Welded Loops Made Easy
Nail Knots have been the traditional method for attaching fly line to leaders. Fly line manufacturers are now creating fly lines with welded loops on both ends to ease the attachment to both to the reel spool and leader material. Making a welded loop in your new or damaged fly line is relatively easy. Two techniques are discussed.
Fly Line Maintenance
Fly lines can be very expensive and, with proper maintenance, a quality line should last you several years. This will of course will vary on how often you fish and the frequency of cleaning and dressing applied to your line.
Most people reel up, put the rod/reel in a cover or case and forget about it until the next trip. This practice will generally shorten the life of the line. We suggest cleaning your fly line at least after every two trips and dress the line with a commercial dressing after cleaning.
One of the most common issues with fly lines is the degradation or breakdown of the end loop connecting the leader to the fly line. Nail knot connections are a great way to attached monofilament leaders to fly line, but over time, the connection can break down the plastic coating of the line exposing the inner core, which will eventually break.
The easiest way to connect the fly line to the leader is with a loop to loop connection. Many lines now come with welded loops on both ends.
There are many less expensive fly lines on the market which perform very well and do not come with loops. This article is about creating a loop on both ends of your fly line, whether you are repairing a broken loop or creating a new one on a line without a manufactured welded loop.
Technique #1: Creating a New Loop
The first technique is an old Lefty Kreh method I discovered 25 years ago. This employs your Whip Finishing Tool to create a thread wrap entrapping the loop end. You then coat the thread wrap with a flexible cement, such as Contact Cement or the newer UV treated flex cement on the market.
I have used this for years, since you don’t need any special equipment, such as flex tubing and heating units (more on this later). The author below is heavily into carp, so don’t hold that against him.
Here’s a good video on how to do this technique:
Technique #2: Creating a Welded Loop
The welded loop is the best connection to create, if you don’t mind getting some special equipment for the job. You can create a welded loop a number of ways, but the simplest is in the video below.
Some folks use special heating units and other apparatus, but a standard lighter works quite well. All you really need is shrink wrap tubing (about 4 cm). Finding it is another issue. (Somebody send this guy a fingernail clipper…..)
Bum Fishing Trips. If You Haven’t…You Will.
I booked a DIY bonefishing trip to a far flung locale in the lovely Bahama chain. It is touted as an overlooked destination, not flogged to death like many of the Bahama’s more famous bonefish havens.
I received excellent information from the booking agent Vince Tobia with Cattaraugas Outfitters of New York representing a number of exotic outposts, and in this case: Great Inagua. Every communication from Vince was very professional, timely and detailed, helping me understand exactly what as in store.
We made the arrangements well in advance and I tied all the flies needed to handle bones, barracuda, and baby tarpon. And had a number of rods to handle any circumstance including a NuCast 8+ and 10 wt rods. I also used a Blue Crush Saltwater Fly Reel.
We finally arrived at Matthewtown, the only settlement on the island (an outpost for Morton Salt). We were met by our charming host Henry Hugh who did a great job of providing for our needs, cooked meals, and helped in other ways.
The lodging was comfortable given it’s very remote location. We were provided a small truck to drive around to all the fishing spots accessible by road, as part of the package deal.
Sounds good right? The best parts of the trip were seeing many exotic bird species, including the gaudy West Indian Flamingos now allowed to flourish on remote parts of the island.
Weather: No Problem
The weather was typical for a week long trip with a couple days of perfect light winds and bright sun. Other days were windy, typical for the Caribbean, but we had good viewing skies with few pesky clouds, most of time. This is critical for bonefishing and any type of site fishing, especially in saltwater.
We were given a detailed map showing all the “drive-to” locations for bones and baby tarpon. Included one day was a guided trip where we followed a local for several hours in search of tarpon.
The Main Problem? Fishing was Lousy!
One of the main issues: I am admittedly a beginning bonefisherman. I have caught bones in Grand Cayman, Roatan, Mexico & Belize, but never really been on a bonefishing trip, per se.
Tidal stages are key in understanding the movement of these fish. Most of the locations were touted as best fished at low tides. This makes since as the fish are shallower, making them easier to spot. However, with drive-time being at least an hour between spots, the tide does have a tendency to change constantly and we were not always there at optimum times.
We fished for five days. I hooked a total of six and landed two small bonefish. I expected to do this easily in one morning’s fishing. My wife and I drove everywhere, trying to find flats holding fish (while we were there) with little to no luck.
