Bonefish Leader Formula: How To Make Lefty Kreh’s Leaders

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Bonefish Leader Formula Feature Image

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Flats fishing for bonefish is some of the most enjoyable fly fishing that you can do.

To get the most out of a bonefishing trip it is important to have a reliable leader that you can turn over in the windy conditions you often encounter.

It should also be supple enough to land the fly without too much splash. It should also incorporate a fluorocarbon tippet to take advantage of its near invisibility.

This leader formula from the great saltwater fishing guru Lefty Kreh allows you to make great leaders that incorporate these elements.

The taper in this leader ensures the energy from the cast is properly transfered and that the tapered leader unfurls properly at the end of the cast.

Lefty Kreh Fly Fishing Leader for Bonefish

Please note: numbers in circle are line strength in pounds

The diagram shows the formula for making your leaders for bonefish. Note that the main leader sections are mono (we recommend using Maxima as it is strong and stiff) with the number representing strength in pounds, and the tippet here is fluoro. Blood knots are fine for the mono to mono connections, but you should use a triple surgeon’s knot for connecting the fluoro tippet.

Unlike fluoro, monofilament line absorbs water, so if you use the double blood knot connection, the fluoro line can end up cutting into the mono line as it swells weakening your leader.

A weakened leader is the last thing you need when you are trying to stop a decent bonefish reaching the coral at the edge of the flat!

The Perfect Bonefish Leader: Step by Step Instructions

  1. Cut the sections

    Cut up the sections of line to specified lengths: 4ft of 50lb; 2ft of 30lb; 1ft of 25lb and 2ft of 15lb.

  2. Join the sections

    Join each section of mono with double blood knots. Use fewer turns (no more than three) for the three larger diameter sections and four for the 15lb section. Remember to lubricate the knots with saliva before pulling them up tight and trimming the tags.

  3. Add the fluorocarbon tippet

    u003cbru003eJoin the fluoro tippet to the end of the tapered leader with the Triple Surgeon’s knot or the Seaguar Knot. Again, lubricate the knot with saliva and pull it up tight slowly then trim the tags.

  4. Sort out your connection to the fly line

    Put a loop at the butt end of the leader using a perfection loop or other form of loop knot if you are making a loop-to-loop connection to your fly line. Or leave the butt end as plain mono if you are using a nail knot to join it to your fly line.

Bonefish Leader Video Instructions

Bonefish Leader FAQs

Bonefish picture for leader formula with man holding bonefish
Bonefish leaders need fluoro tippets so the fish don’t see the line

What are the advantages of making your own tapered leaders?

Making your own leaders can save you a lot of money. You can make these tapered leaders for less than a dollar, whereas a store bought leader for bonefish will cost at least $5.

I also like to know the taper of the leader and how it is going to behave. If you have made your own leader, you know how it is going to behave. Whereas with bought leaders, if you have to buy a brand you aren’t familiar with you aren’t sure how it will turn over until you have tried it.

I also think that knotted leaders, paradoxically, develop fewer wind knots than knotless leaders – this is important in saltwater fishing where wind is a constant. Stiff mono like Maxima assembled in sections makes for a robust, strong leader that doesn’t tend to tangle.

Can you make all-fluorocarbon bonefish leaders?

Yes, for sure. Fluoro is nice and still and nearly invisible underwater, so a full fluorocarbon leader offers a bit more stealth for fly fishing than the mono with fluoro tippet leader we have explained here. However, fluorocarbon leader material is fair bit more costly than mono, so that can be a factor for some anglers. The other advantage of full fluoro leaders is that fluorocarbon has greater abrasion resistance than mono bonefish leaders.

What about if I need a longer leader?

You can easily increase the length of this leader, you just have to keep the proportions the same using Lefty Kreh’s famous 50% formula where you have three sections, each half the length of the previous section. For example, you make it 25% longer by multiplying all lengths by 1.25 so you would have 5ft of 50lb, 2.5ft of 30lb; 1.25ft of 25lb and 2.5ft of 15lb.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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