What is a polyleader?
A polyleader is a leader system that allows you to turn a regular floating fly line into an intermediate or a sinking line by attaching an additional short length of line to the end. This allows you greater control over the sinking speed of your fly.
You attach your regular leader and tippet to the polyleader to give you an instant sinking or intermediate line, without the expense of purchasing an extra fly line, or going to the hassle of swapping your floating line spool for a sinking one.
While Airflo were the first to use the name PolyLeader for their product, quite a few other brands also call their products polyleaders, except Rio, which calls its version a Versi Leader.
What are polyleaders made from?
Polyleaders look like a section of fly line and are made in similar manner, with a central core surrounded by a special plastic coating. On a fly line, the core is a braid-like core, but on a polyleader the core is made from a monofilament.
Like a regular tapered leader, the polyleader is fatter at the butt end and gradually gets thinner, which helps allow an accurate and delicate presentation of your fly.
The butt part of the polyleader is generally about the same thickness as the tip of your fly line, which is what allows it to feel like a sinking extension of the line, rather than a big fat weighted section on the end. They also have low line memory, so they tend not to curl up that much.
How fast do polyleaders sink?
The Airflo PolyLeader comes in variety of sink rates from floating, which obviously doesn't sink at all, to extra super fast sink, which drops through the water at a sink rate of 1m every 6.5 seconds.
The sink rates of polyleaders are typically reported in two ways. Seconds per metre shows how many seconds it takes to drop through each metre of water, while inches per second shows how many inches it covers in a second.
The wide range of sink rates available means that you can target fish cruising at pretty much any depth. When you're fishing you can simply do some maths in your head and get a rough idea of where in the water column you're fishing.
|Airflo PolyLeader||1m sink rate||Inches per second||Colour|
|Hover||78 seconds||0.5 inches per second||Clear|
|Intermediate||26 seconds||1.5 inches per second||Clear|
|Slow Sink||15 seconds||2.6 inches per second||Green|
|Fast Sink||10 seconds||3.9 inches per second||Brown|
|Super Fast Sink||8 seconds||4.9 inches per second||Grey|
|Extra Super Fast Sink||6.5 seconds||6.1 inches per second||Dark grey|
How do you connect a polyleader to your line?
The Airflo PolyLeader is pre-looped, like a regular leader. To attach it to your fly line, you thread the loop on the end of your fly line through the loop in the end of the polyleader butt, then pull the polyleader through and pull the two together via a loop to loop connection.
How do you attach your tippet to a polyleader?
That depends on the leader: the smaller Airflo PolyLeaders don't have a loop at the tippet end, but the larger versions do. If you want to, you can attach your tippet directly to the tippet via a surgeon's knot, or you can use a loop to loop connection.
Personally, I prefer a double grinner. Although that's technically two knots, it rarely lets me down and I have more confidence in it than the surgeon's knot.
By far the best connection, however, is to use a tippet ring. This gives you a permanent connection for your tippet that will last far longer than a knot.
How long are polyleaders?
The Airflo PolyLeader comes in several different lengths suited to different types of fly fishing. There are polyleaders available for trout, salmon, steelhead, tarpon, sea trout, bass and even pike. Lengths range from 5' (150cm) for the smallest light trout polyleaders, to 14' (428cm) for salmon and steelhead. The smaller polyleaders can turn over a fly on a 12' tippet, while the longer polyleaders can turn over flies on tippets of up to 15' in length.
Do they affect casting or presentation?
Not really. The presentation you get using an Airflo PolyLeader appears to be little different to what you'd achieve with a standard fly line. They don't impede casting and they're as easy to cast as your regular fly line.
How many should I buy?
I only carry a couple of different Airflo PolyLeaders with me - usually a fast sinking and a slow sinking. You can buy them all individually for a few quid each, or you can buy a whole range of polyleaders as part of the Airflo PolyLeader set, which also includes a nifty leader wallet in which to store them.