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Bonefish Flies

Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
I probably shouldn't be posting this, since I am far from being an expert on bonefish. I should mention that in my day, the bones of the Lower Keys were significantly smaller than those caught further up. Not only that, but I grew up having not too much respect for them, owing to the fact that I lived and guided in the permit capital of the world and who would rather catch a bonefish than a permit...on any tackle? But jonesbros' post, including the photo of the bonefish flies in the box, made me think. The flies in his box looked outstanding, yet I would never use one of them, and for one simple reason.....the tails are all too long.

Now I know that in reality, they are not too long....Hell, lots of bonefish are caught on clouser minnows each year and as originally designed/tied, the tails are significantly longer than those on jones' flies. I asked and he stated that his were tied commercially.

I used several different flies when I was a guide in the Keys: A #1 Crazy Charlie in pink or tan for chumming; A #2 Crazy Charley in pink or tan, poling/sight fishing and finally, a #4 or #6 Crazy Charley in pink or tan, while wading during the glassy calm Summer months. I never put 10 bonefish in the boat in a day (nobody else did either) but I was rarely skunked, especially when chumming or wading. Anyone remember a fly called the Nasty Charlie? No one mentions it anymore, and yet it is the identical fly, except it has a tail.

So my question is 2 part....First, do you tie your own bonefish flies, or buy them commercially....or buy them from a specific tier?

Second, do you find yourself adjusting the recipes to your own liking, regarding the tails? How many of you would commonly use tails shorter than the ones in jonesbros' photo. Want to repeat here....his flies are probably tied correctly and would catch bonefish. My experience with short takes throughout the years, has been such that I'm liking flies with little or no tail at all. In Mexico, I shorten the tails on all my natural bunny gotchas and clip the rabbit fur, such that it barely extends beyond the bend of the hook. How about y'all?


  • jonesbros1026jonesbros1026 Posts: 99 Deckhand
    They use larger flies in Bahamas and do quite well. You can always trim the tails if you don't like the length.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Jonesbros.....In retrospect, I wish I hadn't used your post to bring up my question. The fact is, that your flies will catch bonefish all over the world, not just the Bahamas. I did not infer that they wouldn't.
  • tarpon41tarpon41 Posts: 272 Deckhand
    Andros: White Clouser...red painted eyes, dull black, bright black...size 2-4 and Charlie variations...always chrome bright bead chain eyes...tail length: Clousers long; Charlies whatever works but usually short
    Key West: By catch on Merkin variations for Permit, if specific target, still Merkin variations don't want to pass on a Permit
    Biscayne Bay: Cordell's Dread and Anvil and SS Shrimp pattern with orange egg sack long tail
  • JoeBCJoeBC Posts: 608 Officer
    Bonefish are given waaay too much credit by fly-fisherman I think. I've heard guys say they won't eat flies with head cement, or too big, etc, etc. At the end of the day approach and presentation are going to get you the bite. That said...I certainly tend to fish shorter tails than I would for a redfish fly. My concern with bonefish flies is generally matching weight and size based on the time of year. Summer months the fish will be more into crabs(and more permit will be showing up) so a crabby pattern might get looked at, and generally heavier lead eye flies this time of year because of higher water. Day to day though bonefish are as inconsistent in what flies they want as any fish I've seen so generally if I make 3 acceptable presentations and don't get a take I will change it up. Note I am only fishing Biscayne Bay. Here are a few that have worked for me, you can see it's all shapes and sizes but generally there is some orange in there. From top to bottom is a gotcha variation with artic fox, Serge's Frenchie, rabbit dubbing shrimp, slider variation, and cordells dread.
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