DIY Leaders
Sure you can cut back a standard tapered leader, but at several dollars a piece why would you? In about a minute, and for only pennies in materials, you can tie your own. If you haven't seen the article on spey leaders yet, check it out first then come on back to learn how to tie your own. I'll even show you a handy little trick to store and use your leaders on stream.
What you'll need:
Fluorocarbon tippet material
Stiff monofilament for the butt
Scissors or nippers
Hemostats or needle nose pliers
Tape measure or yardstick
Permanent marker
Empty tippet spool
Rubber band
In this example we'll be tying my standard 3.5 foot leader from the article. I'll use 10# fluorocarbon for the tippet; the brand I've come to prefer is Seaguar CarbonPro. While fluorocarbon is more expensive than mono, it offers several advantage. Besides being less visible under water, it also sinks a bit faster than mono and it's much more stable, so you really don't have to worry about it going bad. It's only other drawback is that it's more slippery then mono, so you need to adjust your knots to get a secure connection. Sticking to the formula, we'll use 20# monofilament for the butt. I swear by Maxima Ultragreen, but feel free to use whatever you've got handy.

Tying the Leaders
Gather your materials on a flat work surface. It can be helpful to grab a pen and paper to write down the section lengths as you go.
Work out the lengths for both sections of the leader. The formula calls for a 14" tippet, to which you'll need to add several inches for the knots. I like to go a bit on the long side to give me longer tag ends to snug the knots tight, so I'll add 6" (4" for the Triple Surgeons and 2" for the loop) to mine. This brings us to 20" of tippet. Do the same for the butt section. Starting with the 28" base, I'll add 5" for the knots (3" for the Triple Surgeons and 2" for the loop), bringing the butt to 33".
Lay out your yardstick or tape measure and cut your 20" tippet section and 33" butt.
Now knot the two sections together. I've found that with fluorocarbon, a triple surgeons is less prone to slipping than the more common blood knot. Make sure to lubricate the knot before drawing tight, and trim the tag ends just slightly longer than you normally would. If you've chosen to use mono for the tippet, a blood knot may be your best bet, or try an "improved" blood knot if you feel you're having difficulty with the dissimilar line diameters. (NOTE: look for a section on common fishing knots in the near future)
Tie a loop in the end of the butt. I prefer a surgeons loop since it's super easy to tie and I can't recall ever having one fail on me. An Albright Loop can also be used if you prefer. To really tighten the knot well, I'll place the tip of a pair of hemostats through the loop to pull on. If you lubricated the knot and really pulled it snug, trim the tag as close as possible.
Tie a quick loop in the end of the tippet. Don't worry about tying a great knot, as we'll only use this loop to store the leader. Trim the tag close when you're done.
Since you're at it, take a few minutes to tie up a bunch more leaders. I'll generally do a dozen or so at a time.

Storing the Leaders
Now loop all the leaders together, making sure to always attach a tippet loop to a butt loop, not tippet to tippet or butt to butt.
Take you're string of leaders and wind them onto an old tippet spool. Make sure you start with the butt, so that your last loop will be a tippet loop.
Loop a rubber band to the last tippet loop and use it to secure the leaders to the spool.
Use your permanent marker to label the spool with the leaders length and tippet strength. You've now got a spool of leaders that will fit easily into a pocket, won't tangle, and won't come unwound on stream.

Using the Leaders
Unhook the rubber band from the spool and cut the tippet loop. I slide the rubber band over my wrist for a second to make sure I don't drop it in the river.
Unwind the leader from the spool and un-loop it from the next leader.
Reattach the rubber band and secure the remaining leaders to the spool.

Author: Brian Doelle