Salmon are wily fish, so it is important that whether you are out casting or trolling on a river or on the ocean for one of the species that you use the leader material for salmon fishing that works best for that specific fish (well, that is what a “true” salmon angler will tell you, but really the same leader that catches a sole, dogfish, or even trout will catch a salmon a lot of the time). In most cases different species of salmon will bite on the same material, the difference will be in how far apart different materials are.
The most important part of the leader is without a doubt the line. Salmon won’t bite on a line that they can see, and the line will need to impart a natural motion to the lure that will attract the salmon. The appropriate line is highly dependent on the type of water where you are fishing. Out on the ocean on a clear and sunny day will mean that some lines will be visible to the fish. This type of line is usually the monofilament variety, with its low refractive index. Lines made from fluorocarbons, on the other hand, are ideal leader material. The refractive index of fluorocarbon line is almost identical to that of water, so the line will be nearly invisible to the fish.
Wire can also be used as leader material for salmon fishing; it is resistant to the sharp teeth that are part of salmon biology, particularly when they are heading upstream to spawn. It is very important that you check local regulations before you use wire as leader material however; in some locals this is not legal.
Don’t despair if you love your inexpensive monofilament line, this type of line can still be used successfully when fishing for salmon. Just make sure that you use it on a leader when you are fishing on with a fly or trolling a river; the movement of the water will impart action to the lure, and this movement also means the water is not as clear, so the line will not be as visible as it would be under clear conditions.
Your leader lengths can also be a critical part of your success during a day of salmon fishing, and can depend on the species you are out after. Recommended lengths will change according to what is on the end of your line (a hootchie or a lure or bait) as well as the salmon species you wish to catch. The general rule is the larger the salmon species, the greater the length of leader between the lure and the flasher.
Using the right kind of leader material for salmon fishing can make all the difference between a successful trip (in terms of fish caught) and a skunking. Knowing the waters you are fishing as well as the likely weather on the day of your excursion should help you choose the right type of leader, but generally speaking fluorocarbon line will always work best.