Monday, November 25, 2013

Monofilament Leader Verses Fluorocarbon Leader---Opinion???

As I was fishing the tailrace the other day I kept noticing how my leader was reacting on the water surface. I realize that if one doesn’t get the line to lay straight on the surface after a cast, then you will encounter a coiled leader and tippet. If I can see the coil tippet then the fish can see the tippet. If you hit that sweet spot in your cast most of the time then there is no coil in the leader or more important in the tippet. It was a slow day on Thursday with Charles and me fishing the tailrace, and on those slow days I tend to notice little things that I wouldn't notice on a more active day. Thursday was one of those days, and that little thing I kept noticing was my tippet coil. Yes the cast plays a part in the coil, but not having your leader and tippet stretched before you ever start fishing also plays a big part in the leader/tippet coil. The more I cast the more I notice something else that many of us I am sure have seen; and that is being able to see your tippet on the water surface in gin clear water. The tailrace is always gin clear and most of the time I can see my leader and tippet line, which is mono. I don’t use the most expensive tippet line, which is fluorocarbon as opposed to your standard mono line. I do feel the fluorocarbon is less visible in the water, but according to research the mono floats somewhat better. Research also tells me that fluorocarbon tends to coil less coming off the spool, which of course would help with fewer coils on the water surface. So with these factors in mind I decided to do a little more research into the mono verses fluorocarbon leader/tippet concept. I thought the following read I found on the internet recently explains most of the issues I was trying to find answers for on Thursday; but I am also interesting in your opinion on mono verses fluorocarbon, and why would you choose either leader?  
Differences between Fluorocarbon and Monofilament.

  • Material-fluorocarbon in made from a sophisticated polymer.  Mono is essentially plastic.
  • Fluorocarbon is “More Clear” in clear water (refractive index is nearly identical to water.)
  • Fluorocarbon is more abrasion resistant than monofilament in the same size.
  • Fluorocarbon stretches less (almost none.)
  • UV(sunlight) damages monofilament over time, but not fluorocarbon.
  • Monofilament floats, fluorocarbon sinks
  • Surprisingly, 10lb mono and 10lb fluoro are about the same diameter.

Orvis 'Super Strong' Leaders are monofilament.  Orvis 'Mirage' Leaders are flourocarbon.
Monofilament Fly Fishing LeadersFlourocarbon Fly Fishing Leaders
Dry Fly Fishing: When water conditions are not gin clear, monofilament floats nicely.  And while mono is slightly heavier than water, surface tension holds the mono on the surface.  This will help keep dry flies on the surface.  When fishing a clear lake on a dead calm day, fluorocarbon may be better, because it is more invisible, but you will have to grease you fly to keep it floating.  But most dry fly fishing is on a lake that is tannic, or on a river that has a ripple surface.    Either disguises mono.  So, most of the time, use monofilament when fly fishing with dry flies.
Wet Fly or Nymph Fishing:  Fluorocarbon sinks.  This is a perfect match for fishing subsurface flies.  Even lightly weighted flies sink easily in a pond with fluorocarbon.  On the river, again the fluorocarbon sinks and gets flies down.  Don’t be mistaken, weighted flies are needed and sometimes split shot is still needed.  For anglers who refuse to use indicators, a mono leader with a fluorocarbon tippet creates a nice combination.  Make sure to seat the knot carefully when typing fluorocarbon to monofilament.
Top water popper fishing:  Mono, unless the water is gin clear, then use fluorocarbon.  If fishing a popper/dropper, use fluorocarbon on the dropper tippet.

Fluorocarbon tippets tied to a monofilament leader:  Originally not a good combination, but better now.  The flexibility/stiffness of the two materials may be different, so the tippet might be too stiff or limp for the leader that it was tied. Carefully flex your leader and see if transitions are smooth arcs, or lumpy.  This is easier than it sounds, and surprisingly critical to turning over a fly.  Ideally, use the same brand and type of tippet material and leader.  I prefer a 100% fluorocarbon leader (when using fluorocarbon.)  Also, the fluorocarbon has a shell-like exterior, so knots that are mediocre will hold in a mono to mono connection, but will not hold in a flouro to mono connection.  Make sure the knots seat perfectly, lubricate with moisture, and tighten slowly.  Newer flouro is easier to knot than the original fluorocarbons.
Recently, the makers of most fluorocarbon leaders removed expiration dates.  Simply, it has been found that UV does not degrade the material and the shelf life is perhaps five years or more.  It is also much more abrasion resistant, and the leader just last longer.  This is the economy fluorocarbon.  It is a great tool for the angler when applied properly.



  1. I can't afford fluoro so I'll be fishing mono a long time. I don't seem to think the fish care much. I also think that some coil is needed for a drag free drift. If your leader was straight all the time your fly would drag unless you had a way to suspend it with no drag. High sticking or using an indicator might accomplish this.

  2. I used fluorocarbon leader material for flyfishing for carp. Not anymore! I lost too many fish that would simply break the line on the first charge. It seems to be brittle.

