This is going to be a three part article on Furled Leaders. An Introduction to what they are, what's needed to build them yourself, and how to make them.
Furled Leaders are a type of knotless tapered fly fishing leader. They are known for their high performance, low memory, and soft fly presentations. These attributes are due to the way these leaders are constructed which is similar to creating rope. The big difference is that furled leaders are created with a taper. This twisted style of construction and being made from many filaments leads to a flexible leader with low to no memory. Properties similar to a section of rope
Furled leaders are created from monofilament fishing line or fly tying thread usually, but can be constructed from almost any other line. The line is wrapped around a jig in a series of interlocking loops which creates the taper of the leader. The leader is also created in two halves, each half is then twisted while under tension. Both halves are twisted in the same spinning direction. The halves are then combined together and then allowed to untwist under weight or tension or twisted opposite of the first twist mechanically. As the two halves untwist, they furl together to create the final structure that is shown in the picture above. The ends of the leader are then finished to hold the leaders furl. Lastly the leader is attached to the end of the fly line and tipped with tippet before use.
A lot of people confuse Furled Leaders with Braided Leaders and have a bad opinion of them because of past experience with the braided leaders. Braided leaders are constructed differently, and end up with hollow spaces in the leader when constructed. These spaces fill with water and when the leader is cast excess water is shed spooking fish, soaking the angler and making for a hard time making a delicate presentation as the water sprays and spooks the fish. Braided leaders cast nicely otherwise, and Furled leaders fix the issues with Braided and still retain the benefits of turn over.
The Furled Leader is less of a complete leader and more of the base for the complete leader as you need to add tippet to it to "finish" it off. The benefit is tippet changes do not affect the length of the base of the leader because of knots. The leader is also more versatile, handing more situations without having to swap out leaders constantly to adjust from dries, nymphing, etc. You can usually retain the same base, and just swap out the tippet sections to whatever your situation dictates.
Furled leaders also last considerably longer than your typical leaders, getting a full season of fishing on one leader is very common, sometimes even longer. They typically have a tippet ring, or small swivel at the tippet end for tying into, this also helps prevent cutting the leader when making line changes. The tippet rings, typically in the 1.5mm to 2mm size float in the surface film and wont drag down your tiny dries. I've even been able to locate very tiny swivels that I use when fishing poppers to keep the leader from getting twisted during casting. Wind knots happen less with Furled Leaders due to their construction, but if you do manage one, they tend to "push out" easier than with your standard tapered leaders on the market. Usually you can just push the 2 sides of the knot together to loosen the wind knot and undo it. If needed you can use the bodkin on the back of your nippers to pull it open.
One of the major benefits of the Furled Leader is turn over. Because of the thickness and taper of the butt section it acts like the head of your flyline and transfers the energy from your fly line out to the tippet turning the leader over and making an awesome presentation of the fly without a bunch of slack or weird slap. With that said, if you put a little English on your final presentation, a flick of the wrist, you can make the fly really "Splash Down" when fishing poppers, or slapping the surface for aggressive fish.
The leaders also have no memory because of their multi strand construction. Once you unroll a Furled Leader and give it a cast, it will lay nice and straight on the water so you get the straightest possible line to the fish, no slack. This multi strand construction also helps add a little shock absorption to the leader which helps protect light tippet on those big head shaking fish. By adding a length of something like "Firewire" in the leader construction you can eliminate almost ALL of the stretch to the leader as well if that is your desire.
Making Furled Leaders is fun, and is another part of the fly fishing process you can control the quality of much like fly tying etc. You can experiment with tapers, materials, lengths etc at a whim to find the leader that casts perfect for you. The costs are not very bad when you consider how long the leaders last, and the cost of a typical quality tapered leader at the shop. Consider that a typical tapered leader will run you from $3-$8 each depending on brand, and material, and your typical Furled Leader ranges from $2-$4 each depending on materials. Retail most furled leaders run $10-$15, so there is a cost benefit associated with building them yourself. The only variable in cost is the initial tooling to start creating the leaders (About $30), but we don't factor in the cost of our vise, scissors, desk, lamp and chair into the cost of our flies either do we?
I've used furled leaders from my 1wt for tiny native brookies in a meadow creek, to 3ft long pike on my 8wt turning over 12" long streamers. The leaders really shine when you have some weight at the end and a normal leader just collapses under the weight. A Furled Leader will continue to run the loop in the fly line all the way out to the tippet and turn over even the heaviest of flies.
So now that you've been introduced to what Furled Leaders are, the benefits and costs, the next article in the series will be a what is needed to make them, lines, tools, and how to make the very simple jig that I use. If making them yourself is not what you want to do, but you still want to give Furled Leaders a try, stop by the Arizona Wanderings Shop and pick up a few for yourself. The leaders are handcrafted in America by Ben and get a solid 10 out of 10 in my review of them.