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Leader Length and Bonefishing

Posted on June 16 2011

Bonefish Leader Length
Hey, these aren't steelhead flies! Photo: Cameron Miller

One of the cool things about running fishing lodges is that we get to fish in some amazing places with expert anglers who know those fisheries like the backs of their hands.  Another cool thing, though, is that between hosted trips, press trips, schools and more, we also get to fish with expert anglers in parts of the world that are new to them, and that can yield some really interesting insights.

Case in point – Tom Larimer‘s brain has been surgically combined with that of a Deschutes steelhead, as far as we can tell.  Tom has spent countless days guiding around Oregon, but not a lot of time (yet!) chasing bonefish on the flats in the Bahamas.  When he joined us at Andros South this past spring, it was really interesting to hear an ‘outside expert’s’ take on the fishing.

Based on that trip, he’s written about tying for South Andros, some similarities between steelhead fishing and bonefishing, and how to pick your bonefish rod given the conditions at hand.  Today he weighs in with some thoughts on leader length.  Thanks for the perspective, Tom!

Leader Length and Bonefishing

I’ll be the first one to admit, I’m not a saltwater expert. After all, we don’t get many shots at 10 pound bonefish in Oregon. That being said, after a week of stalking the flats at Andros South I did discover a few things about leader length that might help you the next time you head south.

In the mornings on Andros, when the light is low, it’s considerably harder to spot bonefish compared to full illumination during the mid-day. Consequently, you’re going to get a lot of close shots at fish. Sometimes the fish may only be 15’ from the boat!

For me, it was difficult to get a subtle presentation at short distance with the fast action rod I was fishing and a 12’ leader. I had to make a quick, snappy stroke, which usually resulted in the fly crashing hard on the surface. In turn, this elicited a good verbal flogging from the guy working his butt off on the poling platform. The last day of the trip I rigged a second rod with a 9’ leader and the problem was solved. Now I could make a short accurate cast without spooking the hell out the fish.

As the sun got higher in the sky and we started getting longer shots at fish, I went back to my rod with the 12’ leader. The extra length does a couple of things for you. Obviously the stealth factor increases. One morning the fish were really spooky and the longer leader was key to getting the big eat. The other benefit is it forces you to lengthen your casting stroke and wait an extra split second to let the leader fully extend into the back cast. With a longer, delayed forward stroke your loop will be long and tight. It also allows you to use maximum line speed. This is critical for reaching fish at 65 feet and beyond. It’s also incredibly efficient in the wind.

A word to the wise about changing up your rig – practice with your short-range rod and your long-range rod before you go!

More from Tom Larimer

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