Posted by Ian Davis on May 30, 2017 11:43:23 AM
There are a number of factors to consider when tying, buying or selecting fly patterns for the saltwater flats – especially when it comes to permit and bonefishing. In addition to selecting the right size and color (see Part 1), the weight and sink rate of flies is crucial. When fishing just about anywhere in the Caribbean, your permit and bonefish fly boxes should contain flies with at least three different sink rates: Unweighted, slightly weighted, and heavy.
The unweighted “skinny water” flies are tied as light as possible, usually without eyes or with plastic bead chain eyes. Fish these patterns in extremely shallow water or over flats where the turtle grass is thick. (Usually in water that is less than one foot deep.) In skinny water, the splash of a larger, heavier fly tends to be more perceptible, especially to fish that are by nature extremely spooky. In situations like this, very little weight is required to sink the fly a few inches, and a delicate presentation is essential. Make sure that you always have a variety of standard crab patterns and bonefish flies that are tied skinny-water style.
For “slightly weighted” flies, use standard bead chain eyes or micro-barbell eyes. These flies are designed for water that is one to three feet deep, where turtle grass and coral can be an issue. If you were to go with a 25%-50%-25% ration of the three different fly weights, then your “slightly weighted” flies designed to be fished in water that is one to three feet should account for the 50% number.
Finally, have a selection of heavy flies, effective in water that is greater than three feet deep. Be sure that the heavy category includes smaller hook sizes as well as larger patterns. When fishing deeper water situations, the splash of a fly is much less perceptible, and a weighted fly is the only thing that can get to the bottom fast enough.
When your set-up is rigged and you first arrive on the flats, be sure to drop your fly and leader into the water next to the boat. Count how long it takes the fly to reach the bottom and you will have figured out the sink rate and how far you will need to lead a fish when casting.
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