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Miami Fly Fishing: Tarpon Leader System:

Miami Fly Fishing: tarponA Tarpon, the “Silver King,” jumps, greyhounds and can melt line off a fly reel in seconds because of its strength, size and its big forked tail. That tail, the same shape found on the fastest and some of the most powerful fish in the world is the reason why your tarpon leader knots have to be strong BUT easy to tie too.  Things happen quickly on a tarpon trip.

Over the years I have had many a day of broken hearts with failed knots and tarpon leader systems.  One time I spent two weeks filling my tarpon leader stretcher with two dozen leaders based on IGFA regulations. After admiring my work I decided to test one. The 16lb class tippet failed at 10lbs!  I had two leaders out of two dozen that held to 13-14lbs.  I was heartbroken and started the search.  I changed tarpon leader systems like you changed your socks for a while combing the internet and books for the easy secret system.

I might have to tie tarpon leader knots multiple times during a day on the water since clients want to bring their own rods less the leaders.  I don’t have time for cute, complicated knots with flamboyant histories that needed to be tied before leaving the dock, I need a bread-and-butter tarpon leader system that doesn’t fail and is quick to tie.

 After many years of experimenting with tarpon leader line stretchers, complicated knots like Hufnagles, Bimini-Twists and Slim Beauties I finally settled on a tarpon leader knot system that is fast and easy to tie and is strong and efficient. 

I finally settled on a “system” that you won’t find on the net or in a book - at least to my knowledge - although many are quite similar.  It’s made up of three knots: The Double Nail knot or Albright knot to attach the leader to the fly line; the Super Blood knot to attach the class tippet to the butt section and shock/bite tippet;  and the improved Homer Rhode knot or the much stronger Three-Turn Improved Clinch knot to connect the fly to the bite tippet.

Shock tippets: Run don’t walk from the IGFA required 12” bite tippet for tarpon leaders unless you want your name in the record book or are in a fishing tournament. Years ago I would lose big tarpon to broken class tippets on the hook-set for no reason.  I discovered that the big fish would eat the fly deep and with their fine villi form teeth “nick” my class tippet since my shock was so short and cut me off.

The late Billy Pate for years complained about the IGFA bite tippet length being too short on tarpon leaders and even petitioned them for a change.  Make your bite tippet 2-3 feet long.  Now you can re-tie your flies on multiple times without sacrificing your entire tarpon leader and prevent the nick.  Use mono or fluorocarbon from 30-80lb test of your choice depending on rod size.  I don’t like nor use loop knots on my tarpon leaders except on the shock to fly connection as I have had loops fail many times before the class tippet failed.  I just don’t like them - again I don’t use them for big game fish.

Class tippets: I use Mason hard nylon line for mine, period. For tarpon leaders I suggest 16 or 20lb with the latter being my choice.

Butt section: For tarpon I use either 40 or 50lb in mono or fluorocarbon depending on the rod size being used.

Let’s review:

Butt section: can use double nail knot but prefer the Albright knot to connect the fly line to the tarpon leader (2/3rds the length of desired leader).

Class Tippet:  two Super Blood knots connecting the butt and bite to the class (total class tippet 2-3ft long).

Bite tippet to fly:  Homer Rhode or clinch knot. (2-3ft long) .

Click here for illustration of the Super Improved Blood Knot.