Steelhead/Salmon Leaders for Trout? by Cathy Beck

I learned a new trick this week, something so obvious that I’m embarrassed to admit that I never thought about trying.

We are in New Zealand as I write this with a group of fishermen on the South Island at Owen River Lodge. This is always a great trip and one of our favorite destinations. I know, without a doubt, that if we did not have family back home, Barry would live here. I don’t know if it is the amount of water, the people, the land or the fish – probably a combination of all that keeps us coming back every year.

But there are extremes in weather. In the winter months, long before we get here, floods can rage out of control and be so intense that entire riverbeds, miles wide, get rearranged. It’s incredible to stand in the water at this time of year and look up into the trees where the water lines have left debris and try to imagine the unstoppable raging force of water that was here just a few months before.

Here we are fishing for trophy size brown trout. The truly record breakers are hard to find. We might walk 4-6 miles a day and some days we’ll cast to a half dozen fish, other days maybe a dozen, and they will all be beautiful, well built, and strong.

There is also wind, lots of wind at times. And can it ever rip through the valleys. Now add a 15-20 foot leader to the picture and you can see what the problem is. Trying to turn over these very long leaders and a size 8 cicada or a size 10 super beetle becomes a chore. All these years I’ve struggled with this, thinking that I had to haul harder, keep a lower rod profile, try a higher back cast, wait for a break in the gust – well, each trick would work now and then, but nothing completely solved the problem and made it go away.

Nothing will. I’ve accepted that, but we have found something that really makes a difference. We were at the Somerset, NJ, show a week before coming to New Zealand and we were talking to Simon Gawesworth about this problem and he suggested trying RIO Steelhead/Atlantic Salmon Leaders instead of trout leaders. It was like a light bulb went off for us. We knew as soon as we heard it that it would help. The butt is heavier, it’s medium stiff material with a long butt section and taper for great turnover, and the copolymer material is incredibly tough and highly abrasion resistant. It sounded perfect!

And it is; we brought some of the leaders with us and now everyone in our group is using them and loving how they perform. New Zealand guides are notorious for long leaders. They keep the fly line further away from the fish and give a nicer drift to the fly. Yesterday our guide, Greg Gardner, looked at the fast rushing pocket water on the river we were about to fish and said, “Reckon a 20′ leader will be about right.” I looked at him like he must be joking, but as I watched him extend my leader by at least another 8 feet, I realized he was dead serious. And to that he tied a size 8 deer hair cicada.

True, it helps to open the loop when you’re casting and to let the cast completely extend in the back because you’re casting mostly leader in many instances, and I’m still hauling and hoping for a break in the wind, but the RIO Steelhead/Atlantic Salmon Leader has made an incredible difference. We will now have them in our gear bag for whenever the wind is getting the best of us. Next month is Patagonia, Argentina and then early trout season at home. Give it a try, you might be surprised too. Thanks Simon!

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