The first time I saw a poly leader was while on a fishing vacation in Scotland. The gent behind the counter told me you don't fish here without one. That was some fourteen years ago and I purchased all the sizes that they had in the shop. Today, there isn't a shop that doesn't have a collection available.
In the Pacific North West, the steelheaders like Al Buhr, Mike Kenney and Steve Godshall have been cutting and designing lines suited to short head Skagit style for many years. When Goran Andersson's father would not let him purchase another line after he cut one back he was forced to add a long leader and change his casting style. Scandinavian underhand style was invented by him out of shear necessity.
My swinging kit for a 13 foot 8 weight TFO medium flex rod is as follows. I also use some of these same lines plus others for a Sage 8 weight switch rod. Target fish include Atlantic Salmon, Striped Bass and Steelhead. This list does not include all the leader possibilities and is as complete and accurate as my memory allows. Now is the time I wish I would have listened to my own advise and marked each item with a code or tag.
Line-AirFlo Delta Spey 55 foot Short for Pure floating Spey Casting Swing
Line-Rio Powerflex Mono Core Shooting Line Quick change between different heads for shooting Skagit, Scandi and Salter.
Line-Teeney 33 foot sinking tip with integrated floating line for Salt water strip back and overhead salmon from a Gaspe Boat.
Line- Rio Windcutter 55 foot for pure swing with 10 foot tips and standard length leaders pure swing
Head-30 foot level floating shooting head
Head-30 foot level intermediate shooting head
Head-30 foot level medium sinking shooting head
Head-30 foot level fast sinking shooting head
Head-Rio 450 grain Scandi Short
Head-Rio 525 grain Skagit Short
Tip- 10 foot level floating
Tip- 10 foot level hover
Tip- 10 foot level intermediate
Tip- 10 foot level slow sinking
Tip- 10 foot level medium sinking
Tip- 10 foot level fast sinking
Tip- 15 foot level T11
Tip- 10 foot T11
Tip- 5 foot level T11
Tip- 3 foot level T11
Tip- 2 foot level T11
Poly- 5 different tapered floating to 7.6ips 5 to 7.5 foot length Rio & AirFlo
Poly- 5 different tapered floating to 7.6ips 10 foot length Rio & AirFlo
Poly- 5 different tapered floating to 7.6ips 12 foot length Rio
Poly- 15 foot floating Rio
Plus various cut pieces and shortened tips and lines.
Imagine all the different combinations possible from this collection. How a math geek would figure it out I have no idea, but I'm sure it is a substantial number. Do all get used all the time? No. Am I ready to link together what might be needed in most situations? Yes.
Most of these items come ready with welded loops to link together. Loops sometimes get a bad rap and to think that way is not being open minded. Having fused loops on all the above is required to make the system complete. This involves taking thinner fly line cuts and fusing them to the thicker ends. There is no need to fold over the end of a cut line. A great book called How to Design Fly Lines is written by Al Buhr. It might only be a pamphlet but it is a complete understanding of how and why. Al told me that he thinks of the floating portion of his line like your hand and the different style of tips as fingers dipping down into the river to act as a probe. Each situation requires a different finger to reach the target. How many fingers do you have? How many do you want? How many do you need?
There is a perfect presentation to each and every fish we find. Trying to understand and cause that swing can only be performed if we have the tools to do so. Having the tools will open your mind to making it happen.
By going to a well stocked fly shop where they understand Spey and Switch and having one of each of these items in your hand will clear up a lot of the mystery. Making the purchases, learning to build your own loop end tips and lines and getting out to try each will open the door to a greater number of fingers to probe your favorite run.