Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fly Fish with Mel: How to Equip for a Trip to Maldives - Leader and Tippet

It is common practice for American anglers targeting bonefish to use the longest leader they can to avoid spooking the fish. The classic bonefish havens have been under so much fishing pressure that the fish have graduated with a PhD in Capture Evasion. So it isn't wrong to say that long leaders and light tippets are a must.

In the Maldives, the bonefish may not be as plentiful but they do not spook as easily. These fish are normally caught by the locals using worms and crabs. And during any fishing season, the Maldives see probably around 200 - 300 fly anglers. I must quantify that these are purely my own estimates based on the number of anglers leaving for trips from Singapore and Malaysia and from the information gathered from the Maldivian captains. It is more common for visiting anglers from Japan and Europe to go for popping and jigging or big game fishing. Even if my numbers are underestimated, I am very sure that the fishing pressure on the flats is significantly lower than that of the Caribbeans or Florida. Thus, a long leader is considered a good to have and not a necessity.

Twisted Leader

My leader is usually between 9' - 12' long ; shorter, if I'm using a very heavy fly; even longer if there is not even a hint of a breeze. It is constructed out of 25 lbs monofilament line. I twist the line so that it technically doubles its breaking strength. This also makes the butt of my leader stiffer so that the transition from fly line to leader is gradual. It aids in turning the whole leader and therefore, the fly. Another added advantage of using such a leader is that it acts as a shock absorber. The twisting causes the line to bunch up, effectively becoming a spring, that when pulled, stretches even more than when it was a single strand.

With a 50lbs butt leader that tapers to 25lbs, with no knot to weaken it in the middle, I tie on 4' – 5' of 15lbs - 20lbs fluorocarbon bite tippet. The fly is then tied on using a loop knot and I'm ready for business. If I keep changing flies, I'll use the tippet till I am left with about 2' before I change the whole leader with one fresh from a Zip-loc bag.

I use fluorocarbon tippets as it is said to be near invisible to fish when in the water. It is also more abrasion-resistant making it suitable for use around the rocky outcrops. There is a downside to fluorocarbon tippets though. It is a lot stiffer than most monofilament leaders however, this is resolved by using a loop knot that retains the fly's action.

Even though I've followed convention and used a tapered leader, I must add that on our last trip, a mate of ours used 6' of 60 lbs leader and caught a 5lbs bonefish using a #2 Clouser Deep Minnow.