Permit Leader Formula: Make Your Own DIY Fly Fishing Leaders

Flats fishing for permit is addictive. The rush as a big permit swims over to inspect your crab pattern and after what seems like an eternity, inhales it, is hard …

Flats fishing for permit is addictive. The rush as a big permit swims over to inspect your crab pattern and after what seems like an eternity, inhales it, is hard to beat.

But more than any type of fly fishing, permit fishing relies on a proper tapered leader. It has to be long enough to not spook this most flighty of fish species, clear enough not to be seen and constructed so that it can turn over large crab flies even in strong winds.

Here in the diagram below, we’ve summarized the instructions for tying a great permit leader based on the ratios set down by saltwater fishing ace Lefty Kreh.

Permit Leader Formula Diagram

Numbers in the circles are breaking strains in pounds

Here (and in the image above) is the length and pound strengths of the line segments used to make up a 14ft permit leader:

  • 7ft of 50lb mono
  • 3ft of 40lb mono
  • 1ft of 30lb mono
  • 1ft of 20lb mono
  • 2 ft of 15lb mono
  • Fluorocarbon tippet

How to Make Your Own Permit Leaders

Cut the sections

Cut the sections of mono as indicated in the list above or the diagram

Join the sections

Join the sections using double blood knots taking care to lubricate the knots with saliva before cinching them up. Be sure to cinch each blood knot up tight under strain and then trim the tag ends close to the knot.

Add the tippet

Add your fluorocarbon tippet material using a triple surgeon’s knot. This knot is better than the blood knot for a fluoro/mono connection as it allows the mono to swell as it absorbs water without the fluoro line cutting into it and weakening it. Use a class tippet if you are chasing an IGFA record!

Sort out the connection to the fly line

Use the perfection loop knot or another loop knot to add a loop to the butt end of your tapered leader if you are attaching it to your fly line with a loop to loop connection.

FAQs: Permit Leader Formulas

project permit
Permit have good eyesight and require fluoro tippet

Can you make these leaders longer or shorter?

Yes, you can increase or decrease the length of these fly fishing leaders to suit your preferences. As long as you adjust the length of each section by the same percentage when you make your own leaders, you will be keeping the proportions. That’s important as this tapered leader is designed to transfer the energy from the cast and unfurl your leader in a variety of conditions.
Length is important for permit leaders and it always a trade off. The longer the better from the point of view of avoiding spooking a trophy permit. But you also want to be able to slip the fly off the guide and fire off a quick cast if a fish swims into view. So to facilitate that, it is good to be able to hook the fly on one of the top few guides on your fly rod and run the leader back behind the reel seat and still have at least six inches of fly line out the top of the top guide on the fly rod.
This makes it easy to get line out by false casting to give yourself a shot at a fast approaching permit.
A total leader length of about 14ft allows for that.

Can I use all fluorocarbon to make my own leader?

You can, but with leaders this thick it is not recommended because 50lb and 40lb fluorocarbon is a bit too stiff to make a leader that unfurls correctly.

What about fly fishing leaders for other flats species?

This tapered leader is specifically designed for permit. Check out our article on bonefish leaders for a tapered fly fishing leader designed specifically for that species.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.