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Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Wed Aug 11, 2021 5:14 pm
by ronr
Have any of you experienced problems using the ladder leader setup, ie. pitzen stopper knot and droppers attached with loop and "bunny ears" as described in their book and subsequent videos?
I've used Scientific Anglers tapered leaders and tied the stopper knots as described in the 5x portion of the 9' 5x leader. On two different occasions I've had the tippet break on hookup at exactly the place where the stopper knot was tied into the leader. Both cases the fish hit the dropper fly and the break was almost immediate as the fish turned with the fly. It was not a badly tied knot as the break in the tippet was clean.

I sent an email to DR. Gaskill describing the problem and he believes the problem is with the tapered leader. He goes to some length in the book and videos to recommend a certain brand of co-polymer for the ladder leader and suggests that only that brand is strong enough to handle the knot, etc.
Unfortunately, we can't obtain that brand of co-polymer in the US at least as far as I can find.

Any one else have break off issues using the ladder leader and dropper setup or has anyone found a leader and tippet material strong enough to handle the friction created by the dropper loop being in essence wrapped around the leader above the knot?

I like the ladder leader concept as a quick way to add a new fly or dropper, but if every time a fish takes the dropper fly it breaks off... not so good...

Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Fri Aug 13, 2021 9:47 am
by jcwillow777
I have to admit that I DO NOT use the "Ladder Leader" setup. I've read the book and it looks like a great setup, however, buying the material in the US is rather expensive. I have only located the material in the UK. Sure I could buy it, but being retired and being on a limited budget makes it a little too expensive for me. So I use another method. I am using store bought 9' 5x looped leaders. Below is the system that I am using. I didn't come up with it, it is a system I got from Steve Culton. I have modified it for myself (1st pic). The 2nd pic was taken from a public domain PDF book that I downloaded. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the book or the author.

Originally, Steve uses a loop to loop connection from the leader to the tippet section. I tried that, but I just couldn't get the loops to open up for me on the river to change them out. So, I just took the loop out of the equation and tied a tippet ring to the end of my leader and tied the tippet section to the tippet ring. I do have to tie a knot to change the sections out, but it is much easier than trying to open up the loops (at least for me it is). I do use 4lb. Maxima Ultragreen Monofilament to make my tippet sections. I really haven't had any problems with breakage. The only time I have lost a fly is when I have tried to release a fish. Sometimes the fish gets a little rambunctious and starts flopping around and then sometimes the fly breaks off. I have only had that happen a couple of times. I will say that the last time I was out fishing I did have to change out flies, but that was because the fish hammered my flies so hard there was nothing left of the flies but hook! A good problem to have.

I have only been using 3 flies this year, so I tie up my droppers ahead of time to save time on the river. The loop is easy to attach the tippet section, and I just slide it down to the knot that was already tied. I do use the loop tying tool that is mentioned in the book, and I highly recommend it. Tying loops in 5x tippet was a little difficult at first, but after many, many attempts it gets easier.I will say that I am only using 1 dropper. I've been doing well this year not getting my line all tangled up. That said, I think next year I will try the 2 dropper rig.

I only added the pics of tying the knots for some buddies that I fish with, so they can have an easy reference when tying up some rigs.



Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Fri Aug 13, 2021 3:16 pm
by Theroe
I’m not familiar with a ladder leader or any of the newer terminologies, as I’ve used the same set up my whole life.
I can tell you this: I have experimented very heavily with monofilament line of all sorts sizes and brands. Two very important keys when making knots:
A - lubrication, as in spit or one of the formulations sold at fly shops such as “knot sense”.
B - even tension on all part of the line when making a knot.

I use the no end loop, which has various other names. Basically, there’s no tag end with this knot - you simply pinch a loop in the center of your line and proceed from there. Elsewhere of this forum Ray describeds this knot and posted a picture.
Also, I RARELY use tipping material lIGHTER than 4X……. Usually 3X….. if you have the correct fly on, the tippet diameter does not matter in my book. This helps alleviate break offs under many circumstances, Including yanking your favorite fly that your friend tied you out of a tree!
Rarely do I get tangles or break offs…..
Just my 2¢
PS - I pre-snell all of my flies….

Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Sat Aug 14, 2021 10:18 am
by ronr
Greg... your method of using surgeon's knot is what I have used before the "ladder" setup. I find that without fail, the fly tied onto the tag end of the surgeon's knot will eventually get tangled with the leader and have to be redone... no big deal to attach another dropper using the girth hitch you have illustrated. It is the girth hitch snugged up against the Pitzen knot stopper with replaces the surgeon's knot that is the source of the problem I've been having. The girth hitch is creates some friction on the leader and apparently weakens the leader at the knot, resulting in the breakoffs...I agree that buying the UK brand of leader material is stupid expensive. So I'm experimenting with other copolymers to see if the breaks continue.

The only issue with the surgeon's knot vs. the Pitzen knot for the stopper, is that that surgeon's knot is larger and the tiny tags left tend to be the source of tangles eventually. The Pitzen knot stopper is smaller, and I wasn't getting tangles with the system. Just losing fish....

Thanks for sharing your thoughts

Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Sat Aug 14, 2021 10:24 am
by ronr
Dana... thanks for your insights. Its not the knots that are failing... its the leader itself at the junction of the pitzen knot and the girth hitch. I've had a chat with a couple guides at my local fly shop and they believe its the friction from the girth hitch that is the issue and the leader material is not tough enough.

According to Dr. Gaskill and his book, the leader material he suggests has proven to be strong enough to handle the friction. Hard to know whether there is something different about that brand of leader material.

So I'm having to do my own experiments to see if any US brand is as strong as the UK brand recommended.

PS on the very clear water and heavily fished streams that I fish, 5x or even 6x tippets and the small flies attached are a definite advantage. I'm with you when I can, I will use stronger materials.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Sun Aug 15, 2021 2:47 pm
by Theroe
Another group thread, with lots to be learned, at least for me! FWIW, The absolute very best tippit material I have found is called DAMYL “Tectan”, made by D.A.M.

Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:57 am
by flyfud1
For what it's worth, I attach leader sections with blood knots and just leave one of the tag ends long as a dropper.


Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2021 11:56 am
by joaniebo
I tie my own leaders using Oliver Kite's formula in his book "Nymph Fishing in Practice." Prior to tying in the last length (36" long), I add a small tippet ring to the previous length, then tie on the 36" piece of mono for the tippet. As the last length gets shorter, I clip off the tippet and add another 36" piece of mono.

I also then tie in a small 8" - 10" length of mono into the tippet ring to use as a dropper and replace it as necessary.


Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2021 12:35 pm
by ronr
I have probably used every method of creating droppers out there at one time or the other. Using tags from the knot of choice was what I used most of the time. Surgeon's knot, blood knot, etc all work fine for the first fly or two... sooner or later you have to start over as the tag is too short for another fly, or the dropper tangles around itself and has to be redone. George Daniels uses a clinch knot to tie a new dropper and cinch it down on the remnants of the original knot. That works fine too, until it tangles, etc. Tippet rings are convenient but I got more tangles with droppers tied off the ring.

What appealed to me about using the girth hitch and stopper knot as it appears in Gaskell's book is that the girth hitch will allow the dropper to rotate around the tippet, plus the loop connection aided in keeping the dropper at right angles to the tippet. If you haven't read Gaskell's "Bible" this may not make sense to you, but I found that the system works. Except, apparently the girth hitch dropper creates friction on the tippet section above the stopper knot and eventually weakens the tippet significantly. I've had breakoffs on nice fish as a result.

Gaskell tells me via email that my problem is the tippet material and that he believes only a certain brand of tippet and leader material is strong enough to handle this friction... alas that brand is not available in the US and shipping it from the UK is impractical and many retailers won't even ship to the US.

So, if any of you are using Gaskell's ladder leader and girth hitch droppers, I'd love to hear your experience with that system... and see if anyone else has had similar issues as me....

Great to get everyone's feedback. Lots of knowledge and experience in this group

Re: Fishing Discoveries "Ladder Leader" system

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2021 1:39 pm
by Theroe
ronr- try TECTAN…… it’s available online; very inexpensive I may add!