In this article, I will go through 10 of my favorite bonefish flies. These flies work well on bonefish all over the world. I also make use of them when targeting other fish species such as triggerfish, permit, and trevally. You won’t need any other flies if you take a good selection of the following flies on your next bonefish trip.
If there’s one single bonefish fly you can take anywhere in the world and know it will produce fish, it’s the Gotcha. Bonefish find the shrimp pink nose, tan overwing, and plenty of flash material simply irresistible.
For flexibility, I recommend stocking your bonefish fly box with sizes 2 – 6, each in two weight variations. The lightweight version should have small bathroom chain eyes and the heavy version can use small tungsten dumbbell eyes.
The Spawning Shrimp is a good all-purpose shrimp fly. When fishing the fly the color should be matched to the bottom over which you are fishing. For example, use a light tan color over white sand and a brown or olive version over turtle grass.
The egg sack acts as a trigger point and the silicone legs give the fly ample movement in the water. For most bonefish I recommend a size 4 Spawning Shrimp, however, if you are fishing to large single cruising bones, a slightly longer version may produce well.
The Avalon Shrimp is a popular Bahamas permit fly. It imitates long mantis shrimp found on the shallow sand and coral flats. Large bonefish in this area feed on the same shrimp, therefore a slightly smaller version can fish exceptionally well.
The Avalon has two very unique features. The first is the zonker strips that are tied in on the sides of the hook. These act as claws and give the fly incredible movement when retrieved. The other unique feature is the keel system that allows the fly to swim hook point up.
I recommend carrying size 4 and 2 Avalon Shrimps in your bonefish box. Fishing this fly to bonefish can be excellent fun and, should a permit arrive on the scene, the same fly can be pitched to it with confidence.
The Pseudo Shrimp has been around for quite some time. Even so, it still is one of my favorite flies. The action of the fly is different from other flies in the list due to the positioning of the weight (which is usually quite considerable) on the hook.
The Pseudo Shrimp makes for an excellent bonefish fly that can be stripped at speed or fished slowly.
The Pink Puff is another “old fashioned” fly that still works great. It’s definitely not the first fly that I’ll tie to my leader on a new fishery, but works well when many other flies seem to fall short.
I believe its success is the ability to deliver the fly softly. Therefore, I always carry a couple in my box tied on size 6 hooks with small bathroom chain eyes.
Veverka Mantis Shrimp
The Veverka Mantis Shrimp is very similar to the spawning shrimp. The main difference is the materials used and that the Veverka has legs pointing to the side of the fly. This is a great fly pattern to fish slowly, or even static. It looks very lifelike in the water.
I carry a good range of these flies in my box, from sizes 2 to 6 and in various weights. This will allow me to not only target bonefish, but also triggerfish and small trevally species.
Christmas Island Special
The Christmas Island Special, like so many other popular bonefish flies, is a rendition of the popular Crazy Charlie (see number 10). The fly resembles a Gotcha but makes use of a different overwing material.
When tying the fly, I prefer adding forward and rearward facing legs. This gives the fly good movement underwater, even when fished slowly. If the fish react poorly to the legs, I simply cut them off with my pliers or nippers.
The best sizes to have in your saltwater fly box are 4 and 6. As always, carry two or three different weight variations with you which will make it possible to target bonefish in skinny to deep water.
The Alphlexo Crab is a fly that is being talked about a lot lately. The only reason for this is that it produces fish. I’ve caught and guided clients onto bonefish, triggerfish, trevally, permit, and even some freshwater species with this fly.
They are quite expensive as they take some time to tie. But, invest in the best ones that you can as not all Alphlexo Crabs are tied well. Good sizes for bonefish are 6s and 4s.
The Bonefish Bitters is my go-to pattern when fishing on turtle grass. They come in a range of colors, sizes, and weights. Always choose your Bonefish Bitters to suite the bottom you’re fishing on.
The dumbbell weight on the fly is covered with epoxy which gives it a greater surface area. This means that the weight is distributed better allowing the fly to sit on top of the turtle grass. The spun deer hair overwing acts as a built-in weed guard.
I prefer fishing these flies quite small and always carry a good color selection of size 8 – 6 in my box.
The popular Crazy Charlie was developed by Charlie Smith and Bob Nauheim in 1977. They were first developed to imitate the glass minnows that bonefish frequently feed on in the Caribbean. Soon the Crazy Charlie became a style of tying rather than a specific pattern, resulting in many popular flies we have today.
I dedicate one entire side of my bonefish box to Crazy Charlies, including colors such as pink, tan, orange, chartreuse, and olive. These flies work well on may fish species including trevally, permit, and other reef species.