Bonefish Fly Selection

bonefish in shallow water
A common topic of conversation in fly shops, at fishing lodges, and over beers is the question - what is your bonefish fly selection? I think that everyone has a basic fly selection that dominates their fly box, and an angler's fly selection can tell you a lot about their approach to fly fishing for bonefish. Is the focus on imitation or attraction, tailing fish or fish feeding in deep water, big flies or small? Below are the fly patterns that form the core of my bonefish fly selection. I'll often use darker or lighter versions of these patterns to match that color of the bottom, but the patterns generally remain the same.

 

Gotcha (a brown wing and gold body version is good for dark bottoms)

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Thread - pink Danville flat waxed nylon
Weight - medium or small stainless steel beadchain
Tail - pearl mylar
Body - pearl Body Braid, over which is wrapped 20 pound monofilament
Wing - tan calf tail or craft fur

Appropriate for light bottoms.

 

Horror

Hook - Grip barbless size 4 or 6 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Thread - pink Danville flat waxed nylon
Wing - brown calf tail or bucktail (the latter from the back side of a standard white bucktail)
Head - pink or yellow chenille

Best for skittish, tailing bonefish.

 

 

Craft fur clouser

Hook - Grip barbless size 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Thread - pink Danville flat waxed nylon
Wing - white craft fur, over which is pearl Krystal Flash, over which is colored craft fur (chartreuse, pink, or tan). All wing materials are tied on the hook-point side of the shank
Weight - medium stainless steel beadchain

A good shallow water fly where small gobies and other fish are likely prey.

 

norman's crab

Norman's Crab

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Thread - pink Danville flat waxed nylon (for light version) or brown (for dark version)
Weight - medium or small stainless steel beadchain eyes
Legs - Sililegs (barred orange/orange-black for dark version; sand/orange-black flake for light version)
Wing - Brown or Tan rabbit strip
Appropriate for all situations.

Watch the fly tying video.

 

big ugly fly

Big Ugly

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Tail - tan craft fur, barred with brown sharpee
Body - rootbeer cactus chenille
Wing - tan craft fur
Weight - stainless steel beachchain or lead eyes, size and weight depending on hook size and desired sink rate

Best for bottoms with mantis shrimp holes and shrimp mounds.

 

 

 

Peterson Spawning Shrimp

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Thread - pink Danville flat waxed nylon
Weight - medium or small stainless steel beadchain
Tail - orange marabou
Eyes - burned monofilament
Legs - Sililegs, barred orange/orange-black
Body - pearl Body Braid
Wing - tan rabbit strip

Appropriate for all situations.

 

Pink Worm

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Thread - pink Danville flat waxed nylon
Tail - pink hackle
Body - pink chenille, over which is palmered pink hackle

Best for bonefish tailing slowly (lazily) in soft, open bottom, where worms are the most likely prey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legless merkin fly

Legless merkin (aka Merkwan)

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Tail - tan craft fur, barred with black sharpee
Body - Puglisi EP Fibers: pull off a small bunch of fibers, roll between fingers to create a piece the diameter of yarn, tie in as for a standard Merkin fly
Weight - stainless steel beachchain, size and weight depending on hook size. Use barbell eyes for deeper water.

My favorite fly for bonefish tailing along mangrove shorelines or on flats dotted with mangroves. Both are habitats where small crabs are common.

 

bastard crab fly

Bastard crab

Hook - Grip barbless size 2 or 4 (Grip model 21711NSL-BL)
Weight: beadchain or brass barbells, depending on desired sink rate
Thread: Pink Danville flat waxed nylon
Tail: Tan marabou
Body: Tan Puglisi fibers, tied in as for a Legless Merkin
Legs: Sililegs, Sand/Orange-Black flake
Weed guard (optional): 30 pound mono

I've had success with this pattern in many habitats, from open sand to seagrass.