrap tube.

Now we have a fresh line to work with.

I start by jamming a needle into the end of the line. You can use a larger sewing needle for this. I prefer a dubbing needle from my fly tying kit. It gives me a nice handle to work with.

 

I try to push it in about a quarter of an inch if possible. Spinning the needle helps keep it moving. Once I am satisfied that I have enough line to hold the loop, I punch the needle out the side of the line.

 

Heating the needle with a lighter will transfer heat to the line and make it melt and cool with a nice tunnel to thread the monofilament. Be sure to let it cool down before you remove the needle or the tunnel will just melt shut.

Here is the line after the needle has been removed.

Now push the needle in from the other side and heat again to open the back side. Again be sure to let it cool before removing the needle. If you are just running one strand of mono through, or doing a needle knot instead of a Gray's Loop, you can skip this step.

This is the monofilament leader material I use for this. It is cheap and green (my favorite color) I am using a 10 lb test which will work really well for lines from 3 to 6 weight. No need for fancy flourocarbon material here.

I thread a loop through the tunnel. You will see why we burned it from both sides here. If you don't, it is really tough to get both strands to exit the smaller hole.

Pull the loop as small as you dare. It will get much bigger when you tighten the knot.

The knot is a standard Uni-knot but using both strands. Loop the line back like this.

Then thread it through the loop at least three times.

Tighten the knot down snuggly.

Pull the loop to slide the knot along the line up to the pierced hole.

Trim and apply some knot glue like Zap or superglue to the final knot. The resulting loop will pair well with a perfection loop on a leader and will make switching leaders a breeze without adding the bulk of a larger connector. This is my choice when delicate presentations of small dries are a must.

completed Gray's Loop

Here is the finished loop. Quite an improvement over a slip-on connector.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fly Fishing Loop Sponsored By flydepot.com
The Fly Fishing Loop is sponsored by flydepot.com
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