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Bonefish flies - need advice


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18 replies to this topic

#1 Lucian.Vasies

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 01:00 AM

Hi guys, 

 

First of all Happy New Year to all our members :)

 

I need your advice and help to tie a few bonefish flies. I never  tied  such flies and I never went for fishing for this fish. I will go in Maldive Islands.  Some advice  about patterns and size of the hooks will be fantastic.

 Thanks!

Lucian



#2 Flicted

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 11:20 AM

Shrimp, 2-4" baitfish like clousers or others, and crab patterns.  Everyone has their favorites, but if you have a selection of these, you should catch fish.



#3 Bimini15

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 11:25 AM

Can’t give you but general advice, which is covered already in the first reply.
But try to research the area you are visiting and see what works locally.
Bimini15

#4 mikechell

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 02:50 PM

From my understanding, Bone fish mainly feed on the bottom.  They're looking for shrimp and crab that are also feeding on the bottom.

Any bottom dragging shrimp or crab pattern should draw interest.


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#5 Lucian.Vasies

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 11:14 AM

Thanks guys!



#6 Capt Bob LeMay

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 11:40 AM

Saw this thread yesterday (just before heading down the road for a booking down at Flamingo...) and gave it a bit of thought since I used to tie a bunch of bonefish bugs... Nothing like a 93mile tow to allow you room to reflect a bit (Yeah, I work some long hours when I'm down in the 'Glades..).  All of my bonefishing has either been in Biscayne Bay or the Keys - so that's where I'm coming from with this .... and I'm probably a bit out of date since I haven't done bonefish stuff for shops since about 12 years ago..... take it for what it's worth...

 

Most of my bonefish orders tapered off about ten years before I quit tying commercially (third world tyers will always be a bargain for shop owners if they're not too bothered by quality... ).  At any rate here's a pic of the sample box that I took to one shop or other when it was time to take an order...

mFKDGJ5.jpg

 

Flies for bonefish are very place specific - and also conditions specific... They're also specific to both the size of the bonefish and the water conditions you're finding them in....   What works just fine in Biscayne Bay (where at one time an average bonefish was 8lbs) -and I've personally poled up on specimens that were much much bigger than anything I ever managed to hook (my biggest on fly -about 9.5lbs, on 6lb spin 11lbs.... ).  Compare that to some islands destinations where a big fish might not be quite 5lbs...

 

At any rate let's divide the flies into something shrimpy, something crabby, and tiny baitfish patterns (the Clouser pretty much owns this category as far as I'm concerned..).

 

First things first though - hooks and hook sizes... You'll read and hear lots of hook recommendations - but for me the starting and ending point for bonefish is the standard Mustad 34007... Hook sizes will depend on where you fish and how the fish react to your bugs.  The standard size for medium to large bones is a #4, in places where the fish average smaller, a #6.  For a good selection of Clousers I'd want both 4's and 6's in each color (very occasionally maybe as small as #8 or as large as a #2).   My standard thread for bonefish patterns was usually 3/0 monocord (you can go smaller but you'll find that beadchain or lead eyes will require a bit of finesse..).  For some patterns I'll go up to flat waxed nylon (particularly larger patterns where you're wanting one of the great fluourescent, bright colors that flat waxed can offer...).  I've also had good luck with re-cycled monofilament fishing line (in 4lb ,occasionally 6lb) when I wanted a translucent appearance on the finished bug... My standard finish on bonefish bugs wasn't... it was a very thin application of Krazy glue (thin stuff, very available - use the tip of the applicator like a tiny paint brush..). If the pattern required painted eyes then an additional coat of Sally Hansen's over the painted eyes -painted eyes over thread require the thread to be sealed first - something the Krazy glue does a really good job on... As far as eyes go (many bonefish patterns need beadchain or lead eyes...) my standard for beadchain size is that the eyes should only be slightly larger than the eye on a #4 hook (and those same eyes will be even a bit larger on the smaller #6 hook... ).  For lead eyes (whether plain or painted - I always did my own eye painting on lead eyes -then carefully baked them in quantity before tying with them...), I preferred Wapsi presentation eyes In size mini for a #4 hook and micro for a #6... Lots of ability to vary lead eye sizes for different patterns depending the desired sink rate -but always with the caveat that any bug that makes noise when landing might just send spooky fish flying away from your offering - like someone took a shot at them....

