I am a convert to furled leaders. I've used tapered mono leaders, knotted leaders constructed of various weights of filament. I've used braided leaders, I've used other systems as well. For the kind of fishing I do (mountain streams and lakes) nothing works better than furled leaders. Furled leaders are made of a bunch of strands of very fine filament or thread wound together to form a single leader. They come in various lengths, from 3 feet to 8 feet long. I've found that the most useful all-around lengths are between 4 and 6 feet, with the length dependent on the length of the rod you use. The weight of the leader is matched to your line, so you buy the leader to match your line weight.
Furled leaders attach to your fly line with a loop to loop connection. Then, you attach 3-4 feet of tippet onto the end of the furled leader, and you're ready to go. The better ones have a tiny ring on the end, to make tying on tippet easier.
Why do I like furled leaders? Because they improve my casting. They really help you "turn over" a fly, especially when casting short distances with a small amount of fly line out. The furled leader does not have any "memory" and won't kink or "slinky" like other leaders. Unlike regular monofilament leaders, the furled leader acts almost like a mini fly line. When fishing a short line, the furled leader has enough mass to help keep the weight of the fly line from "retracting" your fly. (Most of us who often fish with a short line have had the frustrating experience of seeing the weight of the fly line pull the leader and tippet back toward you, stopping only when the fly catches in the tip guide.)
For long casts, the furled leader "turns over" a fly better than any other I've used. It also allows you to use a long, lightweight tippet and still retain the ability to lay out the fly.
Furled leaders are durable, and last longer than other types. I have never broken one, and they don't seem to ever wear out either.
I have found that, with some types of furled leader, they tend to sink. One trick I've found is that if you rub a little silicone mucilin dressing on them every once in a while, it enhances the leader's floatability. Cleaning them every time you clean your flyline is also a good idea.
Up until recently, my favorite furled leaders were from Feathercraft. Now, however, I prefer those from Zen Outfitters.
Iíve used various types of furled leaders, including home made leaders and leaders from various companies. For several years, I happily used furled leaders from Feathercraft. Then, I was introduced to a new style furled leader by Jaime Chriswisser at Zen Outfitters. He offered to let me try one of his furled leaders and see if I liked it. I figured that all furled leaders are pretty much the same, but I also couldnít really pass up the offer of free swag, so I took him up on the offer of a free leader. As it turned out, I liked the Zen leaders a lot more than I thought I would. I liked them so much, in fact, that I purchased a bunch of Zen leaders to replace the Feathercraft leaders I already had on all of my reels. Jaime made them in various lengths to match the rods and lines I would be fishing with.
Why do I like them so much that I would pay to replace the perfectly good furled leaders I already have? First off, I like the way that they cast. They have a very supple quality to them that is superior to that of the other leaders I have used. On the Zen Outfitters website, they point out that Zen leaders are made from uni thread. I actually donít know what uni thread is, but I can say from experience that it appears to be superior to whatever it is that Feathercraft and Blue Sky are using to construct their furled leaders. The Zen leaders allow for softer, more delicate presentations when dry fly fishing. The leader lays out the fly with less disturbance to the water. This is especially apparent when I am fishing really small flies. Even though the leader is softer and more supple, it still has enough ďbackboneĒ for short line fishing with just the leader and a foot or so of fly line.
The other thing I really like about the Zen leaders is that they float. With other furled leaders I have used, I have had to regularly use mucilin to coat the leader. Without the mucilin, the leader tended to sink. The Zen leaders have some sort of floatant built into the leader. Whatever this floatant is (itís a secret formula I guess) it works well, and appears to be permanent. Iíve been using the Zen leaders for months now, and have not had to apply any floatant to keep them from sinking. Because the Zen leaders float so well, they also donít pick up water as much as the others Iíve used, which reduces any spray when casting.