Saltwater Flats Leader Design

moucheur2003

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The wind was blowing very hard on my most recent trip to Andros, and I found commercial knotless tapered “bonefish” leaders simply too supple to turn over the size 2 and 4 flies the fish wanted. After some experimentation, the leader formula that worked best for me used 3’ each of Rio saltwater hard mono in 30 lb (.027”) and 25 lb (.024”), then 1’ each of Rio saltwater hard mono in 20 lb (.021”), 16 lb (.018”), and 12 lb (.015”). I tied perfection loops to connect the tip of the 12 lb to a 2’ tippet of 12 lb/.011” fluoro with a loop-to-loop connection, for a total length of 11’. (I also had a spool of Seaguar Grand Max 1x (14.5 lb, .010") in my pocket in case the fish wanted size 6 or 8 flies, but those never got wet.) Except for the tippet, I used blood knots coated with Loon UV Knot Sense for the connections. The perfection loops made replacing tippet easy and the hard mono section was still as sound on the last day of the week as the first. My only complaint was that there was a lot of memory in the hard mono when it was fresh, which needed a fair amount of stretching and casting in the first couple of hours to relax.
 

moucheur2003

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^^Note re above: I found my formula pretty good for delivering larger flies in the wind, but it might be too stiff for delicate presentations in skinny water under calm conditions. If the weather had been more ideal, I might have tried shorter heavy sections in the butt, longer sections in the middle taper, and standard saltwater nylon or fluoro rather than hard mono.
 

flafly14

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This is an old chestnut,but I'll be the first to bite...here's a couple of relevant points.
1) You tested one brand of fluorocarbon against one brand of nylon monofilament.
2) fluorocarbon does not degrade (whether you are morally opposed to this or not)
3) In time,nylon absorbs water and becomes weaker.
Stand by to repel boarders....lol
It wasn't my test. I just thought it was interesting and relevant to the discussion. I would like to see them test again with the lines wet. I just thought I'd put it up there because why do we say that floro is more abrasion resistant? Is it because we know this for sure? Or is it that people just say it because everyone else says it? I think there is a perception out there that floro is more abrasion resistant, but I'm 50/50 on whether that's actually true. I do use floro for tippet and bite tippet because I think that it's less visible in the water. For butt sections I use mono for leaders that I want to "float" and floro for leaders that I want to sink.
 

sweetandsalt

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I could see using hard Nylon in the upper leader on skinny, grass flats like in Belize for its touch more buoyancy. But in the intensely salty flats habitat, Fluoro does no sink much faster anyway.

Moucheur, If one builds a Nylon leader in the evening during conch fritters, for one thing the frying oil is a good knot lubricant (just kidding a little) but one has the time to soak the leader in a sink of warm water for a while then hang it off a deck or palm tree with a bit of weight on the tippet to dry straight. I used to do this at salmon camps all the time where I felt it really payed dividends.

Regarding abrasion resistance. If a fish runs you into the mangroves your leader and possibly line will get abraded no matter what its made out of. I strive not to permit a fish to do this. By far the biggest permit I ever hooked cut my Fluoro leader in half on a corral head as if by a sharp knife. As distraught as I was to loose this remarkable fish I was glad it cut my leader not my fly line in half...I was well into my colored string.

An early adopter of Fluorocarbon in the salt (not fresh) it's properties of lower visibility and/or abrasion resistance are not its most significant characteristics for me. It is its very low stretch relative to very stretchy Nylon. The direct and aggressive Strip Strike is crucial in the straight to the fish flats presentation. Combined with one of today's minimal stretch lines like RIO DC Bonefish with a full Fluoro leader we get a technical asset in a form of fly fishing where every slight advantage is a big deal.

Lastly, quality of presentation of our fly, almost always with some weight on it, is not a function of suppleness vs. stiffness of our leader. Rather the effectiveness with which we fully unfurl our leader in-air following our offering down to the water's surface with our rod tip. Just as in dry fly trout fishing, line/leader unfurling on the water sends mini shock waves to the fish no matter how gentle it may feel to the angler. Positive, uninterrupted though diminishing energy from our cast out to the fly offering adroit control by us is a fundamental attribute to angling success.
 

ReetsAdeets

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Some great input in this thread, I wish I had seen it before my trip to Belize last summer. This simple formula worked well for me for a bonefish leader. Lots of knots however.
 

sweetandsalt

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Welcome Reets, I have seen this video previously and agree with virtually everything Capt. Chard says. While his build and mine have much in common other than Hard Mono vs. all Fluorocarbon (and if using hard mono I would also use the RIO stuff) where we depart is on taper design. I favor a longer butt and shorter mid transitional sections and a longer tippet as my experience is a steeper mid-taper provides more positive turn over. I too don't measure just cut sections by feel and remember with any leader "formula", it is a guide line. Modification regarding wind, fly size even line taper are easy and important to experiment with...you will see while casting if the leader would benefit from modification. The only other thing I'd add is if I were sitting at a Bahaman Bonefish Camp bar I can imagine alternatives to a glass of water to lubricate with.
 

dynaflow

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I agree with S&S re leader design,and like many I also saw this video some time back.Now while the Bruce Chard version is without doubt a well tied leader,the Bonefish must be shy to fish one that long (did he say 12 to 18 feet?) and I've never needed 18lb.tippet for this species,not even on Aitutaki.This would be a great leader for windy conditions,but with six sections it's overkill for most places.I favour a 9' three piece leader with a butt section of 50% or more (and at least .032") with a perfection loop to the fly line,using any of the so-called Hard Mono nylon from the likes of Rio,and you can add fluorocarbon tippet as it wears down.
 

Wet dreams

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Previously I did fine with knotted leaders but it seems like there is more grass and now Sargasso all over the Caribbean and Spartina on the Gulf Coast.

If a knotted leader is problematic I go to a commercial tapered leader and add butt and tippet as needed. Two knots are usually Ok. Also Mono or Hybrid tippets sink less into the grass. I have gone to more neutral flies like Lee Haskins Nuetralizers and the various laid up or slider type flies that can hover just above turtle grass. Also I tye on lighter wire hooks the Gama SC17 is too heavy for light flies and now I will use a 12 or 15 instead, 1-2x heavy instead of 3x.
 

dynaflow

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I just watched that Bruce Chard video above.Man that guy works fast! .......but a six section Bonefish leader?No doubt it would work fine,but a factory nine foot x14lb.tippet S.A.Knotless leader has a .028mm.butt and won't pick up any detritus :)
 

sweetandsalt

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My all Fluorocarbon leader is similar to Chard's but steeper in its mid section tapering. I fished a few days ago in tidal marshes with grass a plenty in northern Florida. How did I keep the short tags of my Blood and final Ligature Knot from rubbing grass? Building the leader at home, pre-trip I coated all the knots with UV resin and cured it with a special flash light. So I enjoyed the turnover and control of a custom hand built with the vegetation avoidance of an extruded, softer one-piece.
 

pnc

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My all Fluorocarbon leader is similar to Chard's but steeper in its mid section tapering. I fished a few days ago in tidal marshes with grass a plenty in northern Florida. How did I keep the short tags of my Blood and final Ligature Knot from rubbing grass? Building the leader at home, pre-trip I coated all the knots with UV resin and cured it with a special flash light. So I enjoyed the turnover and control of a custom hand built with the vegetation avoidance of an extruded, softer one-piece.
Yes, coating knots is the only way to go for leaders. I try to shape like little footballs.

Have of late heard about and watch video link here. About using butt sections 9' long. Have numerous leaders tied already. But will be giving this a try soon. Seems like such a departure from what I know.

Ill
 
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