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.
 

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
 

Wet dreams

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A nine foot butt seems a little extreme. I do like a 70,20,10% leader so on a 12 foot leader that would come out to 8.4 feet. A butt that length I would step down at least once as I use such heavy butts that you want to keep them further from the fish. But I try to stay with a ten foot leader unless really calm or spooky conditions are the norm and demand longer leaders.
 

dynaflow

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I can only presume that these leaders aren't for the salt because I've never heard of formulae like that.A normal hand-made 9' leader for the salt is something like Lefty Kreh's "50%" formula (look it up) where the Butt section is around 50% of the leader....add tippet if you want but don't make it longer than one and a half feet.
 

karstopo

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~50% butt seems right to me. I generally do an arm’s span or so for the leader butt. Roughly 6 feet. I’ve been using mostly 30 pound fluorocarbon leader material for leader butt, occasionally sometimes 40 pound material. With 30 pound butt, I can generally use a 20# mid section. Not all these leader materials have the same diameter per weight test rating. Some of the higher end fluorocarbon like seaguar gold gets mighty thin per weight rating. With 40 pound butt, there‘s usually a need for an additional mid section piece of 30#. I tend to have a few brands of material around of various weight rating but really I’m more thinking about diameter than weight test rating when matching up leader sections. 15# tippet is my go to multi-purpose tippet for the juvenile redfish, speckled trout, sheepshead, flounder, et.al. Inshore Texas fishing I like to do. Most 15# material is easy to work with, easy to tie knots, and durable enough in most places and with most of the fish I come across. I tend to tie tippet longer than it needs to or should be for strictly sight fishing, maybe even 4 feet at times, but might cut a little off if I need greater control.

I’ve found I enjoy probing certain structures and situations when the sight fishing conditions and opportunities are sporadic or spotty on any given outing. The longer fluorocarbon leader lets me fish a bit deeper with the floating fly line. I’ve had some memorable trips staked or waded up out on a reef or structure making repeated casts to the same water and having a lot of fun action with the fish, the 2, 3 or 4 feet of extra leader length seems to make a difference between getting fish or not.

Many trips are hybrid trips where there’s the slightly deeper fish holding structure, 18”- 24”- 30” fishing where there’s fish sign and even some brief sightings and then water close by that is more shallow where the fish are plainly visible. My last outing was just such a trip. Fish in 6-8” of water with shoulders showing and fish out a little deeper showing up as mud boils and wakes and nervous bait, maybe 12-24”. My leader that day was about 13’ with 4’ of tippet. Maybe not so ideal for a situation where maximum control was needed, but sometimes even in sight fishing the need for precision control isn’t totally necessary. On this outing, the redfish were hanging along an edge between a flat with almost no water on it and a small drain with slightly more water feeding and following a predictable path along the edge and aside from a patch of shell or two, it was simply a matter of getting the fly into the predictable path and moving the fly at the appropriate time. No need to thread a needle.
 

Natcho

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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.
I built a few leaders using Chard's exact recipe for a recent trip to Andros and it worked really well - definitely a noticeable improvement over extruded leaders I've used in the past. I also coated knots with UV - it's a great trick.
 

Wet dreams

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The axiom of using the same material to build a salt water leader still holds true....if you like you can add fluorocarbon tippet if the rest of the leader is Monofilament.
This is a good rule of thumb. I will frequently mix 2-4 types of line on occasion. The key is to go by stiffness and diameter with stiffest in the butt sections to medium to softer for the tippet. I always do the "Omega" test and look for a nice fat rounded curve, if it has a "V" apex then it is a mismatch. I will get compulsive making leaders but if I have to make any on the water they are usually only three or four different lines. All fluorocarbon leaders are not good for very shallow presentation and surface flies. I have been using Yozuri Hybrid and it has some of the characteristics of fluoro and mono with the sink rate closer to mono. It is medium stiff and where the butt meets hard mono I might use the same diameter Hybrid as the harder mono and then go from there. If you step down and also use a softer material you will not get the big curved Omega, or smooth transition either.
 
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