Bonefish leaders need to be strong and resistant to abrasive coral as well as stealthy enough to land a fly in the fish’s proximity. It all begs the question; what bonefish leader is best? That’s a pretty difficult question and if you ask 50 different guides, chances are, you’ll get 50 different answers. We’ve narrowed it down to what we think works best, although that’s certainly to say there aren’t alternatives. A general rule of thumb and a good place to start is if you’re chasing larger fish down low, your leader should be shorter, and likewise, if you’re chasing smaller fish in shallower water your leader should be longer. But let’s explore leader setups more in-depth.
The bulk of fishing done on the flats is with a floating line. And generally speaking, you should have a nine to fifteen-foot leader depending on your fishing conditions. Most leaders sold today are already tapered, but don’t be scared to modify yours with extra tippet if the conditions call for it. Tippet weights should range from 12 to 15 pounds, which should get the job done even with larger bonefish.
If you like to tie your own leaders the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to constructing and customizing your leader and tippet to fit your casting style and conditions on the flats. Some anglers want a stiffer butt section using Mason which allows the fly to turn over easier, where others want a softer material that allows for a more delicate presentation. It’s all up to the angler and their preferences. However, if you do want to build your own leader there are a couple of different formulas for butt, midsection, and tippet lengths, e.g. 50/25/25, 60/20/20, 25/25/25/25, that is on a 9′ leader 4.5′ should be the length of your butt, 2.25′ the length of your midsection and then 2.25′ the length of your tippet- or any combination you prefer of the proportions.
When attaching leaders, tippets, and midsections there a few knots that are extremely effective. Depending on your line and set up attach your leader to your fly line with a nail knot. If your line has a permanent butt section to conveniently change leaders, use a perfection loop to connect the two lines. In midsection pieces of your leader use either a blood knot or surgeon knot. And finally, use a blood knot or surgeon knot to connect the tippet to the leader.
There are a lot of variables to consider when choosing or constructing a bonefish leader and the subsequent tippet. Your own preferences for length and feel play a role as well as the environmental factors to take into consideration when casting to wary bones.
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