Fall is prime time for streamer fishing particularly in areas where spawning brown and brook trout are prevalent. If you’re new to streamer fishing and don’t have a sink tip line or prefer fishing floating lines for the ability to throw dries, streamers, and nymph rigs all on the same setup, sinking polyleaders are a great piece of tackle to help get streamers down in the water column. Sinking leaders (names vary brand: Versileader, SONAR Leaders, and Polyleaders) give anglers an abundance of options when pursuing trout, steelhead, and other species. Rather than carrying a spare rod rigged for streamers or even a spare spool with a sinking line, polyleaders allow anglers to effectively fish streamers with a floating fly line in a moment’s notice for less than $15.
What are sinking polyleaders?
Polyleaders are weighted leaders typically made with a dense sinking core and coated in PVC, perfect for getting streamers and wet flies down fast. These weighted leaders replace any nylon or fluorocarbon leader that you would typically use for dry fly fishing or nymphing. Polyleaders often come with a welded loop for an easy loop to loop connection with your floating fly line. You can simply tie on ~24 inches of 10-12lb fluorocarbon tippet directly to the tapered end of a polyleader (or to a tippet ring) for an effective streamer rig. Scientific Anglers, Airflo, and Rio all make a variety of polyleaders in different lengths and sink rates to help get your streamer(s) into the zone.
Typical trout polyleaders will come in lengths of 5-12 feet. I find the longer 10-12 foot leaders more difficult to cast but many anglers find them more useful in larger rivers and streams or for trout spey applications. I would recommend getting a few different lengths to find what works best for you. There’s no guarantee of more fish but you’ll be sure to place your flies in better positions with the help of a weighted leader which will inevitably lead to more hookups.
Rio’s Trout Versileaders come in lengths of 7ft and 12ft and in 5 different sink rates, measured in inches per second (IPS). 1.5ips the slowest sinking rate offered by Rio is great for small streams and suspending flies higher in the water column. As the IPS rating increases, the more dense the leader will be, helping get streamers down faster. For fast water and scenarios where you need to get flies deep, opt for the densest 7ips sinking leader. Rio offers their Trout Versileaders with convenient color coded loops in the following sink rates to accommodate a variety of fishing scenarios: 1.5ips (clear loop), 3ips (green loop), 4ips (red loop), 5ips (blue loop), and 7ips (black loop).
Scientific Anglers SONAR Leaders
The SONAR Leader series from Scientific Anglers was designed to help get flies down to fish with a floating line. Available in 7’ and 10’ lengths there’s a leader for nearly all streamer scenarios encountered by anglers. The profiles offered include Float, Hover, Intermediate, Sink 3, and Sink 6. These lines come in two weights, 35 grams in the 7’ lengths, and 50 grams in the 10’ lengths but have varied densities and sink rates to achieve the perfect depth and presentation. Like most other sinking leaders, the Scientific Anglers SONAR Leaders work great on single-handed rods but can be applied in trout spey scenarios too.
Airflo Light Trout Polyleaders
Unlike many other fly line and leader manufacturers, Airflo makes all of their products PVC-free (and has since 1984). Not only does this reduce their environmental impact, but it also leads to a more durable product that won’t deteriorate upon contact with sunscreen and Deet. The Airflo Polyleaders come in a variety of lengths and sink rates for different species from salmon to pike to bonefish but we’ll focus on the Airflo Light Trout Polyleaders in this article. Like other manufacturers, Airflo offers its sinking polyleaders in a variety of densities to help get your flies to the correct depth. Options are Float, Hover, Intermediate, Slow Sink, Fast Sink, Super Fast Sink, and Extra Super Fast Sink. Each Airflo Light Trout Polyleader is labeled with a corresponding sink rate in IPS and it’s pretty self-explanatory as to the purpose each leader serves.
Find Your Leader
Sinking polyleaders and Versileaders are a great way to get into streamer fishing and also allow you to maximize the applications of your floating line. If you’re seeking a dedicated streamer set up, a full sinking line is probably the way to go but if you’re looking for versatility in a floating line that you may already have, polyleaders are the answer. Try out a few different lengths and densities to find the optimal setup for your rod and local waters.
Article by Evan Garda, he is on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing trout throughout the west with his trusty fly rod. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.