 

Now for patterns and I'll start with Clousers since they're darned nearly a universal pattern that will take bones anywhere you find them - if they'll feed on tiny minnows... The Clouser that I tie for bones is the one that Lefty Kreh preferred - with the entire wing on top... and if I were ever tying for a "one fly competition" it would be the one - in different sizes... I did them in three or four basic colors (and always in a variety of sizes, mostly 4's and 6's) brown or tan over white, fl. green over white, pink over white, and all white.  Every wing with a tiny bit of pearl crystal flash between the colors... 

yFbnefS.jpg

size #4, note the weedguard -it's an "outrigger style" weedguard made of 15lb Ande mono, note as well how sparse the wing is...

YZxZDUd.jpg

both #4's and #6's (on the right for size comparison) - smaller size bugs get a bit shorter wings and smaller lead eyes, the weedguard on a #6... 12lb Ande...

 

The weedguards shown are only for working fish over heavy turtle grass.... you can allow a bug to sink down into the grass then retrieve it without snagging anything - and it doesn't change how the fly moves in the water... Years ago I wrote about this style of weedguard - it's very effective...

 

I'm beginning to see that this will run long - so we'll call this Part One... and quit here. Second part to come if anyone's interested...


Tight lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666

#7 DarrellP

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 11:56 AM

Please post part 2
"Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job." John Geirach

#8 tjm

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 12:39 PM

Please post part 2



#9 chugbug27

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 12:55 PM

I have never fished for bonefish and probably never will, but I still want to read part 2
cb27

#10 DavidR

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 01:00 PM

Id also recommend Dick Browns books on Bonefish ...lots of information in Fly Fishing for Bonefish and more patterns and derivatives that you could hope for in his Bonefish Fly Patterrns.

One more thing to be aware of, dragging the fly across the bottom will likely spook the fish. Learning to realize when a fish has seen your fly and letting it sit until you see the fish inhale then reacting with a strip strike, rod tip in water is a good way to fend off trout sets, and finally cast to the shadow side of the fish.

#11 utyer

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 01:50 PM

I spent one week at Boca Paila WAY long time ago.  SInce I had been tying thousands of Crazy Charlies for customers who were going there, I made plenty for myself.   Gotchas were also a popular pattern.  I don't think we used any Clousers at all.  Caught plenty,  

 

The hook sizes were mostly 4 and 6.  What I remember was that the bottom color was the key to fly color.  Green bottom, green fly tan bottom tan fly, white bottom, white fly. 


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#12 Mlandry

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 02:19 PM

Yes please post part 2.



#13 Capt Bob LeMay

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 11:53 AM

Part two....

 

The next nearly universal pattern has to be the Crazy Charlie (originally called the Nasty Charlie).  Most do it with a calftail wing (sparse or full - depending on how fast you need it to sink and/or how well you want the hookpoint protected by the wing....).  Can't remember how many different variations I've seen for this pattern (and the Gotcha is included as far as I'm concerned....).  These bugs work well everywhere - except over thick grass where they're pretty much useless as far as I'm concerned... Here's a pic of the usual colors I've done them in...

1ma2OEy.jpg

The right side flies are size #6 - the ones on the left are in size #4 - note the two in the middle, a pretty fair size comparison between the two sizes..

