Wasted Creativity

There are a lot of bonefish patterns. Really, a whole lot of bonefish patterns. A hundred? Two hundred?

I love sitting down at the vice and playing around a bit, maybe putting in some fox instead of craft fur, maybe change the position of the eyes, put some rubber legs in, put some barring on the wing and on and on until you arrive at a new place and it looks good and you turn it around in the vice and you start to convince yourself that, were you a bonefish, you would certainly swim up to this fly and inhale it, it being surely shrimpy and undeniably delicious.

I have a small but vocal part of my subconscious nagging me. That part of me has been questioning the 100’s of patterns, suggesting that we maybe only need one fly, a fly that has been mentioned as the go-to-fly by most guides I know and the fly that, when my fly box full of inventiveness is open, is almost always selected instead… the tan gotcha.

How much do we need those other flies to “match the hatch” as opposed to just getting the presentation right (only half a rhetorical question)?

I’m sure there are patterns out there that really do make sense to put in your box in ADDITION to the tan gotcha, but really, how many patterns do you need?

The reverse with a little hot bunny tail. Is there a point to this?





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  1. So here’s the thing. Based on accounts, there are some very accessible flats on certain Islands of the Caribbean where the fish have seen so many Tan Gotchas that they spook even when you simply look at one in your fly box. That’s when you need something different. I’m also told that if you get a couple of refusals on a Gotcha, don’t just switch to a different color Gotcha, switch to something completely different looking, like a crab pattern or a Greg’s Flats Fly. Also I’ve read that in the Keys, it’s even harder. One fish will eat a Gotcha, the next will run from it like it’s a hungry barracuda. So I think, like most all fly fishing, we are always looking for that fly that will cause your quarry to dash over and inhale your fly with no hesitation, which when you think about it, isn’t really very fishy behavior. And if it was always that easy, it wouldn’t be so much fun. So not only do I have a box full of Gotchas in every fishy color you can imagine, with and without rubber legs, with various types of weighted eyes. I have a box of the lighter weight blind versions for skinny water, along with various colors of unweighted snapping shrimp style patterns. I have a box of merkin, feather and epoxy style crabs with and without rubber legs, along with at least two each of most all the other imaginable patterns, plus several experimental patterns I have invented myself. I understand the reality of all this. When I open my boxes the guide will most likely select the standard Tan Gotcha, and after a week of fishing, I will have used six of my 300 possible flies.

  2. The challenging aspect about this discussion as it pertains to bonefish is that one rarely gets the opportunity to present several different flies to the same fish in the same conditions. If a fish refuses the first fly and you stop to tie on a different one, the fish will have moved along and chasing down a distant bonefish is rarely successful. And even in those rare instance when you do catch up to the fish and present a second fly, all the conditions have changed. The fish is typically more wary, the surroundings have changed, and the fish has worked up more of an appetite trying to get away from your first fly. So when one does eat the second fly, you cannot be certain the fish ate because that fly looks more appetizing than the first or the fish is simply hungrier.

    Personally, I think if the fly is tan and between 1 and 2 inches long and is presented the right way the bonefish will eat it. Like my schnauzer, Kaiser the Wonder Dog, if it lands in his bowl (or anywhere else within his range), he’ll eat it.

  3. I been fishing with some crazy looking things recently, to great effect. Orange (I’m talking day-glo, safety orange with just enough hot pink to make it obnoxious). Blue — great on a dark day when you just need the fish to see the fly. Yellow — this is great for crabs over grass.

  4. … bonefish will eat anything… “60% of the time, all the time.”

  5. I know other things work and I actually enjoy tying and creating. I’m not an artist, but I feel a little bit like one when I’m at the vice.

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