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Best Fly Fishing Leaders For Trout

Best Fly Fishing Leaders For Trout

When it comes to being successful catching fish with a fly rod, your leader is a very important component. Leaders are the clear, tapered line that attaches to your fly line. They are thought to be invisible to fish, which helps with fooling them. At the end of your leader, you’ll tie on a fly and start fishing.

The cool thing about most leaders is that they are tapered. They start off very thick and end in a thinner section referred to as tippet. The reason leaders are tapered is so they can transfer the energy of your cast. The thicker part of the leader carries momentum from your fly line to your fly. This is what allows fly anglers to cast with speed and accuracy.

Saltwater fly fishing leaders can be very heavy duty. Ranging from 8 pounds to 80 pounds, they are designed to cast large flies to large fish. Trout leaders are thinner in diameter, and usually more supple. 2x-6x is the most common range of trout leader sizes. This translates to 10 lb – 3 lb strengths.

Although some folks prefer to make their own leaders, I like to buy prepackaged tapered leaders. They don’t have any knots on them, and they are tapered perfectly.

This article will cover the top trout leaders on the market, and what makes them so good. All the leaders listed below are nylon. You can get fluorocarbon leaders for trout fishing, but I think it’s a waste of money. If you want to fish fluorocarbon, just add some fluoro tippet on the end of your nylon leader.

Rio Powerflex Trout Leader (3 Pack)

Rio’s Powerflex leaders are probably the best selling, and most well known leaders on the market. You can find them in pretty much any fly shop, and anglers love them. They are made with extreme consistency, and I have never encountered a bad batch of them.

Rio’s leaders are known for their long, powerful butt section that can turn over flies easily. This means that the thicker part of the leader is longer, which allows for a better energy transfer in your cast.

If you choose to go with the 3 pack, you’ll save a couple dollars – versus buying just one. Since I know I will use them, I usually go with a 3 pack.

Here in Colorado, 5x is my most common leader size. If the water is dirtier, I will go with 4x or even 3x (heavier). For technical, low and clear rivers like the Fryingpan, I will go with a 6x leader.

Although there are many options for trout leaders, the Rio Powerflex’s are just my go-to. They have never let me down on the water.

Umpqua Perform X Trout Leader (3 Pack)

Umpqua is one of the first companies to produce leader and tippet material for fly fisherman. Although they are known for their high quality flies, their leaders are worth checking out also.

Perform X leaders are very high quality and perform well in most trout fishing applications. The nylon is supple and also very abrasion resistant. Similar to Rio’s Powerflex, I have not encountered a bad batch of leaders yet.

The price is pretty comparable to Rio’s, but they have recently raised their leader pricing. I still think it is well worth it since Umpqua is such a trusted brand.

The cool thing about Umpqua leaders is that there are many different tapers. I like using the Hopper leaders in the summer time because they are aggressively tapered which transfers energy well for bushy foam flies.

All in all, I think the Perform X leaders are a great choice for trout anglers, and I always carry a few in my hip pack.

Orvis Superstrong Plus Leader (2 Pack)

The nice thing about these leaders is their price point. For “per leader” pricing, it is hard to beat Orvis Superstrong Plus leaders. This could definitely change, but they have remained one of the most competitively priced leaders in the game.

Their tapers are pretty similar to Umpqua and Rio leaders, and I haven’t noticed a lack of performance. They fish quite well.

Instead of a 1 or 3 pack configuration, these leaders come in a 2 pack. Although I have fished and done well with the Orvis Superstrongs, I tend to buy Umpqua or Rio just out of habit. Orvis is an east coast brand however – and many east coast fly fisherman prefer to fish their leaders and tippet.

I think that for the budget conscious fly angler, the Orvis Superstrongs are hard to beat. Since it is easy to burn through leaders, it is good to keep the price in mind.

Scientific Anglers Absolute Trout Leader (3 Pack)

Scientific Anglers is known for their lines, leaders and tippet. They frequently set the bar for what is considered “high end” terminal fly tackle.

Their Absolute Trout leader is one of the nicest nylons i’ve used. It is extremely supple, with a very impressive break strength. Their 5x just fishes stronger than other competitors 5x. It is really a leader that I trust, even for large trout that fight hard.

This copolymer blend reduces water absorption, and it has a 40% higher wet knot strength than its competitors.

I give the Absolute Trout leader a 2 thumbs up. Many anglers are switching over to SA for all their leader and tippet needs.

The nice thing is that in terms of price, the SA Absolute Trout leaders are comparable to Umpqua and Rio’s 3 packs. You don’t have to pay a premium to get into SA leaders, so it’s a pretty easy choice to switch over.


Selecting a good trout leader is important for having success on the water. With a proper leader, fly selection, and presentation, you can catch just about any trout that swims.

Pre-made tapered leaders have come a long way, and most of them are quite good nowadays. You may want to build your own leader, and that’s fine. However, a true tapered leader can only be made with a machine in a factory. The difference is very noticeable, and I think it’s definitely worth it.