Here's a start on color combinations, wing first - then body... white/pearl, pink/silver, brown/gold, yellow/gold, fl. yellow/pearl... The first tying steps are done with the hook in the conventional position in your vise... eyes first (keep at least an eye's width back from the hook eye - then tie in your body (lots of variations here) -  most use diamond braid or something similar... if the braid is fine - double it first before tying in place then winding from the bend forward to the eye - then tie off... Now reverse the hook in the vise and tie in the wing with the hook in point up position... As you can guess this pattern lends itself to production tying.... When I was on my game I could do about 18 per hour and still keep good quality results...   Now for a few variations - my favorite was my own - called a Clear Charlie - thread was four pound monofilament (re-cycled clear fishing line) - and the body was clear V-rib, medium size.  At times the body was kept clear - at other times I use pink pearl flashabou underneath the clear V-rib...

 lDafNTM.jpg

Look at the bottom fly with the heavy wing - I took a fair number of big tailing bones with it (more about that later...).  Wing was tan kiptail (calf tail), size #4... Note the top two flies - they'll come up separately...  Last is the Gotcha - to my mind always a Charlie variation - but it has become one of the universal bugs for bonefish anywhere in the world.  the wing is tan (almost white in some samples) craft fur - the body is  pearl diamond braid (or something similar - as long as it's pearl... thread is Danville's flat waxed in either pink or fl. orange... The following pic shows them in sizes #4, #6, and #8....

oua61jG.jpg

 

Now for a last variation called the Blind Charlie - no photo here... but all the pattern consists of is a Crazy Charlie without eyes (or after your guide has nipped off the eyes to make the fly a bit more subtle in very shallow waters..). The really big drawback of the Charlies is not just that they don't work well over heavy grass (unless you cheat and "gamble"  a bit - more about that later...) but they also make a noticeable splash when landing - not the thing in calm waters where the fish have any sophistication at all... The following pic was not a Charlie at all - but it's been working for more than forty years now - Chico Fernandez's Bonefish Special... This is what folks are trying for with a Blind Charlie...

XZAyRw6.jpg

Bonefish Special in size #4 (you'll find it in Lefty's first saltwater fly book, page 33....) I do a bit shorter wing....

 

Now for a couple of shrimp patterns - not shown much anymore... The first is the Mitch Howell (my version), it was originally done by Bob Kay without the tiny lead eyes I like.. Look at the top two flies shown in the second photo... The fly is named after an outstanding bonefish angler who won the Islamorada bonefish tournament more than once - then years later actually ran the tournament... We fished together in the late seventies when we were much younger (understatement for me...).  The head on the Mitch is the finest ultra chenille doubled before tying into place. the body Aunt Lydia's sparkle yarn in tan... For a look at Bob Kay's original Mitch Howell look on page 37 in Lefty's book...

 

The second shrimp pattern is my version of Chico Fernandez's Snapping Shrimp pattern... I like to have both light and dark variations on hand with this bendback shrimp pattern... For those who've never bent a hook to make a bendback pattern - less bend is better than more... Here's a pic - one of the few bonefish bugs I did with painted eyes...

Wvwrxsl.jpg

Thread is 3/0 monocord, the wing is black bear in the dark version - cinnamon phase bear in the tan version...

These bugs (all of the "shrimpy" bonefish patterns I ever used...) were always used over thick turtle grass and rarely snagged up when retrieved in short strips... You can easily see that the body is medium sized chenille.

 

Lastly are crab patterns (a great choice for really big bonefish (or when fishing places where you might encounter small permit along with your bonefish..). Every saltwater tyer wants their own crab pattern at some point - and most will work - as long as they're on the small size... generally smaller than a nickel (maybe much smaller...).

My first example is my version of Craig Matthews Turneffe crab (I called it a Spider crab - and did it in a variety of colors with a weedguard...)

fpqlyQm.jpg

Spider crab in size #4

4r6b8Tz.jpg

assorted colors... I delivered these in every size from a #8 up to a #2.... the body is furry foam cut into 1/2" strips for tying purposes...

 

My last crab for bonefish is the Velcro crab (I have no idea who first came up with them - but they do work well - mine has the leading edge trimmed flat before assembly, since much of this bug is not tying - but glue work...)

BupisQl.jpg

Note the size of the lead eyes... every crab pattern must dive straight down on landing and sit upright on the bottom -if it doesn't it just won't work... 

