What Pound Test Leader For Trout

An angler that knows what pound test leader for trout is best.

I guide many clients to big brown trout like the one in the above picture and I know that it’s important to know what pound test leader for trout is best not only to get more bites but to also prevent break-offs. What pound test leader for trout is a common question that anglers want to know.

The pound test leader that is best for trout is 4 pounds because it’s not too heavy and it’s not too light. But under certain conditions, you might hook more trout or land more trout using a different pound test leader. There are advantages to using a lighter leader when fishing for trout.

Under different conditions and using different methods, you will need to change your leader size. I would use a very different size leader when float fishing than I would when casting lures or when Streamer fishing. I will discuss what the best leader is for each.

Leader Sizing Important Warning

Leaders for trout

This is very important to know and is something most anglers don’t know.

Using the right size of leader has many advantages, but not all leaders are labeled properly, or should I say labeled accurately, and this could mean fewer fish if you are unknowingly using the wrong sized leader.

It’s best to buy your trout leaders by the diameter size and not by the pound test on the label. The diameter size is a more accurate reflection of the true breaking strength and when it comes to leader size, the advantages and disadvantages are in the diameter of the line and not the pound test of the line. I will discuss this below.

I have seen leaders labeled as 4-pound test, but they were closer to a true 6 or even an 8-pound breaking strength which could be too heaver for trout.

As an example: If you compare 4 pound Drennan leader, 6 pound Seaguar leader, and 8 pound Rio leader, you will see that they are all the same 0.20mm/ 0.007″ diameter.

They are all the same diameter and therefore they would likely all break at approximately 8 pounds if you tested them, but they have ratings on their label from 4 pounds to 8 pounds which means 2 of the 3 are mislabeled.

I recommend using 4 pound line for trout fishing but, using the 4 pound Drennan will likely result in fewer trout biting your bait because it is too thick.

This chart is based off actual tests and is a more accurate way to buy your leaders.

Pound Test



.003in (.08mm)


.004in (.10mm)


.005in (.12mm)


.0055in (.13mm)


.007in (.18mm)


.008in (.20mm)


.009in (.22mm)


.010in (.25mm)

For heavier leaders of 6 pound to 12 pound, I like to use Drennan Leaders but remember to only go by the diameter and not by the label pound rating because Drennan 3 pound is actually 6 pounds, and 4 pounds Drennan is actually about 8 pound, 5 pound is about 10 pound and 6 pound is about 12 pound. Drennan  ( buy them by the diameter only)– Check Best Price at FishUSA.com

For lighter leader lines I like to use Rio FluoroFlex + Tippet. Check the prices at Bass Pro Shop, or FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

The Downside To A Heavy Leader For Trout

The main disadvantage to a trout leader that is too heavy is that the leader might be seen by line-shy trout. This might mean fewer fish will bite your bait. This matters more when fishing certain baits and in certain water conditions which you can see below.

The advantage to using a bigger leader for trout is that you won’t break off as many fish. I prefer to use a lighter leader because I think having more bites and losing a few is better than getting no bites at all.

The Advantages To Using A Lighter Leader For Trout

Big trout like this are caught on light leaders
Big trout are wiser and more line shy. The lighter your leader the more big and small trout you will catch.

There are some real advantages to a lighter trout leader and some advantages you probably do not know about.

  • A lighter trout leader won’t be seen by cautions line-shy fish.
  • A lighter trout leader will sink faster
  • A lighter trout leader won’t get pushed around by the current
  • A lighter trout leader might allow your bait to move and drift more naturally in the current.

The thicker the line the more surface area there is and that can mean that a thicker line will get pushed by the current more and that will increase the speed of your bait which can result in fewer bites.

I always go with as light a leader as I can get away with.

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best In Clear Water?

An angler fishing in clear water
This angler is fishing a clear fast water trout river with a 3 pound leader line. The light leader will get his fly down fast and help it move slower.

In ultra-clear rivers like you might find on some spring creeks, 4-pound test leader is a good choice for trout when you are float fishing or using the bottom bouncing method. However, there are advantages to using an even light leader of 3 pounds or 2 pounds.

If the trout are being line shy I will use 3 pound test leaders. 3 pound is .005″ or .12mm diameter

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best In Dirty Water Water?

An angler fishing in dirty water for trout

In dirty water you can go up a size or two because the trout can’t see the line and using a slightly heavier line will allow you to get the trout in faster.

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best In Slow Water?

I treat slow water the same way I treat very clear water becuase in slower water the trout have more time to inspect the bait and they are more likely to see the line and refuse your bait. In slow and clear water I will use 3 pound leader for trout. 3 pound is .005″ or .12mm diameter

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best In Fast Water?

4 pound leader are good for trout in faster water

When the water is faster the trout have less time to react to a bait moving at them and therefore they have less time to see the line. Therefore in faster water, a 4-pound leader should be fine for trout. 4-pound line is .0055in (.13mm) diameter.

With that being said I still use a 3-pound line more often simply because the 3-pound line won’t get pushed as fast by the current which allows my bait to travel slower and this often results in more bites.

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best In When Euro Nymphing?

Many pro tournament anglers that use the Euro nymphing methods will use very light leaders for trout. They do this because it allows their flies to sink faster which gets the flies in the strike zone faster and the thinner leader slows the flies down. It’s not uncommon for tournament pro anglers to use 1.5 to 2-pound leaders for trout.

For most of my Euro nymphing fishing and guiding, I use 3-pound leaders but I will upsize to a 4 or 5-pound leader in heavily wooded water, or if there are a lot of big fish over 5 pounds.

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best When Indicator Fishing?

Indicator nymphing

For indicator fishing for trout, a 4-pound leader will work in most river situations.

I use 4 pounds if I want to put split shots on the line because the split shots are less likely the damage a thicker line.

If I want to get my fly deeper faster I will drop down to 3-pound leaders for trout.

For information on how to indicator fish better check out my page Indicator Nymphing: 13 Tips From An Expert River Guide

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best For Dry Fly Fishing?

Best pound test leader for dry fly fishing

Leaders on the surface can create an indent in the surface which trout can see. That is why most dry fly fishing usually requires a thinner line so the line-shy trout do not see the line.

I also use mostly monofilament leaders when dry fly fishing because they are light and they float.

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best For Streamer Fishing?

dry fly fishing leader

When using streamer for trout I will use a 10 to 12 pound leader. Beacuse the fly is moving faster the trout will be focused on the fly and are less likely going to see the leader.

The other reason I use a 10-pound test leader for streamer fishing is that streamer fishing often gets the bigger fish to bite and when they hot the fly they hot it hard. A hard-hitting trout can break an 8-pound leader on contact sometimes so I rarely use less than 10 pounds when streamer fishing.

What Pound Test Leader For Trout Is Best For Swinging Wet Flies?

When swing wet flies for trout the line is tight and the fly is moving and there is less of a chance that the trout will see the leader.

Because the fly is moving and the leader will be tight, a bigger stronger leader is required so the fish don’t break you off on the bite.

I use 6 pound test leader when fishing with wet-flies.

What Pound Leader Is best For Lures.

Fish Flies With Spinning Gear

Sometimes when you are lure fishing you might be using a braided line or a colored line and you may need to add a piece of leader so that the trout don’t see it. Because the lure is moving the trout can hit the lure hard and fast therefore you will need a leader of 8 to 12 pounds.

Most of the time I will use a true 10-pound leader when casting lures. 10 pound leader is .009in (.22mm)

Got a question about what pound test leader for trout is best, let me know in the comments below.

I hope you enjoyed my post about What Pound Test Leader For Trout and that it helps you catch more trout.



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