Travel on the Fly: Hot New Bonefish Flies

The best bonefish flies for South Florida, Mexico and the Bahamas

February 4, 2015
Having the right fly is the key to catching more bonefish anywhere
The ideal bonefish fly isn’t always a realistic imitation of a bone’s forage. Sometimes an impressionistic version of a shrimp, crab or minnow works wonders. The size, color and how the fly relates to the bottom and the surroundings is often more important than a lifelike appearance. Here are three very different fly patterns that catch redfish in different parts of the world: Alex Suescun
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ST Bonefish Shrimp

Captain Raul Montoro of Shallow Tails Guide Service makes his living putting charter customers within casting range of the holy trinity of the flats — bonefish, permit and tarpon. He primarily fishes Biscayne Bay in Miami, home to some of the biggest and smartest bonefish around. After several years tossing flies to bones that can practically read and write, Montoro came up with the ST bonefish shrimp, his most productive pattern in many different conditions. “With this fly I can catch fish over grass, patchy grass with sand, and also when they are mudding in dusty or clear water,” explained the guide. Montoro ties this fly on a # 4 Gamakatsu B10S stinger hook, with medium, black bead-chain eyes for weight. He fashions the body out of EP shrimp brush with a collar of Mottlebou (Marabou) and a tan craft fur tail with vertical lines painted on with a brown Sharpie. Because the bottom where he targets bonefish is covered with turtle grass, Montoro also ties in a single mono-post weedguard. And he substitutes small lead eyes for the original bead-chain eyes if fishing deeper water or when a strong wind or current call for a fly that sinks faster. Raul Motoro
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The Globster

Clint Kemp, seasoned Bahamas flats guide and General Manager at Blackfly Lodge in Great Abaco, has been chasing bonefish with a fly rod for the better part of his life. Not satisfied with the cookie-cutter patterns of visiting flyrodders, Kemp constantly experiments with new designs and lets the bones decide which are keepers. Kemp looks underwater for inspiration, especially around coral and mangrove roots, for clues to what the fish may be eating. While investigating the creeks and mangroves of South Abaco, he came across some tiny critters, spiny lobster in their larvae stage. Back at the fly-tying bench he developed an imitation that bonefish moved 10 feet out of their path to gobble up. And that’s how the Globster was born. Like the previous pattern, this fly is tied on a # 4 Gamakatsu B10S Stinger, with a small lead dumbbell for weight. The body is white bucktail coated in Clear Cure Goo, with antenna whips fashioned from stripped hackle quills, clear-sparkle Sili Legs and small root beer eyes (made by heating up mono) coming off the back of the fly. Kemp says his new pattern works great on hard-bottom flats with rocks, coral and holes for juvenile lobster to hide. “I like to come tight on the fly and use small strips to get the bone’s attention. Then just hold on!” Clint Kemp

Victor’s Prickly Pear

On a recent trip to the southern reaches of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, I had the good fortune of fishing with veteran freelance guide Victor Castro of Osprey Tours and his son, Andrés. They both afforded me numerous shots at bones during four memorable days in Chetumal Bay. The second and third, we spent tinkering and fine-tuning fly patterns based on our experiences from the previous day. By the fourth and final day, we came up with a fly that tailing, mudding and cruising bonefish, alone and in schools, literally assaulted. The Prickly Pear is tied on a # 4 Mustad 34007 hook, with a small lead dumbbell for weight. The body is spun deer hair palmered with grizzly saddle hackle intertwined so a few of its bristles protrude sparsely from within the deer hair. A bit of tan craft fur and a few strands of crystal flash make up the tail, with a pair of black mono eyes and small grizzly neck hackles (one on each side) splayed outward to resemble the pinchers of a crab. Although grass wasn’t much of an issue in Chetumal Bay, I added a single mono-post weedguard for good measure, and it came in handy later when fishing the Prickly Pear in Islamorada and the Florida Keys. A streaky retrieve, alternating 6- to 12-inch strips and enough hesitations to let the fly bounce off the bottom proves deadly. Strip slow at first, then increase the speed in response to the bonefish’s reaction. Courtesy Alex Suescun

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