Although the accommodations were very nice for a “hard-to-get-to” location ( to put it nicely), I became increasingly frustrated by the apparent lack of fish.
I’ll put most of the blame on me, not understanding where the fish should be when, etc. But my expectations were SOOO high, it was really a big letdown. I assumed with all these unfettered fish, we’d have many opportunities whether there at the perfect time, or not. Other anglers at the Inagua Outback Lodge at the same time – were repeat customers and caught some fish, but I got the feeling not a lot.
Finally toward the end of the trip, we found a flat with some fish and hooked up a few. By that time I was pretty disenchanted with the whole thing.
We ran into some other anglers who had booked through a local (the only) guide on the island and done fairly well for the week. This told me the fish were there, but these anglers accessed the areas via boat and not car, as we did.
As a relative beginner bonefisherman – to do it again, I’d go to a location where one could rack up some numbers (even if the fish were smaller) to gain experience and employ a bonefish guide.
Once I understand the game better, I might try a DIY trip again. If you ARE an experienced bonefishing angler, I would recommend Vince Tobia with several destinations of which to choose.
How to Integrate Saltwater Flyfishing into a Tropical Vacation
Have you ever wanted to tie in a Caribbean vacation with some saltwater fly fishing? You can do so without breaking the bank. Here’s some ideas on equipment and general approach.
Saltwater fly fishing is the fastest growing aspect of the industry over the last fifteen years.
If you haven’t fly fished for baby tarpon and bonefish, well, you haven’t really lived life to the fullest.
Twenty five years ago I picked up the bible of Saltwater Fly Fishing, from the book of the same name, by Lefty Kreh. Kreh is my favorite fishing author for a number of reasons. His writings are jam packed with more practical “how-to” tips than anyone else. The book covered all aspects of taking a trip to southern tropical climes to target bonefish, tarpon and other surly marine fishes.
A good 8wt rod, possibly overlined with 9 wt saltwater line (due to ever present wind) and a good quality reel. You will need a reel with a sealed drag that keeps the saltwater out and runs smoothly. If you don’t want to pay the extra money (starting at $375 plus) for a saltwater quality reel, bring the best bass reel you’ve got and see what happens. In a crunch, grab your bass fishing 8wt and pack it along. Tippet will vary between 10 – 14lb for bones and 30lb for baby tarpon and snook.
For the adventurous angler – rent a car. I always rent a car in nearly all of the destinations we travel. This way we can explore on our own. Many of the islands, have accessible flats you can explore on your own. Plus, wading the flats for bones and other fish, is a fun way to begin your saltwater fly fishing. Make no mistake, it’s not easy, but with time – you’ll understand what to look for and begin hooking some fish.
As is almost always the case, hire a local guide at the beginning of your stay. The best advice is to hire a qualified guide for at least one day on the water either via boat or wading. If you do this at the beginning of the trip, you’ll get the feel of what to look for and perhaps how to gauge the tides and other factors to help you succeed.
For the not-so-adventurous type, once you arrive at your destination you can ask around for information. Beware as there are a lot of scammers out there. Im skeptical of booking a guided trip through your hotel as they may not knowledgeable in fly fishing and will probably put you with a bait fisherman guide. Make sure to ask specific questions about the guide, what type of fish will you pursue and what type of tackle. Most locals will want to take you out to troll a reef for barracuda or fish a ten foot hole (called a mud) where schools of bones hangout when they’re not up shallow.
If I’m going in totally blind, I generally check with one of the ever present dive shops and see what they recommend. Dive shops have employees that speak English well and generally have information on fishing guides.
The best bet is to conduct your own research ahead of time on the area you’ll be staying and see what’s available for guided fly fishing. Trip Advisor comes in handy here. You can they deal directly with the guide and probably get better pricing than through an intermediary.
If you’re one of the huddled thousands that like the Cancun area, down to Playa de Carmen good flats fly fishing is in short supply.
In Cancun now, for example, there are several guides to take you into some of the area lagoons for baby tarpon and snook. I have not tried this specific area, because I just don’t care for frenzied places like Cancun. But if you’re there, give it a shot. Nearby smaller venues like Isla Mujeres actually has some decent fishing for bones and tarpon.
