The guides on South Andros generally prefer the angler have an overall leader/tippet no longer than 9′ total. If they want something longer they will let you know or just build it out for you to whatever they deem necessary for the situation and the anglers skill level. The big factor in longer leaders is just being able to make the cast where and when it needs to be made. The longer that leader/tippet is the harder that becomes, percentages on making the cast needed to go down with every foot of leader/tippet material you add. I think a lot of anglers who have fished South Andros over the years and experienced a day on the water would say long leader length is usually not needed. I guarantee you I could probably catch “schoolie” bonefish with a fly tied directly to the fly line itself. And I have personally caught 3-5 lb bonefish on 4′-6′ leaders multiple times. When they want it, and you present it to them right, all they are focused on is that tasty shrimp that’s trying to getaway.
One thing you’ll find about South Andros bonefish is that they are generally pretty greedy in their feeding habits. South Andros Island has an immense amount of productive flats, creeks, and inland lakes that are full of aggressive bonefish. Lots of competition for them out on all that sand puts them at a disadvantage more often than not. That disadvantage lets you get away with running pretty short leader/tippet setups on South Andros, most the time. Inherently that shorter leader will let you be a more effective and proficient angler which leads to more fish-eating your fly.
I generally prefer to make my own leaders on the fly, so to speak, but it’s not a bad idea to have a few premade factory leaders as a backup. 9′ 16lb tippet tapered leaders work just fine and you can add a short section of lighter fluoro tippet if needed, or just use it with the 16lb. One bummer about handmade leaders is the extra knots in the leader that can become an issue in very shallow sandy situations or when you have any sort of crabgrass bank you are fishing. They just don’t move through that stuff quite as smoothly as a manufactured leader so that does have to be a consideration from time to time.
For my handmade leaders, I will use Maxima Clear for the leader sections and it seems to do the job just fine and it’s easy to work with. Mason is another very popular leader material for this application. You should have a small spool of 20lb, 30lb, and 40lb. Then get yourself a small spool of 12lb and 16lb fluorocarbon. Another item you must have is a killer set of line nippers to nip those tag ends clean. As far as a breakdown on leaders, here is the Down and Dirty;
- 4′ 40lb Maxima Clear
- 2.5′ 30lb Maxima Clear
- 1.5′ 20lb Maxima Clear
- 1.5′ 12lb-16lb Fluorocarbon Tippet
This recipe builds you out a 9′-9.5′ leader which is easily adjusted shorter or longer. This rig with the 40lb butt section can be better in the wind for turning over bigger flies which you will at times have to throw on South Andros.
- 3.5′ 30lb Maxima Clear
- 2.5′ 20lb Maxima Clear
- 1.5′ 12lb-16lb Fluorocarbon Tippet
This recipe builds you out a 7.5′-8′ leader/tippet and can be adjusted even shorter if needed. Blazing wind situations or tight mangrove channels with fish at your feet can be a reason to run very short leaders. This leader is probably a bit better on light presentation situations as well, due to the shorter length and lighter butt section.
Putting it all together-Most fly lines these days come with a welded loop to connect your leader to the fly line. If you have a loop in the fly line then tie a Perfection Loop in the Butt end of the 40lb Maxima then loop to loop it. If your fly line does not have a loop use a Nail Knot coated with UV Knot Sense to connect the 40lb to your fly line. I use either a Blood Knot or Surgeon’s Knot to connect the 40-30-20-tippet or 30-20-tippet connections. For the tippet to fly use a Non-Slip Loop Knot. That’s pretty much it so tight lines to all!