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Top 10 Fly Patterns for Bonefish


I’m sure we all agree, Bonefish will take a variety of fly patterns when hungry. If you happen to miss feeding time, well, let’s just say you’ll have to be more crafty with your approach. When Bonefish are more selective, you will need a fly pattern more closely matched to their local food source and know how to make it move. In addition to some of the above variables, considering tides, weather, and the overall environment is important as well.

My objective with this post is to give you a better guess as to what fly patterns and colors may land you more fish. To help substantiate some of this advice, my travels into targeted fisheries have included several trips to the Hawaiian Islands, Caribbean Islands, Florida Keys, and Central America.

When it comes to favorite fly patterns for Bonefish, it would be safe to say they tend to pick up shrimp and crab more than anything. Shrimp patterns include a variety of designs. For example, Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, and Bonefish Specials are all shrimp patterns tied in different ways. Shrimp patterns also include Clouser-like patterns tied with shrimp colors and attributes. You may see these referred to as Bonefish Clousers. Crab patterns are also a favorite – any variation of a Merkin crab pattern is a good bet. All of these patterns are great for landing Bonefish.

Different patterns are important to have on hand. Different colors should be on hand as well. Some colors I find work better in some locations. For example:

  • Hawaiian Islands: Oranges, yellows, and gold/ yellow flash
  • Florida Keys: Pinks, creams, chartreuse, and silver/ pearlescent flash
  • Caribbean Islands: Pinks, creams, light browns, and opalescent flash
  • Yucatan Peninsula: Pinks, creams, light browns, and opalescent flash

So your list of considerations should include, patterns, colors, and now weights. Your selection of flies should include light weight patterns (no metal eyes) for shallow depths or skinny water, medium weight patterns (bead-chain eyes) for depths 1′ to 3′, and heavy weight patterns (dumbbell eyes) for depths 2′ to 5′. Choosing the right weight for a fly is almost more important than the actual fly pattern. Get that fly to the bottom as quickly and quietly as possible. I have included a gallery of pics in this post to offer a good look at what variations I use. Feel free to search Fly Mastery for the included patterns – all have recipe info for recreating them on your own.

A huge part of landing more fish involves moving your fly effectively. You can have all the right fly patterns, colors, and weights, but scare the fish and end up landing nothing. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, less is more. Very rarely are Bonefish taking flies on the strip. Cast and be patient. Remember to let Bonefish “swim into” your fly (on the bottom). Bisecting their swim path is key. If you feel the fish are drifting away, so to speak, a small strip will get their attention. Bonefish have trained eyes and notice anything that moves above and below the surface of the water.

Before traveling to any destination, be sure to do some research on-line and see what local patterns and colors are used most often. Take at least three of each proven pattern (for each day you plan to fish). Also remember, if you are using a guide service, ask them what is included. The service may include gear and all the flies you will need. If the guide service does supply your flies for your time out on the water, don’t forget to try some of your own creations. You can test out some new designs and colors!

Bonefish Clouser in Pale Orange
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