Further north towards the apex of the Yucatan and on the west coast, there are a number of fine fly fishing destinations, but they are more geared toward fishing, such as Isla Holbox, Progresso, and Campeche – and not for general vacationing. On the Gulf side of the Yucatan are some incredible opportunities for baby tarpon, but lack the great beaches, so if you’re bringing a non-angling spouse, this may be problematic.
All the way down the Yucatan east cost there are places where you can explore and find some shallow flats to look for saltwater quarry. There are famous fishing resorts as you get south of Tolum into the Ascension Bay area. I have explored areas and employed snorkeling the shallows to see what kind of fish are around. The further south you go down the Yucatan, the better quality of flats fishing you will get.
Most of the islands in the Caribbean have bonefish and tarpon of various sizes, as well as other great fighting fish. Some islands are better than others. Topographically steep islands dropping off quickly into the depths are much better for diving than shallow water fly fishing. Most of the Virgin Islands are like this and don’t offer the opportunities you’ll find in “flatter” “pancake” islands like the Bahamas, Caymans, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, Bonaire and similar. If I was going to pick one area that contains the best of laid-back vacation activities, great beaches and lots of bones, it would probably be somewhere in the Bahamas.
Local guides see fish much better than you ever will – and know the tides, etc. These are the two most important components when hunting for saltwater fish. Sometimes you’ll just have to roll the dice on a guide. They may be good and you’ll have a much better grasp of where to go and how to fish on your own.
Many years ago my wife and I took a trip to Roatan, Honduras. It was primarily a diving trip, but I had my fly fishing gear along as usual. We rented a car and between diving days we’d drive around and look for flats. We were told of a flat adjacent to a cemetery, which was easy to find. We wound up going there every chance we could and it was there I hooked and landed my first bonefish and caught several more. My wife was able to lounge on the beautiful beach and watch me wade around and spook fish.
Google Earth is a great internet resource for finding flats and out-of-the-way spots for bonefishing. Generally lagoons and channels will hold baby tarpon, but you’ll need to rent kayaks or canoes to get to them – but these can really be fun.
Over 25 years ago my wife and I went to Grand Cayman. We asked around about fly fishing and they looked at us “funny” at the dive shop. We kept checking and low and behold, there was a wayfaring guide on Grand Cayman from Wales! It was all “drive-to” fishing, mainly for baby tarpon in a maze of inland mosquito control canals dug the by government. The canals were easily accessible and we hit them early in there development, not long after they were dug, so the jungle had not encroached too much – allowing for plenty of open spaces for casting. The baby tarpon were there in the brackish water and would hit poppers with gusto, jumping into trees, etc. Great fun! We returned many times, rented cars and had the entire area to ourselves for many years. There are also some bonefish flats on the Grand Cayman, but you must explore to find them.
This year, plan to tie in some saltwater fly fishing with your vacation. It will add a new dimension to your travels and probably set a new variable on your choice of tropical destinations.
Resources for the traveling fly fisherman:
Fly Fishing in Saltwater – Lefty Kreh
Do It Yourself Bonefishing – Rod Hamilton
Flyfisher’s Guide to Mexico – Phil Shook
Bonefishing! – Randall Kaufmann
Fly-Fishing for Bonefish – Chico Fernandez
Be The Impatient Fly Fisherman!
One of the worst mistakes fisherman make is staying with a presentation what doesn’t work. Just because the fish hit a particular fly one day, doesn’t mean a whole lot when you return a week or month later.
The last two days, my brother Bruce (brucemillerartist.com) and I hit two sections of a Mississippi tributary that was really low.
We fished it anyway.
In late summer many of these rivers get too low to float cleanly and require dragging your watercraft over rocks and reefs.
This gets very old, very quickly.
Thus was the case on our trip, except there were enough pockets of holding water and enough hungry fish to make it worthwhile.
The key was changing presentations throughout the days.
Just because the fish slam poppers for an hour or two, doesn’t mean they’ll hit them with gusto all day. Fish go through different mood changes (much as humans) throughout the day and require different approaches to consistently stay on fish.
We had to switch between subtle topwater, like small hoppers and gurglers when the poppers fell out of favor. Sliders and small divers also provided action for a period of time, but these fish would only stay on one pattern for an hour or so, during a 5 hour float.
We had to switch multiple times throughout the day. If the fish didn’t hit a fly after no more than ten minutes, or if we had lookers – but not takers, we’d quickly change.
Many times it took awhile to discover the new preferred fly. Sometimes we’d go back to one that worked earlier to discover they liked it again….for awhile anyway…