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Advantages to the Right Angler Leader

The Due West Angler crew’s arrival at Wyoming’s North Platte River coincided with an upcoming forecast for blistering wind, and my expectation to test out some tight-line nymphing tactics was quickly blown away. Without the ability to wade close to my target, I had to devise a different approach. But the North Platte is frequently windy so I came prepared. The obvious answer was to rig a traditional setup, chaining flies together in-line under an indicator, anchored by a healthy dose of split shot. This is the favored choice by many anglers on the North Platte and for good reason! But I had different intentions. See, drifting nymphs under a tapered leader usually results in a slow drop, the tapering of the line takes more time to develop fully under the indicator and engage flies at the intended depth. The leader drags through the water column, particularly the thicker butt section. Instead, I decided to take a gamble on an odd leader that I stuffed away when packing, something that would fish akin to the euro-nymphing setup I was hoping to employ, but that would hold up with stiffer rods in the thick onslaught of wind, on a larger river system, and even more importantly, from a boat. The right angle leader finally gets its day. #flyfishing, #catchandrelease, #fluefiske

Right Angler Leader Construction

The thinking behind this leader is similar to a euro-style construction, while still enlisting the help of an indicator. I'd never actually fished it before this trip, but took the gamble that the current situation suited this leader's strengths. At times the swift current of some North Platte runs has led me to believe there has to be a better way to effectively get flies deep without the need for excessive split shot. Too much split shot on your rig and you’ll spend all your time picking off algae from your hooks. 

Back to the right angler leader. It’s constructed in two segments. First, a thick section of butt material that terminates in a Thingamabobber and micro swivel tied inside of a perfection loop. 

Second, tied off of the micro swivel, a long section of tippet dropped to a tippet ring where two pieces of tippet branch off, one for each fly. One piece is longer for a heavy fly, and one shorter for a dropper fly, allowing a tight connection to each flies even at differing depths. The key component of this leader is the independently moving micro swivel below the indicator that allows your flies to drop directly below the indicator, at a 90 degree angle. By tying both indicator and swivel inside a perfection loop there is a freedom of movement to allow the right angle to develop, but not enough to delay any strike detection. 


By using a heavy fly as the longest tag off of the tippet ring, you can lengthen out the full extent of the leader which keeps a tighter connection between your flies and your indicator. Plus two independently tied flies connected directly onto the tippet ring increases sensitivity for fish taking either fly. The formula of this leader mimics the design concept for euro style leaders and by building the terminal section below the micro swivel you are basically fishing a bobber/euro hybrid with the same advantages of euro-nymphing. Flies tied on the long thin un-tapered tippet cut through the water better than a tapered leader and help you fish deeper quicker. After all, this is the ultimate goal of nymphing; where the longer you're able to drift at your desired depth, the longer you’re flies have a chance to be seen by fish. By customizing the placement of tippet rings in your setup, you can include droppers that fish higher in the water column, while your deepest fly remains deep. This can be deadly when emerging insects are present.


The only way to adjust how deep your fishing with this rig is to cut and tie specific lengths of tippet to the tippet ring. When changing depth on a standard tapered nymph rig, you can simply slide your indicator up or down to adjust. However, with a right angle leader, the length of tippet below the micro swivel and below the tippet ring may need adjusting. As mentioned, to do this you need to physically cut or extend this length of tippet. When adding more tippet, I save material by lengthening sections using a triple surgeon's knot. If you're comfortable with tying knots then this really is no big deal, but it does take a little extra time.

Does it Work On a Boat? 

Caption: Casting into the North Platte River, Wyoming

Based on my testing, application for right angle leaders faced no additional challenges when fishing from a drift boat, or when sending long casts out on larger rivers. On this trip we were fortunate to test both. On boats, this leader construction engages flies at depth very quickly, helping to fish buckets and deeper water with nymphs quickly before running out of room as the boat continually drifts downstream. This offers a distinct advantage to traditional tapered leader nymph-rigs.  Similarly, when fishing water further out of reach, the castability, and mend-ability of these right angle leaders helped me reach water well beyond my wingspan, and I was extending drifts for long stretches simply by mending and feeding out more line. This offers a distinct advantage to euro-nymphing where you’re limited by your wingspan.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, some tinkering was needed to get the depth right. But once I dialed it in, I didn't have to change it again. By the way, I ended up adding some split show below the bottom fly, it helped greatly, and I needed much less than I expected. Despite tough overall fishing conditions, we found one honey-hole where fish were stacked up behind a drop off, habitat requiring exactly the kind of leader that the right angle leader is best suited for. For a short period, hookups came more freely.

I had hesitation about the long thin tippet section, but had no issues while fighting fish or while casting and mending. In fact, the outfit mended better than anticipated. Indicator sensitivity was adequate, and my strike detection felt exactly like any other form of indicator nymphing. Plus, in a direct comparison between my right angle set up and my friend's tapered leader construction in the honey-hole, I was getting hookups quicker than my friend. I did have one minor disaster with tangles, but both the tippet ring and micro swivel proved useful for cutting and retying without having to do everything all over again.

Author Bio:

Andy Witt, scientist and angler obsessed with chasing and understanding all gamefish, writes on the intersection of science, conservation, and fly fishing for Due West Anglers, based out of Denver, CO. 

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