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September 06, 2013

Tying Tips for Bonefish Flies

When tying your favorite bonefish patterns, include elements that make them stand out.

Getting the Eat

Watch the fish, and plan your cast. Try to anticipate the fish’s movements. An accurate cast delivered with a minimum number of false casts is more important than a long cast, so take your time and position yourself within your accuracy range. Place the fly two to four feet in front of the fish, and watch the fish. If it shows interest in your fly and moves toward it, let the fly settle to the bottom. Sometimes even when you cast behind the fish, it will hear the noise and turn to investigate, so don’t immediately pick up to recast. If the fish does not appear to have seen the fly, give it a long, slow strip, and watch the fish. You are trying to capture the fish’s attention without pulling the fly out of the target zone. As soon as the fish alerts to the fly, let the fly settle to the bottom. If the fish is obviously looking for the fly but can’t find it, give the fly a gentle twitch to produce some movement, but don’t actually move it. Bonefish pin their prey to the bottom when they feed. A fish will often dart forward and vibrate, sometimes with its tail rising up out of the water, and the fish’s dorsal and pectoral fins will flare. When this happens, make a long, smooth strip (do not jerk the line), without lifting the rod tip. If the fish is on, you will know very quickly and will need to release tension on the line as the fish takes off. If it is not, by not lifting the rod tip, you’ve kept the fly in the water and given the fish another chance to find and eat the fly.

Bring in the Box

Always bring flies in various weights. I recommend a half-dozen each with bead-chain and lead eyes and three weightless variations. Find out the color of the bottom you will most often be fishing over, and tie your flies with either lighter or darker colors. Or use contrasting rubber legs and flash blend. Providing movement and contrast will help a bonefish find your fly when the pattern is sitting on the bottom.

More on Coyote

Coyote underfur is a fantastic material to incorporate into bonefish flies, but bear in mind, a coyote pelt contains many other hair types. The coarser bristles around the head are excellent for spinning in a dubbing loop and then wrapping to obtain a thick, full body. The soft, long fur along the haunches is an ideal substitute for arctic fox or craft fur and can be found in shades of white, tan and gray. The half hide I have even has some pale burnt-orange-color fur. The guard hairs along the neck and back are tipped black and better suited for tarpon flies and other baitfish streamers.