This pattern starts with eyes and weedguard tied into place with eyes next to the hook eye.. then the tail, splayed hackle tips in cree or grizzly and the ribs (two short pieces of 12lb mono) tied in at right angles to the hook shank - a bit smaller than the diameter of your velcro coins - these are the "ribs" you'll be gluing your velcro to... All the tying is completed at this point with the exception of the finishing turns to prop up the weedguards... Now you'll glue the two coins together after laying three pieces of sili legs across one of them so that the legs stick out two inches on each side - you'll trim them to length later... (your choice of glues for the coins from five minute epoxy to contact cement to Pliobond...) , hook side down, trimmed edge forward.  Once the body sets up,  re-attach your thread and finish the weedguards, then a tiny drop of krazy glue on the thread... When it's all dry you can leave the top as is for a tan color or use various green or similar color Sharpies to color the back - the bottom is treated with fabric glue or paint - your choice of colors - note the bug showing the bottom (where the hook and loop part is coated with fabric paint or glue...  Remember any crab pattern has to be small (around the size of a dime for best results...).  Crab patterns are one of the few places where I'll occasionally want a hook a bit stronger than the standard Mustad 34007 since every now and then a big permit will come after a small crab... 

 

When I first went after bones on fly (mid seventies..) I was taught to tie my leaders to Charles of the Ritz specs - in the following formula... butt section 3 feet, next down two feet, hinge one foot - then the tippet at 3 feet for a nine foot leader in the following sizes 3ft of 30lb, 2ft of 20lb, 1ft of 15lb, then 3ft of 10 or 8lb mono... Connections were all blood knots.  This nine foot formula worked well until.... everyone started hammering bonefish (and we went from three guides for all of Biscayne Bay to ten or more plus all the weekend warriors around.... then longer leaders became de rigeur... At that point I learned to set all my fly lines up with three, four, or a bit more feet of heavy butt section with a permanent surgeon's loop at the bitter end - then used store bought 7 or 9 foot tapered leaders loop to looped for a ten to twelve foot leader....

 

The only way I was ever able to use a Crazy Charlie for big fish (given that they make quite a splash on landing..). was to go to a "gambling style" presentation... In short, you lay out your cast staying at least ten feet from your target - very carefully noting the exact spot it landed... then simply don't move it at all... You're gambling that the fish will move to your fly (that's why it's critical to know exactly where it landed, but bones don't move in a straight line much of the time....).  If the fish doesn't go where you need it to go then pick up the fly and try again... but if that fish gets within a foot or so of where your bug is sitting simply give it a very short (less than four inches) twitch so that it hops up off the bottom then settles back down.  If mr. spooky has seen it you're in business, period... If all else fails simply slide it very slowly away before picking it up and trying again, sometimes that will draw a strike - but if it doesn't you haven't spooked your target...  A bonefish of ten pounds or better is your reward when your gambling pays off - but at least you won't be spooking them with your presentation...  The difference between a big bonefish and the average one is not just size - they're usually very spooky and tough to feed... once you hook a really big bone the difference is startling... most bonefish will make a long run - but short of 100 yards then you'll turn them and start winning.. a really big bone will run a hundred yards then pause a moment - then start their second hundred yard run (dragging your fly line and backing across the bottom in the process... By the way a really big tailing bonefish will usually show only half of its tail - and that will look like a clear glass knife blade about four to as much as six inches long... It's enough to give you a cardiac boost for sure when you're within casting range... I found that my best results on the big fish were usually when I was on foot (something that's not hard on oceanside flats - but very difficult on soft bayside flats where just wading is a serious challenge...

 

Hope this helps... none of these patterns are set in stone - in two to three feet of water alongside a channel with a noticeable current a bug with lead eyes is almost a necessity... in very shallow waters where there's no current you can detect... a tiny fly that barely sinks might just be the ticket.  and so it goes...


Tight lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666

#14 DavidR

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 05:20 PM

The force is strong with Capt. Bob ...thank you for your insights.

#15 DarrellP

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 06:50 PM

Thanks for posting this. Your flies are simple, precise, and consistent. Excellent
"Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job." John Geirach