  3. Personally when fishing clear water I use mono for dry fishing only. If pulling streamers or drifting nymphs I opt for fluorocarbon. The biggest downfall to this is that fluorocarbon is not only much more expensive it is also less supple. To combat this when fishing nymphs I always use a loop knot to ensure greater movement on behalf of the fly. Another thing that needs to be watched is be sure to lubricate your knots before pulling tight, flouro can be weakened even more so than mono by knots. I guess it comes down to confidence for me and thats the system I have found works for my style. To reduce costs somewhat I don't use tapered leaders when throwing streamers and (some) nymph rigs--I just use straight flouro which I can buy much cheaper in big spools.

  4. I prefer mono but use both depending on pricing, etc. However, when it comes to casting a 12X, I'm going with quality. I used to cringe at paying $$$ for leaders from the Orvis shop but they are better than the crap I've bought elsewhere for $. It's worth spending a little more moola. I found that out with hooks.

  5. Well Bill, as a newbie to fly fishing, I can't say much. I have only used mono leaders and have mostly fished dry flies and poppers. I can definitely see why a person would use a flourocarbon leader when it comes to fishing wet flies and nymphs since they are fished sub surface anyway and flourocarbon sinks.

  6. Much like my peers, I've used mono for years and find it satisfactory 95% of the time. I can't see the extra expense for fluorocarbon without some better proof that it's that much better.

  7. Have pretty much used Mono leaders for years, with the exception of some very brief experience with Fluorocarbon. Have landed many fish, and probably, spooked away many more. With that said, Fluorocarbon may have some advantages, but, I can't afford all the technology in fly fishing as it is!

  8. Kevin
    I could see using fluorocarbon when nymphing; but not with dry flies. Thanks for sharing

  9. Dave
    I use the tippet ring which affords me the use of a fluorocarbon tippet. Cabela's fluorocarbon tippet spool 30 yards sells for 14.00. This is the only way I can afford fluorocarbon. Thanks for the comment

  10. Atlas
    Mono will continue to be my go to line when fly fishing especially for dries. Research and comments from this post has really given me more insight into the technology used in fluorocarbon line. Thanks for a detail comment

  11. Josh
    The old saying "you get what you pay for" certainly applies when it comes to fly fishing, and yes that applies to fly fishing line. Thanks for the comment

  12. J
    If one is going to fish fluorocarbon and watching the expense, then go with the tippet fluorocarbon---thanks for the comment

  13. Howard
    The major advantage for using fluorocarbon is the invisible line factor, which is why most use it. I am still looking for that invisible mono leader for dries---haven't found it. thanks for the comment

  14. Mel
    I will use the Fairplay leaders an example of mono, which I can see in a pool of water. One can purchase this mono for less than two bucks a leader at Wal-Mart. My conclusion, is if I can see it then the fish must be able to see it. I still land fish with the Fairplay leader, but have started using Cabela's leaders now with less visible image. Has my catch ratio improved, the verdict is still out on that for now; but the less visible line does give more confidence on those slow days.
    Thanks for the comment

  15. Good summary, Bill. I personally don't do a whole lot of dry fly fishing so most of the time, I am fishing with flouro. I don't really give too much merit to the whole less visible thing because I think it's generally giving too much credit to a creature with the brain as big as a pea.

    I like it mainly because of it's abrasion resistance.

  16. Great topic Bill! I use mono leaders almost always except for streamer fishing with a sinking line. Then I use straight 12 pound fluoro. However, I do use fluoro tippet, especially when I'm chasing big fish. It is much stronger (unless you get a bad batch) and abrasion resistant. Also, I think the fish can see the mono a little better. On the other hand, fluoro is not as supple as mono so I believe sometimes it results in a bit of drag in the drift that might not be there otherwise. I've caught great fish both ways. Often, when fish are spooky, I've noticed that they are more bothered by split shot than by what tippet I am using. Finally, mono always for dries as others have said.

  17. Nick
    Mono with dry flies is the combo for me most of the time—if the dries are not working then I go to the nymph, with a fluorocarbon tippet---- thanks for the comment

  18. David
    I am with you on fluoro tippet; the mono with dries work best for me too. It would be fantastic if someone could introduce a mono leader which was completely invisible. I can still see my leader on the water surface most of the time. I land trout seeing the line but I sometimes think I would have a better chance of landing bigger trout if I couldn't see the line. I guess I am too much of a perfectionist when it comes to fly fishing. Thanks for the comment

  19. Bill! Thank for such an informative post! I use mono and only use fluoro in very rugged pocket water. Atlas was dead on, make sure you lubricate your knots! Really enjoyed the read and all the comments! Happy Thanksgiving fellas!

  20. Al
    This post has given me a lot of feedback on leader line. I have learned some things about mono and fluorocarbon that I didn't know. Thanks for the comment

  21. This may be a little late to the game and my style has changed much since I did this post but I thought I would throw it into the mix. A post I did almost three years ago on fishing line, take it for what its worth which is probably pretty little haha:

  22. Atlas
    The bottom line is Mono is the best all around for most of us. Thanks for all the research and info

  23. I have to add my 2 cents here. I dislike flouro due to some bad experiences with it on carp, and the expense does not seem worth it. Poor knot strength and brittle as Dave said. I remember an author who stuck a piece in his fish tank and a tetra nipped at the end. Invisible? Not to those fish.


  24. Gregg
    do feel that the fluorocarbon is somewhat over rate I d. I am glad you mentioned the fish can see it, because most fishermen believe it is completely invisible. Thanks for the comment