Now, I know bones aren’t the pickiest eaters, and that the general trick to bonefishing is to get your fly to them without scaring them, but once you get the hang of that part you start trying to hone the details and that’s where my mindset and background came into play.
After several trips to South Andros, I had begun to get some idea of what was most attractive to these fish, and perhaps more importantly, the guides. Larger patterns, ranging from a smallish #4 to a 3+ inch #2 seemed to draw the best responses, with the bigger flies being picked out from greater distance, a trait my casting accuracy is commensurate with. Larger patterns also seemed to be preferred by the larger fish. A bright spot of orange or pink was a commonality of many of the favored patterns, as were rubber legs in one form or another. Combining these parts in a single pattern to create lots of movement and replicate an actual food form became my project for the year between trips.
To that end, I started playing with variations on the Bahamian bonefish favorite, the Gotcha, until I had strayed so far adrift that I had an entirely new pattern.
I started with the pearl body of the original Gotcha pattern as it reflected the color of the bottom, allowing the fly to conspicuously fit into a variety of habitats. I added a pair of orange tipped Sili Legs for both color and movement, and a longer wing of craft fur to stretch the pattern out a bit creating a larger profile. This original pattern worked well enough and is still a fly that I carry in my box, but my tinkering knows no bounds so I just kept at it.
I recall our Bahamian guide Torrie Bevans finding a dead shrimp in our boat after a long run to the south out of Andros. Before he flipped it overboard I grabbed the shrimp and was struck by its bright green eyes and the orange spot on its carapace. I realized that there are many different species of shrimp preyed upon by bonefish, but these two items in particular seemed to be capable of triggering recognition of food in the bonefish. I thought about that little shrimp the rest of the day and wondered how I could add those remarkable characteristics to the flies we had been fishing. The answer had to wait until we got home, when I finally had a chance to sit down and hone in the eyes and bright spot to finish off my new variant.
The epoxy eyes I ended up with are amazingly simple to make and I have even come up with a way to “mass” produce them, which I will share with you here. The best part of this is that you can spend a half an hour making enough eyes for a hundred flies, and have them at the ready whenever you need them rather than trying to melt monofilament into giant burning globs with the risk of setting your fingers aflame. Coloring the eyes proved to be a simple answer once I stopped listening to conventional wisdom and just tried adding a bit of paint to the epoxy. I had always heard that adding paint would prevent the epoxy from curing, but as it turns out, it dries just fine with either a tint of color or a definite hue depending on how much paint you add. The technique I developed to produce the eyes takes the tediousness out of the maneuver and makes for a much better tying experience. A little arts and crafts mixed in with your tying might even open up your creative side a little.
I eventually added in the Super Floss legs and antennae in hopes of bettering the durability of the fly and creating some movement in the fly when it was at rest. The Sili Legs I originally used wiggled just fine and the hot colored orange tips were very appealing, but the inherent weakness of the silicone material made for frustrating days of retiring amputee flies. The Super Floss has proven much more durable and the frosting on the cake is its ability to take a marker well. I found I could add subtle barring and hot spots with a permanent marker both at the bench and even on the water if needed. Adding the legs at first required some technical skills in wrapping and tying the wiggly strands to the shank, but I eventually stumbled upon a simple technique to distribute and anchor the legs in place. Small miracles are welcome on my bench.
This fly represents both many hours at the bench and several weeks on the water. I must admit that this is one of the most enjoyable patterns I have played with. The back and forth between home and the flats and the long winters of brooding over the variables kept me excited about the fly and I confess that I have swum this fly across an imaginary flat in my head many more times than I have in the Bahamas.
Hook: Tiemco 811s #1/0-4
Thread: Fire Orange 140 Denier UTC
Weight: Stainless Steel Bead Chain Eyes, sized to hook
Antennae: Shrimp Pink and Bonefish Tan Super Floss
Flash: Pearl Diamond Braid, shredded
Mouthparts: Orange Egg Yarn
Eyes: Melted Mono with painted epoxy ball on each end
Body: Pearl Diamond Braid
Legs: Shrimp Pink and Bonefish Tan Super Floss
Underwing: Pearl Diamond Braid, shredded
Overwing: Shrimp colored Polar Fibre
Markings: Sepia and orange permanent marker
To make the eyes for this fly or any other mono-stalk style fly, I begin by straightening a piece of heavy hard mono by stretching it tightly between my hands. Clip off several three to four inch long sections and lay them across the sticky side of a piece of masking tape. Once you have the desired number of strands set perpendicularly to the tape, place another strip of tape over the center of the mono strands and directly across the top of the first piece of tape, sandwiching the mono between the layers of tape. Clip all the ends of the mono so they all extend out from the tape about the same distance. Once you have the mono lined up, melt a small ball on the end of each strand with a cigarette lighter or candle. Finally, mix up a small batch of five minute epoxy and add a drop or two of florescent green paint (I use Testors model paint) while you mix the components thoroughly. The paint does change the consistency of the epoxy a bit but for our purposes here this change will not affect the outcome.
Now, hold the eye blank by the tape strand and dip each melted mono ball into the epoxy so it picks up an appropriately sized glob. You can mass produce many eyes at one time and once they have hung to dry for about fifteen minutes or so, you are all set to use them.
Wrap a thread base from the hook eye to the bend and back again. Lash a pair or stainless bead chain eyes to the shank at the 75% point using firm X-wraps. Tie in one long strand of pink and one more long strand of tan Superfloss at the center of their lengths at the midpoint on the hook. Just use a couple tight turns here to hold them in place. Pull the front ends of the floss to the rear of the hook and pick up the other ends in your fingertips. Pull all four strands tight as you wrap the thread back over them to the bend.
Tie in a doubled strand of the Flat Diamond Braid at the bend. Brush the braid out to shred the fibers and trim them raggedly to about two shank lengths.
Tie in a small clump of orange egg year just behind the eyes and wrap back over it to the base of the tails. The orange yarn should be about a shank length long.
Tie in an Epoxy Mono eye on each side of the hook shank at the bend.
Tie in a strand of pearl diamond braid at the bend of the hook then bring the thread to just above the hook point and tie in two strands of tan and two strands of pink Super Floss. Make a band of thread over the floss to anchor it in place.
Begin wrapping the braid forward up the shank separating the Super Floss strands as you go. Wrap the braid up to and around the eyes and tie off.
Invert the hook in your vise. Double over another long strand of Diamond Braid and tie it in on the hook point side. Brush out the braid to shred the fibers.
Cut a large clump of shrimp colored Polar Fibre and tie it in behind the eye with firm thread wraps. The wing should be twice the shank length. Clip the butt ends of the Polar Fibre and build a smooth prominent thread head. Whip finish and clip the thread.
Use an orange marker to bar the legs.
Bar the carapace with the Sepia marker. Run a wire dubbing brush down the wing after coloring to soften the colors.