Rodney Dibble Furled Leaders
By Ed Herbst
I am a great fan of a member of the English fly fishing team, Stuart Crofts, and have read and enjoyed his well-researched articles in the British magazine, Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, for more than a decade. His enjoyment of small streams and the simple but effective flies he tied resonated strongly with me and, in his recently published book, Tactical Fly Fishing – A Guide for the Advanced and Competition Angler, Jeremy Lucas praises him highly.
When I read on a British website that Stuart recommended furled leaders made by Rodney Dibble, I felt I had to try them.
Both Peter Brigg, author Call of the Stream, and I started corresponding with Rodney. In an e-mail to me on Dibble leaders Peter said:
I have yet to try out these furled leaders on the small KZN upland streams. However, I have tried them on our little urban stream in Westville, the Palmiet River. Technically, I found them to be the best furled leaders I have ever handled. They are superb in small stream situations and for dry fly fishing. They have no memory and are supple with a degree of natural flex which helps protect light tippets. On both my 1wt and 2wt lines I was able to cast the 3.5’ and 4’ leaders effortlessly at short and longer distances with the recommended equal length of tippet. The seamless transfer of energy made getting into tight spots easy. They allowed gentle presentations and I found lift off better than standard monofilament leaders; smoother with less water disturbance,. There is also no shine to worry about and I liked the natural look in the water. Being waxed polyester they don’t collect water as perhaps one would expect. I have yet to try them on the ultra shy fish of some our clear streams, but suspect that they will perform well. For now I am certainly a fan and can recommend them to others with every confidence.
I asked Rodney to give me some background information on his leaders and this is what he wrote:
Rodney Dibble on home waters
Eight years ago I had all the gear and no idea. Then I picked up a book by Darrel Martin titled ‘Micropatterns’. It changed me into a thinking fisherman and his chapter on Furled Leaders changed the way I presented my flies.
Up until then I had pockets full of various leader material all waiting to be tied up into ever longer tapered lengths that were designed to turn over my fly and put it where all the fish were. On a good day, with the wind behind me I could get the fly out there and sometimes it landed without scaring the fish. However by the end of the day the knots in the leader would catch in the rod rings or the line would slap down onto the water. Worse still, the knots had a tendency to collect debris.
I have always hated knots. They are a fiddle. You have to wet them, get them just right and snuggled up. They drag in the air, they drag in the water. They grab the rod guides and grab each other. They can also break. So, having read up how Izaak Walton made up a leader in the 1760s and having no horse hair to hand, I set to and started making Furled Leaders with modern materials.
While a basic Furled Leader is simple to construct, I soon found out that a lot depends on the materials you use, such as nylon, silk, polyester or wire. Not only does the amount of twist you put in make a difference, but also the specific taper you build into the finished leader. Length, thickness, taper, direction of twist and tension of furl all have a bearing on the type of leader produced. In an ideal world the best set-up is a leader that takes into account the length, weight and type of rod and line being used, the type of water being fished, and the type of flies being cast. The furled leaders that now come off my bench cover a range of fishing demands. They can present a fly with delicacy, with natural turnover, tight loops, elasticity, limited shine and reduced drag both through the air and in the water. Leaders for the dry fly, wet fly, spiders and nymphs can all be produced as well as leaders with a built in sight indicator for Czech nymphing. The R&D department is currently addressing a request for a 23ft. French nymph leader and a 12ft salmon leader with Kevlar.
Furled Leaders have no memory and the suppleness of a furled leader enhances drag-free drifts. However, if care is not taken, they can snarl and tangle. Just take your time and it will unravel and resume its natural form.
My furled Leaders come with a loop at the butt end so that it can be attached to the fly line with a loop to loop connection. The tippet end can also have a loop or it can have a small stainless steel ring built in, allowing tippet material to be added or replaced without affecting the overall length of the leader.
Since first acquiring Darrel Martin’s book eight years ago, I have produced hundreds of hand-made leaders for trout, sea trout, salmon and grayling fishing. They have been sent all around the world and I have heard that they cast just as well in the southern hemisphere as they do in the north.
My home waters are those on Dartmoor and within the Tamar Valley. They are mostly small streams containing wild fish and here the furled leader really comes into its own when casting to wary fish in tight corners or under trees. The presentation of small dry flies is now something I don't have to worry about, (so long as the wind isn't storm force) as the four foot silk leader takes care of my indifferent casting and puts the fly in the taking zone.
Furled leaders have made me a reasonable caster with a tight loop, turnover and a presentation that is delicate. I can roll cast at close quarters and put my fly in the trout’s strike zone without it rushing off into the next county.
Join me with a step back in time. Pick up where Walton left off. Put on a Furled Leader and see for yourself what a difference it can make to your fishing. Should you end up hating them, they tell me they are good for holding up runner beans.
The maker of fine furled leaders - Rodney Dibble.