How do you choose which bonefish fly to fish on any given flat?
Keep these three basic variables in mind – color, size/weight and sizzle!
Most of the time, you want the color of your fly to basically match the color of the flat.
The match doesn’t need to be exact, but it should be in the ballpark. White sand flats call for light colored flies. Areas with lots of dark mud or limestone require dark tan or brown. If you’re fishing around turtle grass, some olive wouldn’t hurt.
Why match the color of the flat? Simple – the critters that bonefish eat need camouflage. They tend to be the same color as the flats where they live. A dark olive shrimp wouldn’t last too long on a stark white flat!
Size and Weight
Bigger fish and deeper water dictate bigger flies. Skinny water calls for smaller flies – big heavy flies make a splash when they land and spook fish when the water’s shallow.
Size and weight are really closely related. Large flies tend to be heavier for a couple of reasons. First, they’re generally fished in deeper water so the extra weight is used to get to depth quicker. Second, larger flies tend to be bulkier which makes more resistance in the water, so more weight is required to get the fly to land right-side up, and to get the fly to ‘ride right’ and stay right-side up when stripped.
How big and how heavy? On South Andros our go-to flies tend to be #2s, tied with bead chain eyes or very small lead eyes. Our smaller flies are #4s and #6s, tied with small bead chain eyes or mono eyes. When we’re fishing bigger water and looking for big blackbacks, we like flies up to 1/0 with small lead eyes.
‘Sizzle’ isn’t a real term – here we’re talking about any of a number of attention-grabbing elements that might be tied into a fly.
Flash, striped rubber legs and a bright orange spawn sack are all examples of fly parts that can get a fish’s attention, and get an eat when you might not get one otherwise. Even better, they can turn a tentative eat into a super-aggressive one – fun!
So why not tie all your flies with a bunch of flash, sparkly rubber legs and a neon spawn sack? Because some times, and some places, bonefish hate them! In places or situations when fish tend to be aggressive, a little sizzle is a great thing. If you’re getting refusals or the fish are running from your fly like Justin Bieber runs from a barbershop, try a fly that’s a little more mellow.
At Andros South our fish tend to like flies with a lot of sizzle, but we still carry some boring, basic patterns for those days or those flats where the fish are acting a little pinchy.
Go Get ‘Em
And that’s that! Match the color of the flat, pick an appropriate size and weight, and adjust sizzle as necessary.