How Long Do Prepackaged Leaders Last?

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Prepackaged Fly LeadersQuestion: Saw your column on prepackaged leaders. Here’s a parallel question: How long will those unopened, prepackaged leaders last in my vest or gear bag? When do I toss them, or should I wait until I start losing fish? Some even have expiration dates on them. Should I toss all that are past their date?

Fred M., via email

Answer: This is something I’ve often wondered about, as well, so I put the question to Tim Daughton, the product developer responsible for Orvis leaders and tippets. Here’s what he had to say:

“This is a difficult question to answer, as there are so many variables aside from time to consider—UV exposure, temperature, humidity, chemicals (DEET, sunscreen), etc. The one factor that many people fail to consider is heat, especially the kind that is generated in a car trunk or on the deck of a boat in July. These extreme temperatures can, over time, break down the material quickly, even though it is not exposed to UV.

You should store excess leaders and tippet in the house—not your vest—preferably in a cool place; some people even keep them in the freezer. Your vest/chest pack is actually the worst place to store leader and tippet. Take what you need to fish that day or on that trip, and leave everything else at home.

In general, fluorocarbon is going to last longer than nylon, because fluorocarbon is impervious to UV; it can, however, get milky with prolonged exposure, which makes it more visible to the fish. As a rule of thumb, I would replace material every two years unless it shows signs of degradation—then I would chuck it immediately.”

By the way, if you’re occasionally stymied by the challenge of unwrapping a prepackaged leader, check out my earlier column on how to do it correctly.